Art Therapy and Childlike Imagination

Breton, in name-dropping and adopting Freudian logic to his manifesto, centers the therapeutic potential of art. Surrealism, as a movement begun by Breton and Apollinaire, is explicitly a vehicle not for illustrating Freudian or psychoanalytic logic, but for providing therapy for the creator. In its “psychic automatism” it aims to “to express … the actual functioning of thought” (5) in, I think, an omnipotent sense.

Yet Breton also considers surrealism capable of “reli[ving] with glowing excitement the best part of its childhood” (5), producing an intensely personal contrast to the lofty aims of expressing “the actual functioning of thought.” Moreover, Breton aims to achieve similar sorts of childlike play found in the writing and logic (analogic? alogic?) of Dadaists. Breton wants the psychic automatism to reproduce childhood—plunging the artist/writer into their memory, (or desire for a memory), of their “sentiment of being unintegrated” (5). This nonconforming, unintegrated, automatic (self-acting) approach strives to escape from experience and return to innocence—something no doubt on the (conscious and unconscious) minds of those who survived the War.

Another semi-related thought I had reading the manifesto is about the term imagination, and how Breton uses it. I’m not sure if this is a translation, but nonetheless, I’ve always associated imagination with a conscious creative energy. If I consider imagination as a framework for a movement built on psychic automatism that allows a sudden return to childhood, I'm reminded of my second cousins at play. They aren’t playing a specific game at all but just playing make-believe. Indeed, imagination to them seems automatic.


As a writer, there are times when I think the consicous is working, and other times I pull something out of my subconscious, or seemingly nowhere. It's definitely hard to pin down creativity, because some people have it and some people do not. I've almost always been able to draw on it when needed, when it seems much harder or impossible for others. I've also been told that some of my writing is very childlike when I write children's stories, that I can create a very clear picture. I'm not sure what the creative/subconscious mind link is, but I do know that it exists and some people can use it much better than others.