Albert Rothenberg, a noted researcher on the creative process, has extensively studied the use of opposites in the creative process. He identified a process he terms “Janusian thinking,” a process named after Janus, a Roman God who has two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. Janusian thinking is the ability to imagine two opposites or contradictory ideas, concepts, or images existing simultaneously. Imagine, if you will, your mother existing as a young baby and old woman simultaneously, or your pet existing and not existing at the same time.
Janusian process, consists of actively conceiving and using multiple opposite or antithetical thoughts or constructions simultaneously. The janusian process leads to creation in conceptual and verbal modalities.
Rothenberg’s theory of janusian process is grounded in ego psychology, Freud’s theory of the tripartite mind of ego, id, and superego. I won’t go into the technical details, but Dr. Rothenberg’s theory is premised on the ego defense of negation (based on Freud’s 1925 paper, “On Negation.”)
I am just a layman, but I have read some things about a psychoanalyst named Melanie Klein whose school of thinking is termed Object Relations theory.
I wonder if any researchers in creativity have based any theories about creativity on Object Relations theory as opposed to Ego Psychology, or Drive Theory.
Some ideas come to mind about how janusian process and creativity might be related to Melanie Klein’s thinking about personality.
Klein proposed that we all go through a phase of development called the paranoid-schizoid phase, a time in infantile development where the newborn sees the world in black and white terms: all good or all bad. At a later age the child develops a more nuanced perception of the world and begins to appreciate that objects are a mix of good and bad. This latter phase is called the depressive phase.
Perhaps the janusian process of conceptualizing opposites simultaneously has something to do with the depressive phase or with either the absence of paranoid-schizoid anxiety or a special ability to tolerate paranoid-schizoid anxiety. Perhaps the janusian process is related to the ability to tolerate the idea that an object can have opposite qualities.
Another thought comes to mind. One of Melanie Klein’s theories relates to something called Projective Identification, a psychological process in which a person will project a thought or belief that they have onto a second person. Then, in most common definitions of projective identification, there is another action in which the second person is changed by the projection and begins to behave as though he or she is in fact actually characterized by those thoughts or beliefs that have been projected. This is a process that generally happens outside of the awareness of both parties involved, although this has been a matter of some argument. What is projected is most often an intolerable, painful, or dangerous idea or belief about the self that the first person cannot tolerate (i.e. “I have behaved wrongly” or “I have a sexual feeling towards . . .” ). Or it may be a valued or esteemed idea that again is difficult for the first person to acknowledge for some reason.
Projective identification is believed to be a very early or primitive psychological process that arises during the paranoid-schizoid phase and is understood to be one of the more primitive defense mechanisms. Yet it is also thought to be the basis out of which more mature psychological processes like empathy and intuition are formed.
What I find interesting about that description is that intuition has an important function in creativity. Personality traits associated with intuition are often found in creative people. Intuitive persons (like many creative persons) take time for solitude, they create, they practice mindfulness, they observe everything, they pay attention to their dreams or are sensitive to unconscious forces, they enjoy plenty of downtime. Some scientists have contended that intuition is associated with innovation in scientific discovery.
I wonder if creativity or the janusian process have ever been analyzed in terms of paranoid-schizoid anxiety and the vicissitudes of projective identification such as intuition.