The first entry in my blog had to be about creativity. To me, it means exploring beginnings and roots, diving into the unknown with trust and anxiety all at the same time. Creativity was explored throughout human existence from a variety of perspectives. What is mine then? Pragmatic and imbued with curiosity. I want to know what supports creativity and how we can tap into it just a little more…
The first works of art, such as paintings in Lascaux in France, appeared between forty to twenty thousand years ago. At the same time, we harnessed the power of plants and created agriculture some ten thousand years ago.
Why is it that the need to feed ourselves came after the need to create?
I think it’s because creativity is at the core life and it is a direct and an indirect expression of what it means to be human. Without creativity, there is no life. We need it in the same way plants need carbon dioxide to grow and develop. As it is an important property of the human mind, I wonder what can we do to nurture our creativity.
Return to your roots
We all have a unique story that has some dream like beginnings. Think of the time of your life when summers were endless, you rode your bike in the neighbourhood or played with your friends, completely engaged and careless. You may have had some tough experiences too. You survived, you’re here, you’re reading this blog. What is important is the essence!
Carl Jung used to say that it was possible to predict people’s professions based on their first childhood dream or their very early memories. I remember being three years old and counting my own fingers. I remember the feeling of awe… that it was possible to count and it was possible to be aware of myself counting… Needless to say, this experience of wanting awareness lead me to the world of coaching and counselling.
What is the essence that you can recall? What is the ambience, the tendency, the dream like quality of your childhood. Again, it’s O.K. if you have had moments of hopelessness. The human spirit is resilient and there would be at least one moment that you can identify as the one you own, that feels like you, that expresses something about your core self. Keep looking, experience and dream… You might find yourself inspired to create! Do not betray your roots either. The process of finding yourself does not like treason. Your deepest creative self loves authenticity. Let go, listen to what wants to happen, to the stories that NEED to be told. Authenticity is about seeing yourself in the network of relationships that define you. Honour the people who forged your identity and it will support your creativity.
Some person-centered therapist have a saying: “The song sings the bird”. We always consider ourselves the centre of the universe… but perhaps the works of our creation are beings of themselves, with a life that NEEDED us in order for them to come into being. We can be considered secondary to the results of our labour. Otherwise, we become obsessed with ourselves, with the doubts, with the “Am-I-good-enough?” and the like. Stop thinking you’re so important. Listen to what is emerging.
O.K. if this sounds all too hippie, let’s mix some neurobiology into it. When musicians improvise, as shown by Charles Limb (a brain scientist and a musician), their brains show less activity in the areas responsible for being self-conscious while the self-expressive areas turn on. Have a look below if you’d like some more science on this topic.
What that means is that rigorous self-monitoring can be a killer to creativity. Too much control is never a good idea. It’s a bit like with a bunch of small puppies. They need to move around uncontrollably and satisfy their need for exploration. But we also need to channel this exploration… so creativity is about this negotiation process between your wild self and your disciplined self. You need to have enough self-control in order to let go. Most of all, do not think that your conscious self is to be given most credit. There is something subtle and potent that is beyond your ego. If you let it get on with the job, it will most likely do it well. If you chastise it and try to tame it, you’ll be on a path of frustration, self-criticism and the so-called creative block.
Accept fear as part of creation
I worked as a teacher for ten years and saw many kids afraid and anxious because they were terrified of committing a mistake. Many of us grew up in an education system that rewarded compliance, achievement and perfectionism. While it had some positive sides, a lot of us got educated out of our natural creative impulses. Instead, we learned how to fulfill examination criteria, which brought us further away from our true selves. That’s why it’s so hard to let go, to do something we’re not used to, to think outside the box and step into unchartered territories. I can honestly say that I also saw and taught plenty of young adults that embraced creative thinking. What they required was a nurturing and caring environment.
Who are the people that will support and nurture you in your creative process?
You need your tribe, a bunch of missfits that will listen and inspire you. Do not under-estimate your need for support. Again, plants will only grow in the right combination of sunlight, temperature and carbon dioxide. Same with psychological growth, including creativity.
What conditions are necessary to support your growth?
Once you’ve created enough inner and outer resources, you can look fear and creativity straight in the eyes. Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer, says that “creativity and fear are like conjoined twins”. It’s simply impossible to create without feeling fear. Your emotions are like an orchestra and you cannot decide that you’re ditching the drums at this week’s performance. Your fear can indicate some important needs.
Try to tap into your fear…
What quality does it have?
Is there something it’s trying to teach you? What is it that you need in order to create?
Last but not least, there is a handy expression in counselling: DISTRESS TOLERANCE. The more you are able to be present with your feelings, the more you can be creative. That is the challenge. I’m a big fan of mindfulness because it teaches me how to be with feelings or sensations that I may find uncomfortable. Sit with what is annoying you. It’s O.K. not to like these feelings, but it’s not O.K. to reject them. You’re human and it hurts. I wish it were different, but I don’t want to kid you. We’re all in it together.
Here’s a meditation if you would like to have a break in your exploration of creativity.
Remember, a creative mind is an empty mind.
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