Twenty Key Concepts from Psychotherapy | The Book of Life – Sublimation

This is from a really useful website that is one of my regular go-to sites. It covers so many areas, and quite often I won’t be quite sure what it is I need to read that day, but after a little dabbling – boom – I’ll read something that resonates at that particular moment.

Today it was this:


The term ‘sublimation’ has it origins in medieval science, where it names the suggestive process in which solid matter is transformed into a gas, as when a heated lump of coal bursts into flame.

It was much associated with the idea of something base and unimpressive being transformed into something wonderful and almost spiritual. In therapy, ‘sublimation’ is extended to cover the way a usually unhelpful impulse can be converted into a noble ambition.

So for example, aggressive instincts to kick or hit can be channeled into sporting prowess; the desire to show off can become the basis of a capacity to address an audience on something of real worth to them; a feeling that no one listens can give birth to a literary career.

Freud was particularly interested in the way in which artists turn the often chaotic reality of their lives into something of public use. The artist or writer adapts their ‘private flight from reality’ into the creation of public objects that move, interest and inspire other people.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan focused on the sublimation that can turn a thwarted desire for sex into romantic art; the poetry of love, he argued, flourishes when sex is forbidden.

We can redirect our problematic drives in as constructive a way as possible.

Source: Twenty Key Concepts from Psychotherapy | The Book of Life

This was just one of the twenty, short descriptions of the concepts illustrated in the article. And there are many, many other fantastic and useful articles in each section of that site. Recommended reading.

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