The stress of creativity has long been known. Dedicated artists struggle all their lives, seeking financial success which is rarely achieved, motivated by what one might call their "creative addiction." But creativity, though not healing, can also grant meaning to an artist's life, rescuing them from life-long despair as they seek perfection in their work. These include such survivors of dreadful childhods as Edvard Munch and Thomas Wolfe. Thereafter, Munch led a nomadic life and Wolfe's relationships were notoriously troubled as both unconsciously sought, through their creations, the good-enough parenting which they lacked as children.
A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life
Thirty-years ago I was asked to treat an eight-year-old child who, stricken with leukemia, had been discharged from the hospital to die at home. Though fearing the emotional turmoil, I felt unable to refuse the request, feeling that he needed someone.
The boy looked terrible at our first meeting, holding a white enamel tray lest he vomit. I introduced him to "our friends," the stuffed animals in my office (Bertram Bear and Darrell Dog and Barry Bird and Gregory Gorilla) while we played a board game. He looked healthy at the following sessions, not bringing a tray, and playing and interacting with our friends comparably to my other young patients. He seemed so normal that I embraced the frequent delusion that his doctors were wrong and he wasn't dying. Then one day, when he became too ill to travel, I went to his home and spoke with his parents in the kitchen while he lay in bed.
Despite my heavy work schedule and preoccupation with him since we met, I felt nothing when he died but my body reacted differently. Though continually healthy, I immediately developed an unpredictable explosive diarrhea which made me unable to perform my duty as expert witness in court. Medical tests found nothing wrong and when the diarrhea ended two months later, I sensed it was gone forever and it never returned. Had my body tried to expel the poisoning stress through diarrhea? I wondered. A primitive reaction explained by psychosomatic medicine which holds that what cannot be spoken will be expressed through the body.
Twenty-six-years later I was referred for treatment an adult who, after extensive surgery, was being heavily medicated by his doctor for pain and self-medicating himself with forbidden alcohol and cigarettes. Having become a troublesome hanger-out in her office, she referred him to me "for therapy." A first glance told me he was dying. He had no interest in therapy, I didn't see him for long, and my increased blood pressure lasted as briefly. A week later, without conscious intent, I spontaneously spoke of the boy who departed life too soon, leaving his parents and me and our friends to grieve. Then I did cry.
Teachers are generally clueless about teaching problematic students and for good reason: it's not their job! Most learning problems derive from inadequate early parenting which affects the development of those basic ego capacities which govern control of behavior, development of a sense of self, mood modulation, and others. Limitations in these are exacerbated by parents who didn't read to and then with their toddlers, who bossed them around rather than explaining "why" which depresses the development of the capacity for abstract thinking, and who didn't foster individual development and demand civil behavior. All else is window dressing, like the computer technology which is expected to alleviate these early life failings but can't. Thus do teachers take the rap for being unable to "re-parent," which is basically not their job and a vastly complicated business too.
I've long been puzzled why some children in therapy who have no problem reading won't spontaneously read or profess to dislike it. Having tentatively concluded that, since reading involves the active use of the self, this creates anxiety for these disturbed children and motivates this resistance. But I've also encountered seriously disturbed children who read many books a week.
Certainly, there may be other contributing factors besides psychopathology: whether early-life parent encouragement of reading existed; the child never having grasped the escapist, soothing possibilities of reading fiction; or their over-involvement in another activity such as video games whose obsessive-compulsive elements reduce anxiety and is one reason for their popularity.
In any case, this would seem a worthwhile topic for study. And now the idea is yours!
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