Creativity as a tool of self-healing
This past weekend I talked at the Mountain View Public Library about creativity and its every day use for stress reduction and increased enjoyment of life. We had a warm and interactive group discussion about what creativity feels like and what are the common blocks preventing us from being freely and fully creative. In this process, I reaffirmed that there is something essential and common to the experience of creativity across generations, cultures, and genders. These essential qualities were: self-expression, enjoyment and meaningfulness. To rephrase it we can define creativity as as a connection to Self/Spirit expressed in a form or medium which feels attractive, joyful, and meaningful to the individual. My group participants confirmed following common experiences of creativity:
- originality/inventiveness, i.e. “stepping out of the box,” and seeing common things or problems with a new, fresh perspective
- enjoyable self-expression
- feeling of freedom and enjoyment
- connecting to intuition
- having an aha-moment or insight into a problem
While the above experiences are enjoyable and healing to people, often they are blocked by common negative beliefs about their creativity. These negative concepts may sound like: “I am not creative,” “I am not artistic,” “I can’t draw, sing, do math, etc.” or, most common “It is not good (read ‘perfect’) enough”, or “Others would criticize, laugh at, or disprove this.”
How can we counteract these blocks? One of the ways it to remember what it was like to be a child and enjoy one’s play. It maybe worth while returning to that state, remembering your favorite games or pastimes, and recreating it in your mind. How did that feel like? What was most enjoyable? Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, for example, used play and symbols to process his feelings and to come up with many of his theories about the structure of the psyche. When Jung returned back home after his breakup with Freud, he felt compelled to build cities out of rocks (something he enjoyed doing as a 10 year old.) During the play, which he repeated many times, Jung had an intuitive insight into the nature of consciousness, and came up with his own theories of how it operates.
A demand for a perfect and quick result is one of the strongest blocks of creativity. Albert Einstein said, “Those who do not make mistakes, do not try anything new.” And creativity is trying new ways of self-expression or finding solutions to work or life problems. All too commonly people expect perfection from themselves without trying, experimenting, and developing from making mistakes. Einstein used to play out his experiments in his imagination before actually conducting them. Oftentimes we can use imagination freely to experiment, think or play things out. Research indicates that it does not matter to our brain, whether our experiences were imagined or lived, from the point of view of the brain activity, all experiences we did or thought of are real. It means that our imagination can serve as a powerful lab for playing out new scenarios and behaviors, thinking through new ideas and being creative.
Creativity is not just in artistic expression even though singing, dancing, drawing or drama land themselves easily to it creative expression. Creativity is a unique process of self-expression, and can manifest in dressing, cooking, talking, problem solving, relating, inventing, or doing the arts. What mediums or areas of expression do feel unique, attractive, and interesting to you? Those are likely your best avenues for creativity. For me, creativity begins with the choice of how I dress for the day, not to confirm to the demands of current fashion trends but as an expression of the unique and essential qualities of myself. I check with myself how i feel today and dress accordingly, this not only feels “true” but communicates something about me to the world.
Lastly, no creativity is possible without being in the moment. When negative beliefs, worries or fears occupy our minds, we are no longer in the moment living, enjoying and experimenting. It may take some skill to put these fears aside, but simple grounding exercises like paying attention to ones senses, breathing, or enjoying the moment bring us closer to creativity and distract from negative self-talk.
The research shows that people who consider themselves creative become more open-minded, energetic, motivated, persistent and less judgmental. Creativity is an innate gift available to any person, regardless of their artistic or other abilities. It is living in the moment and expressing oneself in an enjoyable and meaningful way. According to researchers at Harvard Medical school, creativity is deeply connected to the sense of meaningfulness. When we enjoy creativity we find deeper connection to ourselves and to the Universe.