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Neurotic and Artist--Opposite Sides of the Same Coin
See Otto Rank from 7:13 - 8:13 of this Video
Otto Rank (April 22, 1884 - October 31, 1939) was a leading Austrian psychoanalyst and close colleague of Sigmund Freud for twenty years. He once theorized that a neurotic is an artist who cannot create. What did he mean by this?
In order to answer this question, one must define the concepts of neurotic and artist. At the risk of oversimplification, this writer ventures to say that the neurotic and the artist are opposite sides of the same coin (an analogy commonly used to thinly differentiate between the genius and the idiot).The neurotic and the artist are synonymous in that they are both dissatisfied entities--i. e., they suffer from a lack of tolerance of their environment and, as is often the case, a rather low self-image. Herein, however, the similarities end.
The neurotic is a closed system. He is characterized by an incomplete insight into himself; constant social, emotional, and psychological conflicts; anxiety attacks; and partial impairment of personality. An underlying trait of the neurotic is his frustration with ambivalence. He neglects or is unable to recognize his innate potential to cope with the environment. Life's novel situations pose great threats to the neurotic. As Fritz Perls would say, "He mobilizes not his own resources, but his means of manipulating the environment--helplessness, flattery, stupidity, and other more or less subtle controls--in order to get support." (Frederick S. Perls, "Group vs. Individual Therapy," Gestalt Is, Moab, Utah: Real People Press, 1975, p. 11.) Some of the general manifestations of his inability to be self-supportive are psychosomatic trauma, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and hysteria.
In contrast, the artist is an open system. He does not balk at an impasse (as would the neurotic) but transcends frustration by expressing himself. The dissatisfaction he experiences with life and his self-image is purged by his creativity. Whereas the neurotic fails to mobilize his own resources in coping with life, the artist thrives on innovation. His artistic process involves the pulling together of fragmented stimuli from his environment in a way which is creative. Consequently, he comes to an understanding of these stimuli in a novel way. Inevitably, the artist recreates his self-image by bringing together disconnected material in an innovative way. Unlike the neurotic, the artist is not afraid to experiment, take risks, go against convention, and thus grow.
In summation, the neurotic and the artist are similar in that they bear a common frustration and dissatisfaction with life and with their self-concepts. The neurotic, however, is so preoccupied with his self-image that he fails to check out his environment. Instead of becoming aware of and using his own potential for coping with life, he resorts to manipulative, self-defeating measures which reinforce his immaturity. The artist, on the other hand, deals with life quite differently. Rather than resort to infantile behavior as the neurotic would, the artist chooses to experience the pain of working through each impasse. He is a participant, not a spectator, in life, and his creative process is one that serves as a catharsis for his anguish. In his own unique way, the artist wrestles with his environment and, in the process of coming to terms with that environment, innovates his self-image.