Creativity: A Forgotten Key to a Happy and Fulfilling Life

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The Enemies of Creativity

Part of reversing this process is to become aware of your own habits and blocks, and learn how they got there. By bringing awareness to these enemies of creativity, you can overcome them and begin to build new habits and practices in their place. To that end, let’s look at the three primary forces that come together to dampen our creative impulses and divorce us from our inner creative self:

  • Socialization
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Rejection

Socialization

Socialization is the process by which we become functioning members of society. It’s how we learn to communicate with each other, behave as part of a cohesive group, and navigate within the complex social worlds we inhabit. Like so many tools, socialization can be both a positive and negative force. By the time we reach adulthood, our beliefs, behaviors, tastes, and personal goals often align with socialized norms, and no longer feel like extensions of our true creative selves. We may lose sight of where we end and society begins, creating a sense of alienation from ourselves. We may begin to believe that we are broken or “not enough.” Trying to regain a sense of belonging, we go further into the cycle of trying to adhere to social structures, cutting us off from our innate creativity even more.

Traumatic Experiences

Trauma is a highly sensitive topic, especially for those who have experienced severe episodes. Even for those who haven’t experienced trauma at an extreme level, this enemy of creativity remains relevant, since everybody has lived through traumatic experiences of some kind, such as divorce, bullying, loss of a loved one, or illness. The nervous system responds to trauma with a survival response, scaling back to the basic functions housed in the brain stem: fight, flight, or freeze. In order to be creative, we need to have the physical and psychological safety to use our whole brain and being freely, so trauma literally stifles creativity on a cellular level. If we experience trauma, especially in our formative years, it can lead to patterns of anxiety, destructive self-talk, inner criticism, procrastination, perfectionism, addictive behaviors, self-doubt, or feelings of being not valuable or lacking a purpose.

Rejection

Rejection sits at the intersection of socialization and trauma. Like it or not, violating the written or unwritten rules of our families, religion, or society at large can lead to rejection of all kinds, which is a traumatic experience in its own right. Sociologists tell us that the fear of being rejected can be nearly as strong as the fear of death. After all, for most of human history, being banished from one’s group meant facing the terrors of nature alone, which was tantamount to death. Some of us grew up in punitive environments where we were told “you can’t do it” or “you’re not enough,” further squelching natural curiosity and the ability to take creative risks. We learned from many well-meaning caregivers to doubt who we are and what we are capable of. The biggest threat that rejection poses to our creativity is a learned resistance to making mistakes and failing. Failure is an essential element of experimentation, growth, and creative expression. We have to be able to try new things. Rejection tells us that there is a “right” way, and that your value is tied to your ability to get it right. Yet if you study the history of any individual who achieved something we value today, they walked a tough road of rejections and setbacks. We only accept and cheer their individuality after the fact. For many of us, this fear of rejection is so palpable that it stymies our creative thinking and expression by whispering in quiet voices, Don’t be different. Don’t try something new. Don’t get it wrong.

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Red Wheel Weiser

Red Wheel Weiser

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Imprints include Red Wheel, Weiser Books, Career Press, New Page Books & Hampton Roads. Books to live by.