Depth Charge

by Jane R. McGoldrick
(Originally published in Common Boundary, Bethesda, MD, Jan/Feb 1998)

Network NEWSA witty, prolific writer, Brad Lapin published two books of stories and a widely hailed alternative magazine in the 1970s and '80s. "I created constantly," he says. Then the juices stopped flowing. For a decade he composed only advertising copy.

Now the creator of a year-old underground Web-zine called Pug, in which his own fiction appears along with other writers' work, Lapin revels in the return of his muse. He credits his metamorphosis to a process sometimes called psychopoetics, which aims to plumb the unconscious and restore the primacy of images to consciousness. Lapin explored this little-known territory in an 11-week workshop called "Greeting the Muse," developed by Atlanta writer Cliff Bostock, M.A., a doctoral student in Depth Psychology.

Bostock, who trained as a psychotherapist, says he now practices "soul work"--helping clients "live soulfully, from a place of deep imagination." This process calls for, he says, a restoration of the soul's aesthetic function and a rediscovery of the heart as an organ of perception. The purpose of doing soul work is not to be "cured" but to deepen one's experience and to discover one's destiny. Although elements of soul work, or psychopoetics, derive from thinkers ranging from Plato to Carl Jung, the most prominent theoretician is perhaps archetypal psychologist James Hillman.

Depth Charge ImageOnce blocked for seven years after signing a book contract, Bostock says he found no one to work directly with the problem. Eventually, through lengthy therapy, he unblocked himself. By 1995, steeped in Hillman's work, he set out to develop a practical "therapy for the imagination." He developed a series of written and visual assignments and a mutli-session workshop in which clients could encounter the archetypal sources of inspiration and expression, the muses--personifications of the creative aspects of the soul. The format includes art, bodywork, imaginal practices, and breathwork.

Bostock also directs participants in psychodramatic structures. Using props and spontaneously constructed dialogue, he guides the individual, within the group, into a metaphorical reconstruction of the dilemma that has emerged in writing assignments. Invariably, he says, the psychological dilemma and the creative block prove to be identical.

Bostock nourishes participants' imaginal lives through personal letters to each of them in which he amplifies the writer's images and integrates them into individual assignments. A writer whose journaling is filled with tornadoes and whirlwinds, for example, is told to write daily about these metaphors--"from their destruction of mobile homes to their role as internal captor, from their kidnapping of Dorothy to their incarnation as whirling dervishes."

Viewing blocks as symptoms that the muse produces when its artistic gift is ignored, Bostock encourages participants to "greet" their muses--to dialogue with imaginal personifications of their souls. When the client embodies such a "soul figure" or interacts metaphorically with it in the group, the image is released from the ego's control, thereby regaining autonomy. Healing occurs through exercising the imagination rather that by strengthening the ego.

Most participants experience changes beyond what one would expect from a writing class or group therapy. "Overall," says Laura Tuley, who teaches at Georgia Tech, "My writing has deepened, and I have a deeper sense of existence." Still, Tuley cautions, the work does not suit everyone. "The process can be painful," she says. "Not everyone is strong enough to do this--or needs to."

For information, contact Cliff Bostock at (404) 525-4774.

Copyright 1998 by Common Boundary | Published Jan/Feb, 1998

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