Matt Weiner, Lili Taylor, Carl Jung on using our subconscious

What lies beneath our usual waking consciousness provides so much of the material we can use for creative expression.

The Red Book is a new publication of Carl Jung’s journals and explorations into his soul and psyche.

More on that later, but first – two artists talk about using their subconscious for creative inspiration.

Mad Men cable seriesA magazine profile of the highly acclaimed cable series “Mad Men” and its creator Matthew Weiner describes how much he uses his inner life as inspiration for the show, as he did for his writing on “The Sopranos.”

“Whatever Weiner’s demons, they work for him,” the Vanity Fair article by Bruce Handy notes.

“To hear the show’s writers discuss Weiner’s creative process, it’s almost as if the Mad Men world and its ongoing narratives exist fully formed somewhere deep in the recesses of Weiner’s mind, tangible but elusive, like dreams half remembered upon waking.

“He retrieves fragments and shards and brings them into the writers’ room, to use as building blocks for larger dramas.

“There is some of it that is, frankly, mysterious,” said Lisa Albert, a writer-producer who has been with the series for all three seasons.

“Like, Matt will have an image in his mind, and he’s not sure why, and we sit around and talk about it and try and figure out why this thing keeps coming in his mind.”

“She and the other writers mentioned an image of a beautiful cracked glass that Weiner kept seeing, which eventually prompted a key moment in the second-season episode where Don, on a business trip in Los Angeles, takes off with some jet-setters for a seductive but unsettling lark in Palm Springs.

“In the recounting, it sounded as if nearly the entire episode grew from the seed of that initial image (with the added fertilizer of a book of Slim Aarons photos given to Weiner by someone he had met on a plane).

“I count on my subconscious to be consistent,” Weiner told me.

“And how that works I have no f***ing idea, and I don’t even want to investigate it. Because if I lose that I have nothing to say.”

From Don and Betty’s Paradise Lost, Vanity Fair September 2009.

Lili TaylorAn NPR interview reported that actress Lili Taylor “was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school, though she was not medicated.

Her therapist suspected Taylor’s symptoms might disappear once she found an outlet for her creative energies — which is exactly what happened, Taylor says.

“As her acting career developed, Taylor continued seeing a therapist. ‘I kind of look at it like an expensive conversation,’ she says. ‘I use my therapist a lot with my characters.’

“Taylor is particularly influenced by the work of Carl Jung. A founding father of modern psychology, Jung developed the theory of the collective unconscious, and proposed the existence of archetypal patterns that help shape personality.

“Taylor says she sometimes finds it helpful to think in terms of Jungian archetypes when she begins working on a part: ‘It’s another way of helping getting in there, because I have a whole wealth of literature to turn to if I have come up with the trickster, the villain or the great mother or the nag or whatever.’”

From Intersections: Inside the Mind of Lili Taylor – Actress Relies on Psychology to Create Memorable Characters, by Lynn Neary, NPR, 2004.

Red BookCarl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who founded the field of analytical or depth psychology, wrote in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections: “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them.”

That quote comes from a New York Times article by Sara Corbett, which describes his work and the recent release of his journal The Red Book – Liber Novus, which includes many previously unknown writings and drawings by Jung, such as this one.

Corbett writes, “For about six years, Jung worked to prevent his conscious mind from blocking out what his unconscious mind wanted to show him.

“Between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home and actually induced hallucinations — what he called ‘active imaginations.’

“He found himself in a liminal place, as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin, believing it to be the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists.”

The big red-leather book “detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings.”

Journeys into the inner depths of the soul and psyche can be extremely challenging, as the article notes.

“About halfway through the Red Book — after he has traversed a desert, scrambled up mountains, carried God on his back, committed murder, visited hell; and after he has had long and inconclusive talks with his guru, Philemon, a man with bullhorns and a long beard who flaps around on kingfisher wings — Jung is feeling understandably tired and insane.

“This is when his soul, a female figure who surfaces periodically throughout the book, shows up again. She tells him not to fear madness but to accept it, even to tap into it as a source of creativity. “If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature.”

From The Holy Grail of the Unconscious, by Sara Corbett, The New York Times September 16, 2009.


See longer article: Collaborating With Our Shadow Side.

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Online course: How to Uncover the Unconscious and Release Creativity – from the en*theos Academy for Optimal Living, with Carrie Barron, M.D.

“The unconscious is a treasure trove of novel ideas, innovations, odd combinations and original thought. It is where instincts, passions, wishes and dreams reside. Accessing the unconscious through honoring dreams, intuition and wispy random thoughts can help us be more creative, authentic and content.”



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