Feed on

A woman brings a dream in which she discovers a variety of studio spaces in the basement of her family home.  As a child her family greatly encouraged her creativity–she was provided with all manner of materials, lessons, supplies and freedom to play.  In her current life, however, she struggles to make space and time for her artistic side.  The dream reminds her of that earlier time (when she did, in fact, have studio space in the family basement) and offers a hint that she will need to become her own supportive parental figure if she is to actively nurture an artistic life.

As I listen to women’s dreams I can’t help noticing how frequently they seem to insist on the value of a creative life.  Perhaps there is something about the creative process–with its rhythms of conception, gestation, and birth—that closely parallels a woman’s experience of life in a female body.  Perhaps, mirroring the goddesses of ancient times, the feminine self is innately creative.  Or perhaps women, even more than men, suffer from caretaker’s disease, nurturing others talents and skills while overlooking their own.

Most likely all of these factors are involved and more.  The truth is, the women I see often fall sick and unhappy when they don’t create.  By contrast, doing their own creative work often helps restore them back to what Jung called “the deepest springs of life.”  Without a creative practice of some kind, a woman can feel dry and depleted.   Tending her artistic nature becomes an inner imperative if she is to feel whole and alive within herself.

Take for example, a story told by the psychologist Jill Mellick.  At some point in her life she stopped engaging in her painting, music and writing pursuits to channel her creative energy into her graduate work, teaching, and psychotherapy practice.  This went on for several years until she found herself with an extended illness for which there was no quick cure.  Then Mellick had the following dream:

I see a college catalogue in which this class is listed: The Chemistry and Alchemy   of Poetry, Art and Music.  The listing is illustrated with a photograph of a tall,   elegant, mixed-metal sculpture.

Mellick writes that she woke with a feeling in her bones that this dream was showing her in blunt terms that she needed to express herself creatively again.  As she says, “it seemed to be inviting me to heal body (chemical) and soul (alchemical) through creative pursuits, which for me had always been sources of joy.  I enrolled in art class the next day and others soon after.  Reestablishing my creative pursuits became vital to me healing.”

I encounter this phenomenon with many women.  They become mothers, executives, wives or partners, or just plain busy.  They give their artists what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls “pretend eating”—“…throw a little workshop to it here and drop a little reading time for it there.” But the real artist gets no time, space, or freedom to play and move.  She is on perpetual postponement until the dishes get done, the promotion is achieved, the kids go off to school, etc.  In the meanwhile, resentment over an unlived life grows and festers.

I am reminded of a dream I once had in which a large group of underfed children “from the projects” was attempting to break into my house.  (At that point in my life I   was not tending my own artistic life well.)  As I sit with women in my psychotherapy practice, I can imagine their countless orphans—unwritten stories, essays not yet finished, photographs not taken—all clamoring for attention.  What is so important, these abandoned children seemed to be saying, what is so important that you can’t make time for us, can’t claim us as your own?

Creative life nourishes the deep soil of the psyche—replenishing and fertilizing the soul.  As women we expend so much energy outward that we desperately need the rejuvenation that can come when we tap into the creative flow of the psyche.  Whether we write, paint, knit, weave, cook, garden or dance we need the process of true introversion and authentic play that happens when we give over to the creative process.

3 Responses to “Tending the Artist Within”

  1. sandra gardner says:

    lovely. and very meaningful.
    Thank you.

  2. I remember Marion Woodman saying, “If you can’t give an hour a day to your soul, then what are you doing with your life?” Thank you for this beautiful reflection. Trying to get (creatively) pregnant should be fun, right?

  3. Marie-Claire Vallois says:

    How many times did I dream my unattended basement with closed boxes and half-opened suitcases and bric-a- brac of all sort lying around ! Lately I have returned, in one of my dreams, to that basement. This time it was all empty and clean. The walls were clear white and one part of the basement ( it was divided in two by half a wall ) was with plenty of windows . the other part though was very cold and darker , but it had a door opening to the garden. I could see the green tree fully alive. Could I open the door? I woke up. I called this dream , ‘Chambre claire” !…it was Claire ‘s room!
    Thank you for your dream stories with thoughts! It does enlighten mines.

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