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Do Repressed Emotions Make for Better Art?

July 28, 2013, 4:04 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Does channeling your anger and sexual frustration into creative pursuits result in a better product? Yes, according to a team of psychologists from the University of Illinois, particularly if you're a Protestant (meaning your faith does not have a ritualistic way of absolving negative emotion). "Two laboratory experiments found that Protestants produced more creative artwork when they were (a) primed with damnation-related words, (b) induced to feel unacceptable sexual desires, or (c) forced to suppress their anger," the researchers write. "It was the forbidden or suppressed nature of the emotion that gave the emotion its creative power."

What's the Big Idea?

In contemporary society, creativity holds a greater allure than perhaps ever before, especially since it is seen by many to be the key to creating new and innovative product lines that can be sold en masse. The results of the current study suggest that "what triggers a person’s creativity can vary depending upon his or her cultural upbringing. If you were raised in a tradition where there is no simple outlet for purging yourself of uncomfortable feelings, you might find it very useful to channel those emotions into writing, music, or art. As [the University of Illinois researchers] put it: 'By provoking and then quelling anxiety, disbelief, insecurity, and doubt, culture works its magic.'"

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at Pacific Standard


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