1st Edition

Dancing with the Unconscious The Art of Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalysis of Art

By Danielle Knafo Copyright 2012
    272 Pages 40 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    304 Pages 40 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In writing and lecturing over the past two decades on the relationship between psychoanalysis and art, Danielle Knafo has demonstrated the many ways in which these two disciplines inform and illuminate each other. This book continues that discussion, emphasizing how the creative process in psychoanalysis and art utilizes the unconscious in a quest for transformation and healing. Part one of the book presents case studies to show how free association, transference, dream work, regression, altered states of consciousness, trauma, and solitude function as creative tools for analyst, patient, and artist. Knafo uses the metaphor of dance to describe therapeutic action, the back-and-forth movement between therapist and patient, past and present, containment and release, and conscious and unconscious thought. The analytic couple is both artist and medium, and the dance they do together is a dynamic representation of the boundless creativity of the unconscious mind. Part two of the book offers in-depth studies of several artists to illustrate how they employ various media for self-expression and self-creation. Knafo shows how artists, though mostly creating in solitude, are frequently engaged in significant relational proceses that attempt rapprochement with internalized objects and repair of psychic injury. Dancing with the Unconscious expands the theoretical dimension of psychoanalysis while offering the clinician ways to realize greater creativity in work with patients. 

    Introduction. Part I: The Art of Psychoanalysis. Dancing with the Unconscious: The Art of Psychoanalysis. One Step Back, Two Steps Forward: Regression in the Service of Art and Psychoanalysis. The Senses Grow Skilled in their Craving: Thoughts on Creativity and Substance Abuse. Creative Transformations of Trauma: Private Pain in the Public Domain and the Clinical Setting. Alone Together: Solitude and the Creative Encounter in Art and Psychoanalysis. Part II: The Psychoanalysis of Art. Dreams of Genius: Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. Egon Schiele: A Self in Creation. At the Limits of the Primal Scene: Revisiting Blue Velvet. Ana Mendieta: Goddess in Exile. Bruno Schulz: Desire's Impossible Object.


    Danielle Knafo is a Professor in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Long Island University and an Adjunct Clinical Professor and Supervisor at New York University’s Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. She has written and lectured extensively on psychoanalysis and creativity, trauma, and gender. Her books include In Her Own Image (2009) and Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World (2006, with Kenneth Feiner). She maintains a private practice in Great Neck and New York.

    "Danielle Knafo is remarkably sanguine about the analyst's role in such controversial pursuits as the treatment of psychotic patients, the healing of trauma, and the understanding of art and artists... [In] an era when psychoanalysis is so beleaguered, we may need ambitious writers such as Knafo who can return us to a visionary sense of possibilities. As far as applied psychoanalysis is concerned, Dancing with the Unconscious makes it abundantly clear that the method is up to the task." -Bradley Collins, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly

    Danielle Knafo’s Dancing With the Unconscious: The Art of Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalysis of Art is a valuable addition to the growing literature on psychoanalysis and art and creativity. Traversing a wide and rich terrain, from transformation of trauma through art, to the creative dimensions of psychoanalysis, to dreams of geniuses (Freud and Jung), Knafo, a psychoanalyst, author and professor of clinical psychology, has written a lucid, compelling, and enlightening book that increases our understanding of creativity and the art of psychoanalysis. -Jeffery B. Rubin, PsycCritiques

    "Danielle Knafo has written a compelling and enlightening book, a testimony to the depths of the creative spirit. Explorations span psychoanalysis, art, literature, and dance, with special emphasis on what art can contribute to understanding psychoanalysis as well as the reverse. Processes that go into art-making also go into psychoanalysis. She brings out dimensions of the creative unconscious that add to our appreciation of being alive." - Michael Eigen, author of Contact with the Depths and Faith and Transformation

    "Over the past 100 years, psychoanalysis has fundamentally altered our understanding of art. Danielle Knafo's new book is proof that psychoanalysis continues to be a vital means to investigate the psychology of creativity and art appreciation. In addition, she uses her analysis of art to shed light on clinical processes, revealing the commonalities between treatment, psychological healing, and creativity. In lucid, beautifully constructed prose, she reinvigorates psychoanalytic aesthetics, reasserting the primary function of art in human psychological life." - George Hagman, author of The Artist's Mind

    "Danielle Knafo consolidates her extensive knowledge of art, artists, and creativity to invite the reader into a deeper understanding of psychoanalysis as a creative endeavor. Wedding an evocative and lyrical prose style with a deep and penetrating understanding of the human condition and imagination, Knafo's voice rings clearly throughout the text, reminding us that psychoanalysis becomes transformative to the extent that it is practiced creatively." - Marilyn Charles, Austen Riggs Center, and author, Working with Trauma: Lessons from Bion and Lacan

    "Knafo stands on the shoulders of analysts in a long tradition, starting with Freud and his work on Leonardo and continuing through Ernst Kris, whose seminal papers on art and psychoanalysis offered a new interpretation of the relationship between the two. Knafo believes that images do heal, whether they belong to the figurative arts or other creative genres. In the consulting room, images heal not only the patient but also the dyad of patient and therapist: They arise from the engagement of the analytic couple in a creative and generative mental space. As in no other book, the therapeutic nature of art is elucidated and placed at the center of the mental functioning of the analytic couple. Psychoanalysis here is understood as a method that allows us to transform emotions into narrations—literary, musical, or otherwise. It is up to the analyst to activate the patient's capacity for producing images and to allow them to come to the fore as narrations. The open, receptive-reverie functions of the analyst allow for the transformation of the patient's emotions, but also enable the analyst to continuously travel through the richness of his own world of imagination." - Antonino Ferro, author, Avoiding Emotions, Living Emotions