Project Runway, Loss and Creativity

Mondo exemplifies the link between loss and creativity.  Project Runway is my second favorite show on television (Masterpiece Mystery being my first) and this week, the winning contestant Mondo illustrated one of the most interesting concepts in the field of creativity and mourning. That is today’s post.  As an aside, I think someone is going to make a fortune by creating a Mondo doll: small, snuggly and with lots of peculiar outfits to wear. It will be a smash hit, in select circles, when he wins the big prize.

 Back to the point… One optimistic concept in psychology is that a person can transform a loss into something better.  After a loss, we mourn.  During the process of mourning, much is given up but, if we stick with it, there is a real potential to transform that loss into a creative outcome.  It is a little bit like the Phoenix rising from the ashes but that is mythology and I’m talking about sweaty, hard, psychological work.  In facing loss, it is possible to create something new.  When I wrote my book, “The Art of Midlife,” I interviewed many women who made important changes in their lives during their middle years.  The changes often required giving up a relationship, an idea, an illusion, a way of doing something, or an adherence to outdated ways.  In giving up the old, the women faced emptiness, but they also made room to create something new.  These women  created new lives, new ideas, new jobs, new relationships, new ways to think about themselves, more confidence, and new ways of looking at their futures.

 Mondo took his own loss, that of being HIV positive, and put that secret, that hidden distress, into a fabric design.  The cloth was the basis for a fresh, creative, winning garment.  He had dealt with being HIV positive for 10 years and it was a secret until he got to television and Project Runway (the topic of personal revelations on TV is extremely strange and has to wait for another day). He transformed his loss into something beautiful that liberated him.

 When artists’ backgrounds are examined, researchers have found that many people have suffered early, significant losses.  The theory goes something like this – people want to repair their losses.  If they are artists, their creations become the reparative work.  Creating (making something new) mitigates loss.  If people are not artists, you can still see their creations in the work that they do, whether it is a new idea for business, teaching, or the lives they lead.

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