creativity

Resilience and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election-Using Creativity to Move Forward.

sherri-jacobs-001scan-160711-0012Resilience. Regardless of whomever won the incredibly contentious US presidential election of 2016, Wednesday, November 9th was going to be a tough day in our nation’s history. Why? The virtual split in this nation, as illustrated in the almost evenly cast votes paints the true picture of a nation divided. This isn’t the first time the US has felt deep divisions, and it won’t be the last. We survived in the past. We grew from our conversations, our civil war, our protests, our disagreements, our errors, and our problems.

Rather than mourning for what we could have been had the election swayed differently, how can we use our creativity and our freedom of speech to continue creating that world we imagined for ourselves? The days following this historic election have been filled with a nation in disbelief, protestors from across the country disagreeing with the outcome, and incidents of hate crimes dotting our landscape. Sadly, this most likely would have happened regardless of which candidate won. According to the election results, it was only a matter of 50,000 or so extra Clinton voters over three of the swing states that might have altered the outcome (that is roughly the size of an average football stadium crowd). Only half of the eligible voters in the US showed up at the polls for this historic election. Where was everyone else? By not voting, they actually voted for THIS.

To the Clinton supporters, I am going to ask you a hard question: Is it possible that a Clinton win might have offered an opportunity for business as usual in your life, because you knew that someone on Capitol Hill was going to bat for you? Is it possible that a Clinton win would have given you a “hall pass” to not really get involved for change, because someone else would be doing that on your behalf?

To the Trump supporters, I am going to ask you a hard question: Is it possible that a Trump win might offer an opportunity for business as usual in your life, because you know that someone on Capitol Hill is going to bat for you? Is it possible that a Trump win will give you a “hall pass” to not really get involved for change, because someone else will be doing that  on your behalf?

Unleashing our creativity might seem like a lukewarm solution to the current climate, but creativity might be the best and only way to move forward. How can a person with zero experience in serving in a public office suddenly be elected to become the next leader of the free world? If Donald Trump can do that, what kind of untapped potential might we have to do something, big or small, in our own lives? This paradigm shift is suddenly offering everyone an unusual opportunity to reexamine everything. If we can take the time to see this as an unusual opportunity for mobilizing ourselves and our first amendment rights, we might be able to reverse the climate of hate that brewed over this campaign.

The Oxford English dictionary defines creativity as, “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Apathy will perpetuate the fissure so strongly felt on both sides of the divide. Misguided anger will also perpetuate the problems clearly present in our nation. It is in this swampy, murky space we must recreate something new if we are to shape the nation we want our children to thrive in. The creative process offers us to an opportunity to sublimate our raw emotions into something bigger and better than we might currently be able to imagine.  Real solutions and coherent communication can only happen when we engage beyond the “fight, flight or freeze” responses to things happening around us, and tap into the higher part of our brains (the pre frontal cortex or part that separates us from the animal kingdom).

The real thing at stake in this brand new era is our first amendment right of freedom of speech. How will journalists fare in this new climate of a president extremely hostile to negative attention? Will news outlets criticizing Donald Trump be squashed and blacklisted? Should we sit by idly and wait to see what happens? No. This is the time to make your voice heard. How? Express yourself. Reach out to people around you. Decide how you can make your own community a better place. This does not have to be in a political realm. Waiting to see what might unfold is following the same crummy path as the folks who didn’t show up on election day.

As a nation of citizens who have exhibited resilient behavior for 238 years, I am confident that as we awake from the shock and utter surprise of our current situation, we will pull up our bootstraps, dust ourselves off, look around and ask what the heck we can do to create the type of nation we would like to live in. This change must start in our own imaginations, and then materialize through ideas and action. In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” There are about 725 days until midterm elections of 2018. What can you do in that time period to connect to and transform your surroundings?

-Image above is a hand cut paper cut created by this writer, Sherri Jacobs, MS, LMFT, MA, ATR.

 

 

Mastering Boredom

DSC_0389Snow Day? Free time? Screen time? The catalyst for this blog entry comes on a full fledged snow day in which my city has come to a screeching halt with inches upon inches of beautiful snow. After the initial hours of joy on this type of day, boredom is often the next mood that sets into the average home of homebound individuals. Our latest technology seems to dictate how we march through these kind of days, screens in hand. Before you grab a screen if you find yourself with some free time, can you find some time to just sit? The art therapy exercise today is to just sit without any distractions. Are you up for the challenge?

One of the biggest casualties of our brave new world just might be boredom. We are so over connected and overwhelmed with lack of time in the western world, and our devices most likely are the culprit. The word boredom even has very negative connotations in this era, but this constant distraction to avoid boredom at all costs just might be dampening our creativity.I am inspired by the story J.K. Rowling has shared in many interviews on her moment of inspiration for the Harry Potter series. She was on a train, without any reading materials or writing journals, and the train experienced a several hour delay. While staring out of the window wondering how to pass the time, she shared that the entire series hit her like a bolt of lightning, and had she been engaged in a book or actively writing in a journal, this entire story might not have ever been imagined.

Another source of inspiration to encourage you to find some time to be bored comes from Thomas Edison. Edison had an arm-chair in his lab that he would sit in during the day while holding two balls in his hand, with the balls facing down. When he would begin to drift off into a alpha or theta state of consciousness, the balls would drop with a thud, arousing him into a state of full consciousness. He would jump up and capture all of his thoughts on paper. He shared that this need to stop and just sit without any distractions was a key element in developing his ideas.

