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Blog: Blog2
  • Writer's pictureNelson Ferreira

Unveiling the Mystical Bond: Art, Psychoanalysis, and Shamanism

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Art, psychoanalysis, and shamanism may seem like vastly different realms of human experience and expression, but upon closer examination, their connection becomes apparent. These three domains, rooted in the exploration of the human psyche and the transcendence of ordinary consciousness, share intriguing similarities that reveal their profound interconnectedness. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating connections between art, psychoanalysis, and shamanism and explore how they collectively unravel the enigmatic tapestry of human consciousness.

Art, in its myriad forms, serves as a powerful medium for the expression and exploration of the human psyche. Through painting, sculpture, literature, music, and dance, artists delve deep into their inner worlds, often bypassing conscious thought to communicate directly with the unconscious mind. Here, the link with psychoanalysis becomes apparent, as both disciplines are concerned with uncovering the hidden layers of the human mind. The techniques used in psychoanalysis, such as free association, dream analysis, and transference, bear a striking resemblance to the creative process in art.

Psychoanalysis, pioneered by Sigmund Freud and expanded upon by countless others, aims to make the unconscious conscious. This process involves digging into the recesses of the mind to bring repressed thoughts, feelings, and memories to the surface, where they can be understood and resolved. Similarly, artists often tap into their unconscious minds to channel emotions, experiences, and ideas into their work. In this sense, art serves as a therapeutic and self-reflective process, akin to the aims of psychoanalysis.

Shamanism is an ancient and cross-cultural practice that involves spiritual healing, divination, and the exploration of altered states of consciousness. Shamans, or spiritual leaders, often employ various rituals and techniques to journey into the realms of the unconscious and the spirit world. Shamans are often considered the intermediaries between the human and spirit realms, using rituals, chants, and hallucinogenic substances to induce altered states of consciousness. In these states, they access information and healing that extends beyond the ordinary realm of perception.

Here lies a striking parallel: all three domains share an underlying objective of transcending ordinary consciousness to access deeper symbolic layers of the human experience. Shamans traverse the unconscious to heal and provide insight, psychoanalysts delve into the unconscious to heal the individual, and artists mine their inner worlds to create transformative works. Artists imbue their work with symbols and meaning, psychoanalysts decode the symbolism of dreams and thoughts, and shamans use symbolic language and visions to access spiritual insights.

Both psychoanalysis and shamanism focus on healing and integration. In psychoanalysis, the process aims to integrate repressed or fragmented aspects of the self into a cohesive whole. Similarly, shamanic healing often involves reintegrating lost parts of the soul, restoring balance, and addressing spiritual or psychological wounds. Art, although not explicitly a therapeutic practice, frequently plays a role in personal healing and self-discovery. Many artists create to confront personal demons, gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and ultimately find healing and wholeness. The contemplation of works of art is also a powerful tool for cathartic experiences.

PostDoc Fellow Dr. Alireza Bornamanesh @dr_bornamanesh is the Director of the Iranian Branch of the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis. He does adult therapy, both in-person and online, and also works at the Medical University Hospital of Isfahan (MUI). I was honored to have been interviewed by him, please watch it now:


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