Pain, love and the ritual of creative expression

‘Pain is love, love is pain. 

And it’s out of pain that I create. 

…In my life I’ve turned my biggest heartaches into songs.’  – Lykke Li(WeTransfer, 2018)

In the process of becoming a mother and simultaneously losing people who were close to her, Lykke Li was also losing herself ‘as a woman and as an artist’ and that she felt like she needed ‘to start all over again (WeTransfer, 2018).’ Losing something or someone important to us, is not only about the physical and practical – the literal empty space – it also affects our identity; in the process of loss we lose parts of who we are, and we may need to find ways to recreate parts of ourselves and adjust to the now empty space.

‘Love is pain, pain is love. And it is out of pain that I’m reborn.’  – Lykke Li(WeTransfer, 2018)

These words by singer-songwriter Lykke Li can be linked back to a paragraph in a previous post about self-portraits and therapeutic photography, where I briefly discuss the ‘healing power’ of art referencing Cristina Nunez (2013) and agreeing with her that difficult emotions are the raw material of art. Tragedy and pain has fuelled many creative works throughout history (Langh, 2018). The concept of pain and raw emotions being a starting point for creativity and rebirth are also echoed in the philosophy of alchemy, as mentioned in the previous post. During a creative process, such as the one Lykke Li is describing, something complex and dark is strengthened through a careful process that results in a ‘purification’ or ‘rebirth’.



Langh, H. (2018) 'The photograph and self-therapy', Magical fragments: emotional objects as a source for self-reflective storytelling, 24 August. Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2018)

Nunez, C. (2013) The self-portrait as self-therapy, in Loewenthal, D. (ed.) Phototherapy and therapeutic photography in a digital age. East Sussex: Routledge, pp. 95-105

WeTransfer (2018) We Transfer Presents Work In Progress: Lykke Li. Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2018)

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