An account of how I learned to be a helping professional – not an instruction manual, but a prompt for you to explore your own story .

Winnicott’s account of the transitional object opened up for me an idea about creativity – located in the formulation of a space between the inner instinctual world and external reality. Artistic expression located only in the inner world is chaotic and disturbing, or drab, unable to communicate any kind of coherence that someone else could understand. If located only in the external world, a painting would become a diagram. I was again struck by the possibility of creativity as I set out, largely it seemed to me, because I lacked creativity. ‘Thorough but dull’ was my history teacher’s comment on one piece of work, and I always suspected he was right. From where then I wondered did creativity come? Hence Winnicott’s transitional object struck a chord.

This is perhaps the reason why my dissertation during social work training was entitled ‘A life of ease is a difficult pursuit’, and tried to explore in a post adolescent way, some feelings about creativity. I imagined I think that I faced a particularly male problem with this or at least a problem for a young man who never had much interest in practical ‘construction’. What I wondered was the nearest equivalent for men to child bearing? Could it be art, composition of music, writing etc.? Not that my dissertation could be allowed to be so rawly personal – it needed to address lives of people with whom I might be working as a probation officer.

I came across a book, rather of its age, which was about young delinquent gangs (‘The Paint House’ I believe it was called) and it made me think about what creativity might mean to less privileged people whose life options were decidedly limited. In a sense I think the question was, faced with the destructiveness of crime, mental disorder, poverty etc., what vision of health did I have? Health and creativity had to be part of each other.



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