Monday, December 15, 2008


Divine Discontent

by Lisa A. Riley

Discover your own discontent, and be grateful, for without 
divine discontent there would be no creative force.
– Deepak Chopra

We all suffer to some degree of a chronic, low-grade discontent. So, we seek out the next goal to achieve, a new relationship, a new job, perhaps the next rush of adrenaline or the next “something else” that will bring fulfillment to our lives. The very thing we need to rid us of this unceasing desire and bring contentment. We even chant to ourselves a silent mantra, “When I get there, I can relax, enjoy life and then I will be happy.” Yet when we get there or obtain the object of our desire it only seems to temporarily quiet the hungry voice and before we know it, the gnawing starts up again.

In our eyes, such a recurring yearn can easily be interpret as a deficiency in our life or lack in our character that needs to be remedied. When we interpret feelings of dissatisfaction in a negative light and succumb to the urgency for instant gratification, we are often left with an even greater longing for the next thing.

Religions and philosophies have often referred to this as “A Divine Discontent.” They recognize its gift as a fountain of energy, which prompts us to take the next step towards becoming our full potential. In his book, The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz, compares this process to a rubber band that is stretched back to a point of tension. Within that tension manifest a natural tendency to return to its previous form. According to Fritz this results when the place we’re currently at does not match up to where we desire to be. Therefore, what wells up is a strong urge to resolve it. Within this tension lives an energy, which commonly occurs prior to a major breakthrough or epiphany.

How does divine discontent play out in the creative process? It rears its face in the initial stages of an idea and then transforms into a sudden urge to bring the vision into fruition. It can be the motivation that drives the artist to return to the sculpture, painting or novel daily. Or it surfaces in the aftermath of its completion as a desire still yet not fulfilled. Once again ignites the birth of another idea.

In Mark Epstein’s book, Open to Desire he describes this restlessness. He writes, “But allowing oneself to fall into the space that desire cannot span makes the experience complete. The little bit of lack that remains, after even the most satisfying resolution of desire, is a window into something important, something true.”

Experiencing the Divine Discontent is part of being human and even a natural quality of being an artist. It can drive us to push through moments of creative block and seek out innovative ideas. That said, let us embrace and welcome the presence of our Divine Discontent and let it become a muse that is channeled towards developing a productive artful life.

1 comment:

suzanne said...

Lisa, I enjoyed your entry. I'd heard the phrase "divine discontent" from British psychologist Anthony Storr -- I wrote about it in a post on my blog at:

Thanks for reminding me that good things come from divine discontent!