Angst, Anxiety and Art

Found this fascinating (partial) article on, while searching for information on the powers of depression and other anxiety related ‘disorders’ and their effects on creativity and the art making process.

Check out the site when you get a chance…its looks to be a wealth of information!

Anxiety, like anger or rage, is another experience closely connected to creativity. “It is true that not all creativity comes out of anxiety,” Diamond clarifies, “in the same way that not all creativity comes from anger or rage. But anxiety typically, to some extent, accompanies and spurs on the creative process.

“Anxiety can be thought of as one of those demons we don’t want to deal with or even know about. So we tend to deny it, avoid it. Drinking, drugs, compulsive gambling, sexual promiscuity, workaholism — all are futile attempts to avoid anxiety. Anxiety is related to the fear of the unknown, of the unconscious, and of death.

“Creativity requires making use of this existential anxiety. There are two fundamental ways of responding to anxiety: avoidance or confrontation. Creativity involves the confrontation of anxiety, and of that which underlies the anxiety, i.e., discovering the meaning of one’s anxiety.”

Diamond adds that anxiety can be a signal that unacceptable *daimonic impulses conflicting with consciousness are “threatening to break through their repression. These impulsions can be profoundly threatening to our sense of identity, our ‘persona’ as Jung called it, or our egos.”

Such “unacceptable” impulses come from a dark inner territory Jung called “the shadow” and we typically dread looking “in there” or having impulses appear unbidden. “But if we can stand firm without running,” Diamond says, “tolerating the anxiety these unwanted visitations, these ‘close encounters’ engender, we can begin to give them form and hear what it is they want of us.

“Creativity comes from this refusal to run, this willing encounter with anxiety and what lies beyond it. It is an opening up to the unknown, the unconscious, the daimonic. And it can be terrifying. The real trick is learning to use the anxiety to work rather than escape. And all of this requires immense courage, the courage to create.

“So anxiety stems from conflict — either inner or outer conflict — and creativity is an attempt to constructively resolve that conflict. Why do people create? We create because we seek to give some formal expression to inner experience. Certainly, that inner experience is sometimes joy, peace, tranquility, love, etc. We wish to share that experience with our fellow human beings.”

But, he continues, human nature being what it is, “more often the inner experience is conflict, confusion, anxiety, anger, rage, lust, and so forth. So this is what fuels and informs the bulk of creative work, and it is what gives it its resonance, intensity, and cutting edge.”

Anxiety not only motivates most creative activity, Diamond notes, “it inevitably accompanies the process. This is because in order to be creative — to bring something new into being, something unique, original, revolutionary — one must take risks: the risk of making a fool of oneself; the risk of being laughed at; the risk of failing; the risk of being rejected.”

This is the reason “true creativity” requires so much courage, he explains. “One can never know the outcome of the process at the outset. Yet, one is putting oneself on the line, fully committing oneself to the uncertain project. Hence, one is plagued by the demons of doubt, discouragement, despair, trepidation, intimidation, guilt, and so on. Who wouldn’t feel anxious?

“Nonetheless, it is during this process — once we have decided unequivocally to throw ourselves fully into it, for better or worse, to completely commit to it — that there can be moments of lucidity, clarity, passionate intensity that transcends all petty concerns.

“It is then — when we stop worrying about what others will think, when we stop trying so hard, when we relinquish ego control and surrender to the daimonic, when we relax or play — that what Jung termed the ‘transcendent function’ kicks in, and the conflict is resolved, the problem is solved, the creative answer revealed.”

So this kind of alliance with the daimonic aspect of our selves is of profound value. As Diamond writes in his book: “By bravely voicing our inner ‘demons’ — symbolizing those tendencies in us that we most fear, flee from, and hence, are obsessed or haunted by — we transmute them into helpful allies, in the form of newly liberated, life-giving psychic energy, for use in constructive activity.

“During this alchemical activity, we come to discover the surprising paradox that many artists perceive: That which we had previously run from and rejected turns out to be the redemptive source of vitality, creativity, and authentic spirituality.”

~ ~ ~

The Psychology of Creativity: Redeeming our Inner Demons – An interview with Stephen A Diamond, Ph.D., by Douglas Eby. This ‘partial’ article was found on

Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist practicing in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Diamond is a designated forensic consultant for the Los Angeles Superior Court (criminal division), and maintains a private psychotherapy practice where he sees many talented individuals, including members of the Screen Actors Guild.

*Daimonic:  The idea of the daimonic typically means quite a few things: from befitting a demon and fiendish, to motivated by a spiritual force or genius and inspired. As a psychological term, it has come to represent an elemental force which contains an irrepressible drive towards individuation. As a literary term, it can also mean the dynamic unrest that exists in us all that forces us into the unknown, leading to self-destruction and/or self-discovery.

4 thoughts on “Angst, Anxiety and Art

  1. You really give me some things to think about. This is a great article. I will re-read this several times. Thank you for posting this!

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