ARTICLE OF THE DAY
The term carries a kind of mystical aura, its special power imbued with a touch of the divine. After all, creativity supplies the first verb of the Bible -“In the beginning, God created…”
Time, special edition
CARD OF THE DAY
You love to devise new ideas, innovations, and forms of illumination
The most natural characteristic of a soul is creation. As a spiritual being, you are continually being inspired by the higher self, Source Energy, and the Spirit World to express yourself in the physical dimension. You are constantly in a mode of creation even if you are not aware of it. Thoughts are creation, and thoughts are real. And even though not every single one manifests itself physically, it nevertheless creates your reality. That is why it is so important to keep your thoughts high-minded. Judgment of yourself and others lowers your vibration of love. Your thoughts don’t belong only to you – their energy is part of the collective consciousness. Your creative spark may ignite and inspire the soul or mind of another. When you are blocking your creativity, you are not fully expressing your soul. This blockage may manifest in a number of ways, such as physical pain, anger, depression, anxiety, and isolation. There may also be feelings of living an unfulfilled life. Always remember that you are of God, and God is creativity. As a loving, visionary person, you can see the potential for that which has yet to exist in physical reality. You are able to turn imagination into form. The more you attune yourself to the loving energy of your heart, the more receptive you are to inspired ideas that bring Earth closer to Heaven.
If you’d wanted to meet Charles Darwin after he published On the Origin of Species in 1859, you would not have found him basking in satisfaction over a job well done. In fact, you probably would not have found him at all. Stressed by social life, he’d had a mirror installed so he could see people approaching in time to hide from them. Darwin just wasn’t a sunny man. On an ordinary day a couple of years after his book had appeared—and revolutionized humanity’s understanding of the world—he wrote a friend: “I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.”
What’s a person to do with those sorts of troubling thoughts and sad moods? Almost all creative people have them—ugly little voices inside your head that tell you you’re very stupid and hate everybody, and you forgot to buy cat food, and your back hurts. Which, by the way, could be a slipped disc or worse—who knows? Remember your friend’s cousin who went into the hospital for supposedly routine surgery and never came out?
The most common answer, of course, is this: Find a way to turn those voices off, or at least tamp them down. If you’re the sort of person who tends to experience negative thoughts and feelings—in other words, if you’re the textbook definition of neurotic—you’ve almost certainly been told that creativity and neurosis are opposites.
Their reasoning is rooted in a long-standing model for how personality works. For decades, psychologists have classified people according to five fundamental traits that appear to be consistent throughout life, which students memorize with the initialism OCEAN: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. People who score high on measures of Openness like to do new things and entertain unexpected thoughts, and they’re not big on routine and rote. People who score high on Conscientiousness will keenly feel their obligations to other people—they tend to meet deadlines and pay attention to detail. Extraverts are talkative and outgoing; people who score low on this measure are shy. Agreeableness scores reflect how empathetic and other-oriented a person is. (People who score low on this measure don’t care much about others’ feelings.)
Unsurprisingly, creativity—the ability to fashion something valuable that’s never been seen before—has been linked to openness to experience. But, Perkins says, openness alone is not enough. After all, you don’t need to invent new things to have new experiences. You can just walk down a street you’ve never been down before, or try something new on a menu. Appreciating a new thing is a lot less complicated than creating one. “Oh, wow” is not the same as “Eureka!”
“People with high openness to experience, they have imagination, but it’s this dreamy here-and-now experience, rather like a mini LSD trip,” Perkins says.
Creations, whatever their form (new rhyme, new theory of rice genetics, new way to sell fidget spinners, new microchip design, etc.), aren’t discovered until people are wrestling with a question (what rhymes with “orange”? how could we make the same chip for less?). In other words, to see a solution, you have to think about a problem. And when it comes to thinking about problems, neurotics are champions. Psychological tests for neuroticism pose questions like “Do you ever feel ‘just miserable’ for no reason.” “Do you worry about awful things that might happen?” and “Do you worry too long after an embarrassing experience?” Neurotics are the people who answer yes.
A common explanation for this in psychology is that neurotics are unusually sensitive to threats. You won’t find many fighter-jet pilots who score high on neuroticism tests, for instance, because neurotics tend to go for safer occupations. (They also take fewer risks of all sorts, from hobbies to finance.) But Perkins and his colleagues think this definition fails to capture the root of neuroticism. After all, he says, “it’s perfectly normal to be anxious when someone has a gun to your temple. A hallmark of highly neurotic people, though, is that they have a kind of virtual-reality world in which they’re worried about that gun to the temple but there is no gun.”
To understand how different parts of the brain interact to create our thoughts and states of mind, researchers often put research subjects into brain scanners and have them perform a particular task. By observing which areas of the brain are more active than usual while a person counts or remembers names or listens to Mahler, the scientists can ascertain what regions, and networks of regions, are involved in that kind of mental experience.
Some years ago, this technique accidentally discovered a network no one was looking for: one that is active when people don’t have anything to do in the scanner and are simply at rest, letting the mind go where it will. This “default network” is what’s active when we’re daydreaming or ruminating quietly. Everyone has such a network, but not everyone has one that is tuned to sad thoughts and troubling problems. Perkins and his colleagues believe neurotics are people whose default networks are pitched toward the negative. This, they say, is a better explanation of neurotic behavior than the prevalent neurotics-are-more-sensitive-to-threats explanation.
“I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light,” wrote Sir Isaac Newton, another geyser of scientific creativity who was famously nasty and more than a little weird. Perkins, who likes to quote that passage, says it’s a model for the way neurotic miseries feed innovative thought. It was because Newton, Darwin and other creative people imagined problems where others saw only sunny skies, he argues, that they achieved their breakthroughs.
NO ONE DISPUTES THAT NEUROTICS IMAGINE PROBLEMS THAT OTHERS DON’T SEE. But are they the right problems?
Time Special Edition, Are Neurotics More Creative?