Paul Tournier continues to share his unique blend of biblical, psychological, and very personal wisdom as he writes new books from the vantage point of being a widower in his eighties. The following selection, touching his own responses to his wife’s death, is from Creative Suffering (Harper & Row, ©1981), and used by permission.
Freud [made] this profound remark: “We can lose nothing without replacing it.” With what do we replace it? That is the question. With destructive rebellion, or with creativity?
This second way, however, is not an easy one to take. It requires courage, it requires a whole process of inner maturation, which Freud called the work of mourning.
On the subject of creativity, for instance, Freud writes modestly: “The essence of the artistic function also remains psychoanalytically inaccessible to us.” This … [sublimation] … is the idea of a particular psychic force which has come up against a painful reality, to rebound with equal force in a new direction, like a billiard ball. The cushion off which the ball has cannoned is deprivation.
Freud, then, seems to be saying that a certain restraint is the source of all creativity and all culture. Philippe Mottu mentions two writers, Pitirim Sorokin, professor of sociology at Harvard, and J. D. Unwin, who sought to verify this theory in social history. They were able to show that periods of sexual liberty were the poorest from the cultural point of view, whereas those periods when morality and social convention imposed restrictions on sexual activity were the richest in creative output.
This runs counter to what is claimed by the advocates of sexual license, which is sometimes attributed to the influence of Freud. It is an important lesson for all those who suffer ...1
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