Ingmar Bergman on mastering anxiety, depicting joy

The Magic Lantern, by Ingmar BergmanAs journalist Charles McNulty writes, Ingmar Bergman [1918-2007] “will always be remembered first and foremost as one of the most influential of European auteurs, a filmmaker whose enthralling forays into characters’ interior darkness were unmatched in their psychological acuity and inward intensity.”

[From “Bergman a giant not only of film but of the stage,” Los Angeles Times July 31, 2007]

McNulty adds, “His two great loves, the stage and the cinema, were twinned from the start in his family’s nursery, which included both a puppet theater and a magic lantern — all that was needed to spark the fantasy life of this brooding child of a mother ill-equipped for a neurotic artist son and a minister father whose turbulent, depressive presence was something the young Bergman desperately wanted to escape.”

In one of Bergman’s books, “Images: My Life in Film” (in which he writes about more than 30 of his titles), he comments, “Through my playing, I want to master my anxiety, relieve tension, and triumph over my deterioration. I want to depict, finally, the joy that I carry within me in spite of everything, and which I seldom and so feebly have given attention in my work.”

[Photo from autobiography: The Magic Lantern.]

Bergman’s comments on the redemptive power of his work reminds me of the perspectives of clinical and forensic psychologist Stephen Diamond, PhD, who works with many gifted and talented individuals committed to becoming more creative.

He explains in his book, “Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity,” that our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict.”

In our interview – The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons – he says, “Creativity is one of humankind’s healthiest inclinations, one of our greatest attributes.”

But, he thinks that creativity may be both a powerful and often dark endeavor: “The more conflict, the more rage, the more anxiety there is, the more the inner necessity to create.

“We must also bear in mind that gifted individuals, those with a genius (incidentally, genius was the Latin word for daimon, the basis of the daimonic concept) for certain things, feel this inner necessity even more intensely, and in some respects experience and give voice not only to their own demons but the collective daimonic as well.”

That certainly fits for the deeply meaningful and expressive creative work that Ingmar Bergman has given to the world.

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