There are moments in which I believe I exist within tightly defined limits. Moments in which I am conscious that I must expand my conception of myself, of my capabilities, and the bounds of my personality. In these moments, I experience a heightened awareness of self–of the woman I am and am in the process of becoming. Of the woman who is, and perhaps, will always remain partially, not yet. In these moments, I am moved, compelled by an inner force, to express this totalizing lust for potential–to write spontaneous compositions such as this one–loose, unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness, and gritty. In these moments, I desire nothing more than to express a feeling of inward expansion. A perception that my inner world is vast, deep, and connected, yet uniquely and beautifully solitary. New. That what may keep many of us from recognizing our own newness, our own not-yetness, may lie in an inability to see ourselves imaginatively. To forge our own patterns. Make our own myths. To exist in state I have begun to think of as creative combination.
In a move toward greater self-understanding, I have recently begun contemplating the value of myth. Of those stories which should help me feel more deeply rooted in my own humanity. Of myth and identity. Of creativity and science. Of creating from scientific theory and making my own little self-study in the field of psychology richer, more creative, more multidimensional, more alive for myself. I published a post last Sunday in which I began to approach a few of these topics–beginning with myth–and promptly deleted it because it didn’t say what I wanted it to say. The framework for the discussion was wrong. And, if I’m going to be honest, I was being a little disingenuous. So, I’d like to start over. Unprompted. In new combination.
I don’t love myth. I have a very hard time identifying with it intimately. Not goddesses. Not saints, nor angels. Not monarchs or other archetypal or secular heroines. My problem with myth, as I see it, is less one of like or dislike and far more a matter of affinity and incorporation. That is, I can’t seem to internalize the plots and characters of myth without wanting to change them. It’s impossible. Just to think of it–to think for a moment–that I might conceive of myself, on the deepest and most intimate levels, as being composed of a bunch of goddesses and demons, of an amalgam of archaic urges, makes my entire spirit revolt. No way. Not ever. The deterministic, regressive function of myth. Perhaps, I should, as Rollo May suggests in The Cry for Myth, try to envision mythic influence through a lens of potential–the same lens of potential through which I view the rest of my being:
Myths are a breaking through of greater meaning which was not present before. The myth in this respect is the way of working out the problem on a higher level of integration. This is the progressive function of myth. – Rollo May
I can accept some determinism. I do believe, as May suggests, that the acceptance of certain deterministic influences on one’s life and one’s psyche is a source of freedom. But, I also believe that there is, within some of us–creative folks, in particular–a constant need to be molding ourselves. To be morphing, regenerating, and evolving. To take subconscious material and, to the degree it is possible, expose and innovate with it. It occurs to me that some of us cannot simply ingest information. Cannot take on the role of passive learner, of rote memorizer, and re-hasher of someone else’s ideas without making them new. Without making them ours.
It’s as if our sense of self is too strong. I, for one, cannot or will not (as a matter of integrity) learn new material if I cannot make it mine. If I cannot create with it. I will not incorporate ideas, habits, or best practices into my repertoire of daily activities if I cannot alter them to conform to my sensibilities. If I cannot hold them in creative combination with other aspects of my life, identity, and thinking. My capacity for original thinking hinges on creative combination. As does, it would seem, the rest of my being. I cannot be myself if I cannot exist in a constant, fluid state of combining. Indeed, I feel much the same way about discussions of behaviorism and neuroscience as I do about myth. It does not feel natural to me to speak of myself in empirical statements. Not if I can’t transform them into art. Not if I can’t impose on them my own creative will and imagination. Not if I can’t retain just a touch of my own, self-chosen, delectable chaos.
I ask myself if the free-form of this post isn’t difficult to bear. My thoughts are indeterminate, still very much coming into a shape of their own. Yet, the only thing I can think of at this moment–as I cozy up in a local coffee shop, sipping espresso, listening to fresh jazz in my headphones, contemplating what it means to exist in a state of creative combination–is Freud. I am currently reading New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. It is sitting beside me while I write. As an undergraduate psychology major, I used to stow myself away in the basement of the university library and read Freud late into the night. Freud and Karen Horney. Until closing time, when I was inevitably asked to leave. I imagine I would’ve slept there if I could have. This is the first book of Freud’s I’ve read in 15 years. I want to re-read The Interpretation of Dreams next. It’s the spirit of innovation that moves me. The intense creativity. The color. The energy that leaps off the page and instantly allows me to feel expanded, full, in wild and wonderful combination.