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Creativity At A Crossroads. How Ambivalence Free Your Mind - Self-development
Creativity At A Crossroads. How Ambivalence Free Your Mind - Self-development

Video: Creativity At A Crossroads. How Ambivalence Free Your Mind - Self-development

Video: Creativity At A Crossroads. How Ambivalence Free Your Mind - Self-development
Video: Stimulating the Creative Brain | Morten Friis-Olivarius | TEDxOslo 2023, March

We are creative in many situations: when we are looking for new ways to deal with the temper tantrums of our offspring, when painting a portrait that touches the audience, or when thinking about how to improve the efficiency of our business

Creative thinking helps to give birth to new ideas, find new solutions and, often, become happier. While many people associate creativity with intense, unidirectional emotions, some research suggests that ambivalence of feelings and experiences plays an important role in creative thinking.

What is ambivalence?

Ambivalence is the experience of mixed feelings or conflicting views. An ambivalent person equally wants to do several things at the same time. For example, see two films running at the same time.

Ambivalence is also expressed in the fact that a person is able to see the correctness of both sides in a serious controversial issue. For example, he may, on the one hand, agree that termination of pregnancy is in most cases immoral, and at the same time support the movement for the freedom of a woman's personal choice in this matter.

Ambivalence can not be a very pleasant experience, especially when people are confronted with it in deep, value-related issues. You can have mixed feelings about your parents that were never perfect. You can truly love your children and at the same time hate the restriction of your freedom, which is inevitable in the performance of parenting.

Deeply ambivalent people can have great difficulty making decisions. The choice is exhausting, frustrating and paralyzing. At the same time, the discomfort of ambivalence can fuel creative thinking and help to take a step in one direction or another in a more deliberate way

Maybe instead of trying to avoid these unpleasant experiences, it is worth looking at the problem from a different angle? Ambivalence allows you to consider any issue from different points of view, allows you to remain impartial, reduces the risk of falling under the suggestion and, ultimately, can lead to better solutions.

Creativity and the need for choice

Researchers once thought that only positive emotions fuel creativity. At first glance, this seems logical. Intuition tells us that a happy writer is more likely to be creative. But new research shows that creativity is actually influenced by the intensity of an emotion, not its positivity or negativity.

A study published in 2013 shows that low-intensity emotional states can improve the mental performance of the brain. Meanwhile, high-intensity states impair our cognitive abilities. In other words, mild nervousness or joy is more conducive to creativity than horror or ecstasy. Both positive and negative emotions affect our creativity in the same way.

Another 2013 study found that having a variety of emotional experiences can play a role in boosting creativity. One of the research subjects was “affective engagement,” or the degree to which people are willing to open up to experiencing a wide range of emotions. The study showed that the higher a person's affective involvement, the more creative their achievements in art were. This metric predicts the likelihood of being creative in problem solving better than an IQ test or a genuine intellectual interest in a question.

These findings point to the role of ambivalence in creativity. People who are open to the full spectrum of human emotions are likely to have mixed feelings. For example, envy and joy at a friend's success. At the same time, those who shut off unpleasant emotions may try to suppress negative feelings.

A 2006 study also supports the idea that ambivalence can fuel creativity. In two laboratory experiments, the researchers found that people with mixed feelings were more adept at recognizing non-standard semantic connections. This ability can foster creative thinking. The study argues that ambivalence is an extraordinary emotional experience, a combination of seemingly incompatible feelings. "Ambivalent" people may be more sensitive to original associations that are overlooked by those who are not inclined to experience ambivalence.

Kim Egel, a California psychotherapist who often works with creative professionals, emphasizes the importance of ambivalence in freer thinking when making decisions.

“If you think of decision making as a creative process, it can help you get out of your head and connect to your heart. Good decisions aren't made if you're frustrated and struggling to figure it out. Once you free yourself from the traps of your logical thinking, you can see and hear other paths that go beyond what your mind can think of,”she said in an interview.

Creative thinking is, by definition, thinking outside the box. Ambivalence allows a person to integrate multiple points of view. Confidence can be comfortable, but it is unlikely to help the person move beyond their preconceived notions and find new solutions.

When ambivalence becomes a problem

Like most emotional states, ambivalence is inherently neither good nor bad. Instead, you should measure your tendency to have mixed feelings by how it affects your life and overall well-being. If you manage to approach the experience of ambivalence as a creative process, it can be used as a great tool in making informed decisions. However, experiencing ambivalence can be a problem when:

  1. This becomes your model of behavior. Some people have mixed feelings in all their relationships. This may indicate a desire to avoid intimacy or responsibility, which could ruin the relationship.
  2. The person is ambivalent due to chronic mental health problems. For example, people with anxiety disorder may have difficulty making decisions because their anxiety forces them to weigh and evaluate each potential risk.
  3. Ambivalence causes distress. Some ambivalent people simply cannot make decisions quickly and easily. Perhaps they feel the need to make only the “perfect” choice under any circumstance. Or the obligation to treat any opinion on a particular issue with equal respect.
  4. Ambivalence is due to the negative influence of society. For example, a high-status woman in a male-dominated field may have ambivalent feelings about her success due to impostor syndrome. Sometimes people feel ambivalent because they worry they don't deserve success or can't trust their own emotions.

Therapy can help with these and similar problems. An attentive and engaged therapist is able to support the client while he or she develops the skill to understand and deal with ambivalent feelings.

Therapy can help you learn to trust your feelings, make decisions, and let go of fears or self-doubt. Instead of automatically rejecting any ambivalence in life as something negative, in therapy you will be able to realize the value of the experience gained from experiencing mixed feelings.

  • Author: Zon Villains
  • Translation by Yana Tsyplakova

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