Creativity is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. Through creativity we have been able to advance the arts, sciences, health, athletics, and our spiritual understanding. Creativity allows us to expand our boundaries, and joyfully embrace our lives.
Unfortunately, our traditional educational system tends to stifle creativity by insisting that children learn how to think in a standardized way. “Out of the box” thinking is often criticized as being disruptive, or as a demonstration of an inability to follow the rules.
Rekindling creativity later in life involves disregarding the efforts of the conscious mind to act deliberately within defined paths. Thus, when we endeavor to create it is helpful to maintain an open mind to integrate ideas from many perspectives, rather than proceeding along familiar, comfortable paths.
Ways of enhancing creativity include activities that promote different perspectives. These include:
Spending time in nature.
Visiting museums including art galleries.
Listening to inspiring music.
Reading thought-provoking books. (Watching movies or videos is not as helpful for the creative process as it is more difficult to pause and reflect than while reading.)
Engaging in exercise that requires minimal concentration can be helpful, such as walking, running, hiking, or swimming. Remember to put away your distracting cell phone!
Doodling and drawing whatever comes to mind.
Learning about the thoughts of experts in your field of study.
Brainstorming effectively with others. This means avoiding negative feedback, initially focusing on quantity rather than quality, building on each other’s ideas, and encouraging big idea.
Maintaining a positive attitude, rather than thinking negatively about why a new endeavor is unlikely to succeed.
Asking yourself the same question in several different variations, which can prompt different solutions.
Thinking of several different solutions to a problem, rather than accepting the first one that comes to mind.
Following your curiosity while setting aside self-judgement or judgement of others.
Keeping track of creative ideas in a journal, which can be studied later.
In a hypnotic state the conscious mind is prompted to take a back-seat to the subconscious. Hence, the self-critical conscious mind is less likely to interfere with the creative process.
The conscious mind can be quieted through hypnosis to allow subconscious thoughts, imagery, and feelings come to the surface. A calming hypnotic activity can involve imagining of what might be perceived by each of the senses in a peaceful and safe place such as sitting near a babbling brook. This method is similar to use of meditation for the purpose of enhancing creativity. Along the same vein, Physicist Albert Einstein said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
The hypnotic state can be used as a forum in which one can imagine interacting with various historical or contemporary figures so that they can give their input regarding an issue. Similarly, people can imagine being at a historical event and learning from the experience. One of my 14-year-old patients imagined hearing music at a birthday party that took place 100 years beforehand. He said he had never heard such music, and then transcribed it.
Young children who easily engage in imaginary play tend to be very creative. Artist Pablo Picasso captured this concept by stating, "Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Therefore, I have taught some of my patients to imagine interacting with their younger version to develop different ideas. As Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Analogously, one can imagine interacting with a future self, or someone else from the future who can give advice about how to achieve goals that already have been mastered in the future. A 20-year-old college student in my practice developed his senior thesis by interviewing his future self to find out what his thesis had been about.
Imagining oneself in a different profession can prompt creative ideas. For example, I have challenged my patients to think more creatively by imagining themselves problem-solving as chefs, police officers, politicians, or scientists. Analogously, my patients have gained perspective by imagining that they are from unfamiliar cultures, or that they did not speak English.
By establishing communication with the subconscious through writing or typing (also known as automatic word processing), several of my patients have found their subconscious to have composed poetry or fiction. Invariably, they expressed surprise about these compositions as they stated they had been unaware of these previously. One of my 13-year-old patients described the act of subconscious-driven composition to be akin to feeling that he was channeling the poems. Some of my patients have published their subconscious inspired poetry.
A hypnotic technique that directly involves the subconscious to enhance creativity begins by imagining being in a green room, such as the one in which guests sit before being interviewed on television. “Once you are in this room, imagine a door. Behind the door your subconscious will prepare a scene that will provide you with inspiration for your creative project. When the subconscious is ready for you to enter through the door, you will see an “Enter” sign on the door. When you see the sign go in.” One of my patients opened his door and found a hallway lined with additional doors. Behind each one he found paintings that he had never seen before. He then painted a few of these.
Creativity can be enhanced in many ways, including using the hypnotic state to help the subconscious become more directly involved in the creative process.
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