Susan Kavaler-Adler

The Compulsion to Create

Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers

ORI Academic Press 2013

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in PsychoanalysisNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books Network June 27, 2016 Claire-Madeline Culkin

Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist in private practice and founder of The Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis where she...

Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist in private practice and founder of The Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis where she is a training analyst, is a prolific writer and thinker celebrated for integrationist approach to Object Relations thinking. The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and their Demon Lovers, originally published by Routledge in 1993 and recently re-published by ORI Academic Press in 2013, is Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s first of five published book a labor of her love for the creative process which earned her an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Ignatius University. Dr. Kavaler-Adler calls into question the myth that one must be crazy to be creative and raises concern about the implication that therapeutic intervention is a deterrent to creative growth.

For Dr. Kavaler-Adler, the therapeutic process is an inherently creative process. Like the artists encounter with her work, the subject’s encounter with the couch involves an engagement with the unconscious. A comprehensive analysis of Object Relations theory organizes this study around the the Demon Lover theme which appears in both literature and psychoanalysis. Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s own definition emerges from her theory that mourning is an important developmental process, one which, when stunted due to pre-oedipal arrest, leads to what she calls The Compulsion to Create a state of psychological and creative compulsion which hinders psychic and creative growth. Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s The Compulsion to Create is a psycho-biographical examination of esteemed women writers, among them, Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Edith Sitwell, and most comprehensively, the famed Bronte sisters.

Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s unique psycho-biographical approach considers not just the relationship between one work and another, but also the relationships between the biographical context which each work proceeds from as it is created, as well as the biographical context it intervenes in when published. In this way, Dr. Kavaler-Adler explicitly connects the manifestation of the writers object relations in her life as well as in her art. Her exquisitely researched book clearly insights the meaningful and inherent engagement between the woman writers life and art at the level of the unconscious. She poetically explains an author’s work is a reflection of the authors internal world just as dreams are. Above all, Dr. Kavaler-Adler encourages a positive engagement between the creative and therapeutic process, arguing that profound creative developments can proceed from effective therapeutic interventions which revive the subject from a state of psychic arrest and the creative collapse which results from it.

Dr. Susan Kavaler’s list of publications including her most comprehensive contribution to Object Relations thinking The Klein-Winnicot Dialectic (Karnac 2014) can be found on her website where opportunities to study the Object Relations approach from a clinical standpoint and seek treatment in individual and group settings can also be found, including a group for writers which has been held monthly for 21 years. She has previously been interviewed on New Books in Psychoanalysis by Claire-Madeline Culkin about her later publication The Anatomy of Regret (Karnac 2013).


Claire-Madeline Culkin is an analytically minded author. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and holds a BA in Psychology from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. If you’re an author interested in joining the discussion, you may contact her via her website.

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