Sunday, October 12, 2008


By Lisa A. Riley

Depression - Repressed Creativity?

“The distinctive characteristic of human beings is namely, to influence our own evolution through our own awareness.”

– Rollo May, The Courage to Create

To be creative is to be human. We were born with the innate drive to pursue creative inclinations. Creative energy has motivated us to build shelter in challenging climates, find food when resources were scarce or develop weapons to protect against predators. Our built in innovativeness has also motivated men and women towards advancements in medicine and technology, driving artists to create masterpieces on ceilings or philosophers find meaning in life’s complexities. It has helped us to survive as a species.

But what happens when one does not pay attention to this instinct to freely convey their creativity? When one buries such needs under the fear of disappointing others or under the expectations of society or family, it finds a way to express it self and in ways that are unhealthy. Creative energy turned inward and suppressed can manifest into depression.

In The Woman's Book of Creativity, C. Diane Ealy, Ph.D. mentions that, "Repressed creativity can express itself in unhealthy relationships, overwhelming stress, severe neurotic or even psychotic behavior, and addictive behaviors such as alcoholism. But perhaps the most insidious and common manifestation of repressed creativity in women (and men) is depression."

Depression is most commonly known as a quiet suffering, however perhaps it is a silently screaming of the soul to express it’s authentic and creative self. In addition to the sadness and hopelessness that is commonly experienced with depression, we feel disempowered, invaluable and non-existent.

I have found when my clients begin to honor their creative voice and give it the nurturing attention it deserves they feel more alive, more themselves. They become empowered by the discovery and appreciation for their own sense of uniqueness. Found in the act of art making is a renewed meaning and purpose in their lives. Rather it is through a visual image, a poem or a piece of music, they reconnect with those authentic parts of who they truly are. These qualities counteract depression and maybe serve as an antidote to a loss of self. In turn, as one’s genuine voice becomes louder the voice of depression grows fainter.

Next time feelings of discontentment or depression come knocking on your mental door, maybe some creative time and self-expression is what your soul is starving for. Honor that voice by providing an avenue to thrive and exist. To censor one’s creative voice is suppressing one’s need to be truly human.

Lisa Riley is a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern, painter and writer. She has spent the last 25 years integrating various forms of self-expression as a way of life and an avenue towards healing. Lisa has her own private practice in Southern California. She feels a strong connection with the creative person and can understand the unique challenges that accompany being creative. In the last 5 years she has had the pleasure of working with artists, writers, actors and musicians in helping them gain self-awareness, healing and a deeper understanding of themselves as artists.
For more information feel free to visit her site at or if you wish to reach her, you can email her at

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