Try it. Record your thoughts after sitting.  Good Luck!

Neuroplasticity and art

Neuroplasticity is a newer idea emerging into pop culture. At its simplest level, it means that our brains are actually much more mailable than we ever thought possible, allowing us to stretch to the limits to learn new things and accommodate for deficits. This topic has been written about extensively, even for lay people not well versed in neuroscience. How can this apply to art and how can this apply to you? In many ways, this paradigm shift in thinking puts us front in center of having a lot of control over our lives. In the past, we could blame our genes and other factors for limitations. As new studies emerge, it is clear that we really can tap into parts of ourselves to expand our creativity and learn new things. It turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

For today’s art project, we will just spend some time wrapping our head around this idea if it is a new one for you. The following link is of a TED talk on this topic if you want a more in-depth understanding of this fascinating topic: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/michael_merzenich_on_the_elastic_brain.html

For an art project to accompany this idea, please find some paper, and write down some things you didn’t think you could do ( things within reason, please avoid things like getting super hero powers etc) such as learning a new language, to speak in a public venue, master a new hobby or skill, write a book etc…Write down your fear or the first thing that comes to mind which might prevent you from following through with some of these plans. With this newfound knowledge of neuroplasticity, do these excuses for not trying something new still make sense? Can you pick one thing off of this list to try? Can you try this new thing for 30 days?

Whimsical Actions

Did anything out of the ordinary happen in your day? It is very easy to get caught up in a pattern of living each day with an order and a rhythm. Can you take any creative risks  to bring something out of the ordinary into your day today? This art directive is a bit more subjective than previous requests, leaving the details in your hands. This creative risk might include: writing a note for a coworker, writing a poem, leaving a small gift for a neighbor or just doing something a little out of the ordinary for no apparent reason. People often claim they are not creative or artistic, but creativity stems from this type of activity. These departures from the order of our day require a bit of risk and momentum, but the positive feelings connected to them are usually well worth the effort. Please post your whimsical action so you can inspire others.

Yesterday’s directive: What is your connection to spring cleaning? Are you drowning in stuff? Do you have negative feelings associated with the “stuff” lying around your home. Hoarding, shopping and collecting sometimes can be a symptom to something much deeper relating to an underlying cause of stress, depression or trauma. For many people, simply cleaning up a home can be the solution to feeling better about oneself, but in some cases, seeing a mental health professional is a very important step one should take to address these problems. Here in the United States, this topic has become quite familiar with the rise in popularity of the TV show called “Hoarders” in which a crew comes and cleans out a hoarder’s home for our entertainment. The home owner often has an emotional journey through the episode as they sort out what led them to become hoarders. Somehow watching this show probably makes many of feel better about our own level of consumption because the depicted homes are far worse than ours.

Drawing Sound

Can you draw sound? Why not? Please put on some music, find a pen and paper and let your hand move to the rhythm of the beat. Sound complicated? This art exercise is meant to follow the previous day’s idea of exploring our inner critic and hidden creativity. Would you like to challenge yourself? Please find a completely different style of music, put it on and try the same exercise again. No one will grade you, no one will judge you on this, and if you are uncomfortable, please tear up your final product.

Yesterday’s Project: How is your inner critic? Is it preventing you from being more creative? Acknowledging that there is an inner critic to begin with is the first step to squelching it in its tracks.

But I Am Not Creative…

Have you ever told someone that you are not creative? Today we will explore the origins of that message playing in your head. Please find a piece of paper, and ignore the inner critic telling you not to go and find the paper. Find a pencil or pen as well, continuing to ignore that inner critic trying to talk you out of these activities. Draw something, anything, even if it is just a stick person or a doodle. As you draw, listen closely to the messages going through your head….The goal here is to find the source of the negative talk, explore it, then replace it with a more positive message encouraging you to embrace your creativity. This might not be an immediate process, but a stepping stone in a new direction.

Yesterday’s project: How does your tiny graffiti wall feel? Were you able to let go and free form “stuff” onto your page? Did you use more words or images? If you showed it to a friend, could they learn more about you? Did it convey any emotions? Did you find the process engaging and enjoyable?

Artist Trading Cards

For today’s art directive, we will create an artist trading card. This is simply a 2.5×3.5 inch card (similar to the size of a playing card), decorated anyway you please. Artist Trading Cards are a phenomenon that has swept the world over the past decade, originating in Europe. The only rule connected to them is that they are not meant to be sold, only traded or given away. The charm and widespread interest in ATC’s are due to their diminutive size which is small enough not elicit any anxiety over one’s creative abilities. Artist Trading Cards can be executed using virtually any medium including: pencil, paint, collage, thread, fabric, stencils, words, photos, etc. Please find some card stock weight paper or heavier, cut it down to 2.5 to 3.5 inches and let your creative spirit soar. Feeling creative? Make a few and give one to someone special in your life.

Yesterday’s project: What is the most significant object in your family portrait? Please observe how you drew each member on the page. Are they close together or far apart? Is anyone dominating the scene?Is anyone not getting enough attention? Is there harmony between the objects/symbols? What is the mood of the dialogue? We can’t change others, but can you change the dynamics by the information you are sharing with these people. Is there someone in your family who needs more attention? Is there a way to be more honest with members of your family? Many times, the simple act of opening up lines of communication can be a very powerful thing. Can you show your picture to anyone in your family?