Holding Things In
In thinking about the creative process described within the workshop a few weeks ago, I started to develop other trains of thought which might be linked to this. As mentioned, myths and stories can offer new perspectives on human dilemmas and struggles whilst also providing possible routes to their resolution (Huckvale, 2011:31). Hence in thinking about the funnel, and the process of pouring liquid into it, I was reminded of a bible passage that uses the metaphor of a dirty cup to describe how the Pharisees (or religious leaders) were dirty on the inside whilst appearing clean on the outside. As the passage describes:
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
In revisiting this metaphor of the dirty cup, I started to consider my own need to disguise harmful or unwanted emotions. Ideas of contamination or toxicity are also prevalent in my thinking as well as the notion of ‘keeping up appearances’ in regards to holding things in.
Similarly this type of retention is comparative to Freud’s notion of psychosexual development in which a child may become fixated on controlling bowel and bladder movements (see below).
Oral Stage (0-2 years) – Pleasure derived from the mouth (e.g. sucking, biting, swallowing)
Anal Stage (2-4 years) – Pleasure derived from the anus (defecating or retaining faeces)
Phallic Stage (4-5 years) – Pleasure derived from the genitals
Latency Stage (6 – puberty) – Sexual urges sublimated into sports and hobbies. Same-sex friends also help avoid sexual feelings.
Genital Stage (puberty onwards) – Physical sexual changes reawaken repressed needs. Direct sexual feelings towards others lead to sexual gratification.
Freud developed a theory of how our sexuality starts from a very young ages and develops through various fixations. If these stages are not psychologically completed and released, we can be trapped by them and they may lead to various defense mechanisms to avoid the anxiety produced from the conflict in and leaving of the stage (Changing Minds). Consequently in the anal stage, two possible outcomes may emerge. The anal retentive personality is stingy, with a compulsive seeking of order and tidiness whilst the anal expulsive personality is messy and out of control.
Whilst Freud’s description of these fixations is somewhat extreme, they do have some resonance with the ideas I’m exploring in my own art making, particularly the funnel.
As a final point, David Maclagen discusses how these human functions are likeable to art materials which share the qualities of these bodily wastes. As he explains:
‘Faeces certainly do evoke a whole experiential spectrum, from the sloppy to the compact, from control and retention to explosive incontinence…. Paint by its very consistency, as well as in the activities associated with it of squeezing, smearing, dribbling and so on, lends itself to perform as a phantastic analogue for these body products and how they might be ‘handled’, so to speak.’
Bible Gateway, (No Date), Matthew 23:27 (New Living Translation), Available at: (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023:27&version=NLT), (accessed: 20.10.13)
Changing Minds, (No Date), Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory, Available at: (http://changingminds.org/explanations/learning/freud_stage.htm), (date assessed: 21.10.13)
Huckvale, K., (2011), ‘Alchemy, sandtray, and art psychotherapy: Sifting sands’, International Journal of Art Therapy, 16 (1) pp. 30-40, Available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17454832.2011.570272 (accessed: 02.10.13)
Maclagen, D., (2001), Psychological Aesthetics: Paintings, Feelings and Making Sense, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers