Mended by the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma

Sophia Richman (USA)

Mended-by-the-Muse-coverMended by the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma is an in-depth exploration of the relationship between trauma and creativity. It is about art in the service of healing, mourning, and memorialization. This book addresses questions such as: How does artistic expression facilitate the healing process: What is the therapeutic action of art? And is there a relationship between mental instability and creativity? It also asks how self-analysis through art-making can be integrated with psychoanalytic work in order to enrich and facilitate emotional growth.

Drawing on four decades of clinical practice and a critical reading of creativity literature, Sophia Richman presents a new theory of the creative process whose core components are relational conceptualizations of dissociation and witnessing. This is an interdisciplinary book which draws inspiration from life histories, clinical case material, neuroscience, and interviews with creators, as well as from various art forms such as film, literature, paintings, and music. Some areas of discussion include: art born of genocide, confrontation with mortality in illness and aging, and the clinical implications of memoirs written by psychoanalysts. Visual images are interspersed throughout the text that illustrate the reverberations of trauma and its creative transformation in the work of featured artists.

Mended by the Muse powerfully articulates how creative action is one of the most effective ways of coping with trauma and its aftershocks—it is in art, in all its forms, that sorrow is given shape and meaning. Here, Sophia Richman shows how art helps to master the chaos that follows in the wake of tragedy, how it restores continuity, connection and the will for a more fully lived life.

SRichmanphoto-1-3Sophia Richman is a psychoanalyst and psychologist in private practice. She is affiliated with the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis where she supervises. She is the author of the award winning memoir, A Wolf in the Attic: The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust (Routledge, 2002) and she is a painter.

“In this profound, novel, and moving account of the role of creativity in healing trauma that is, in the very process of developing her ideas–Sophia Richman offers us a living example of being “mended by the muse.” But that is the least of what we learn here. We readers, too, have suffered trauma and dissociation. If we allow ourselves to dwell in Richman’s sense of what creative action can do, we too are mended in reading these pages, and we emerge from them better able than we were before to mend ourselves, and to assist in the mending of others. A stirring and beautiful book.”
    – Donnel Stern, Ph.D., The William Alanson White Institute.

“With this extraordinary book Dr. Richman not only offers a contemporary theoretical explanation of creativity but she also takes the reader into the minds of artists as they experience this enlivening and restorative process. The emphasis on experience makes the book invaluable for clinicians whose work is guided by recognizing the healing power residing in interacting subjectivities. With its breadth and depth, the book is also highly recommended to those who wish to embark on a most satisfying journey that penetrates the mystery of creativity.”
    – Anna Ornstein, M.D. Professor Emerita, University of Cincinnati; Lecturer in Psychiatry Harvard Medical School

“The relationship between creativity and mental illness has been one of the most debated issues in psychology. In this heavily researched volume, Sophia Richman reviews the insights psychoanalysis has contributed to this issue, through the lens of the tragic turmoils of the last century and of her personal experience. In the process, she convincingly argues that as the pearl that forms inside the oyster’s shell to protect it from abrasive sand, creativity is formed to protect us from otherwise intolerable aspects of life.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management, Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA

published by Routledge in the Psychoanalysis in a New Key Series.

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