Last time in “The Psychology of Creativity” I discussed how creativity originates in the body’s physical instincts. But, you might wonder, what does this mean for me in practical terms? How do I gain access to my creativity? Where do I direct my energy and attention? What, exactly, is the link that connects my body’s natural instincts with my ego’s potential to produce something truly original?
Actually, more than one link needs to be forged between our conscious and unconscious selves before we can fully activate and manifest our creativity. Here are five I consider to be of primary importance.
1. Libido: Libido is psychological energy, the zest for life which enables us to get out of bed every day and act on our instinctual urges, including the instinct for creativity. We all have the urge to grow and learn, but life presents many obstacles that can sap it. Chief among these is the ego’s lethargy. Our child-like desire to regress into unconscious dependence is extremely powerful; nobody finds it easy to rouse themselves from the cozy maternal matrix we inhabited during our early years. Other drains come from early trauma, lack of nurturance, self-destructive habits, poverty, debilitating accidents and illnesses, toxic relationships, grief, and anything else that stifles our instincts and brings hopelessness and despair. It’s not impossible for an individual with insufficient libido to find a creative outlet, and that in itself will provide an increase of libido, but we can’t develop our fullest creativity without a good dose of it.
2. Balance: Psychological one-sidedness can imprison our instincts, thus inhibiting our creativity. Some examples: the person whose obsession with logic and reason causes scorn for spontaneity, intuition and emotion. The one whose extreme emotions eliminate the possibility of rational decision-making. The person full of inspired, creative ideas who can’t handle the daily show-up and follow-through. The religious fanatic who idealizes disembodied Spirit and fears and hates his bodily temptations. Balance is a bridge that allows opposites to interact, and the resulting fertilization creates something new.
3.Self-Awareness: You can’t mend your psychological imbalance if you don’t see it. Most of us spend the first half of our lives on auto-pilot. As long as we’re driven to do what we need to do without questioning or taking over the controls, our creative offerings are minimal. This may be fine for one who doesn’t feel the creative urge, but for those who do, self-awareness is indispensable. Noticing the different ways you feel in different situations, then figuring out where you feel best and spending more time there, frees up repressed libido. The more you watch your actions, listen to yourself talk, or notice the direction your life is taking, the more aware you are of alternatives. The more alternatives you have, the more original your choices can be.
4.Feeling: At your psyche’s core you are a unique individual with important values, ideas and images that contribute to your creativity and give shape to your life’s purpose. But from the moment you first saw a frown on Mother’s face or heard the impatient edge in Daddy’s voice you started covering up your true Self until you lost touch with your essence. Reconnecting with the Self requires trust in what feels meaningful and important regardless of what others think.
I was reminded of this while watching the Florida State vs. Florida football game Thanksgiving weekend. Back when FSU’s football program was young and unknown, Fred was one of two freshmen to earn a walk-on scholarship. Naturally, we’ve rooted for the Seminoles ever since. In those days I’d watch Chief Osceola stir up the crowd during a game and think, “That Indian needs a horse!” I wasn’t aware of Horse’s symbolic meaning. I just knew a horse could bring pride, unity and strength to our struggling athletic program. I had no idea it could do the same for my psyche! Nine years after we left, FSU got a horse mascot. Today Chief Osceola and Renegade are national icons and Horse has a profound influence on my writing.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything new about a Native American on a horse, or that there’s a cause and effect relationship here, or that winning and fame should be our ultimate goals! My point is that recurring feelings and images signal creative developments emerging from the spirit of the depths, and taking them seriously can enhance our creativity.
5. Self-Love: The final and most important link to be forged between our egos and instincts is Love. If we can’t love our bodies and their instincts, we can’t love our flawed humanness, and without a measure of self-love we are in grave danger of living libido-deprived, unbalanced, unaware, unfeeling and uncreative lives. Living with love and creativity is our greatest joy and reason for being. We bring forth these life-giving qualities through conscious dialogues with our instincts. This is holy work.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.