"I define creativity as ‘having an insight which enlarges understanding" By this I mean we are able to see something that we could not envisage before. There is also a link with problem solving, as this is often the stimulus to creative thinking. The problem itself may be a direct one, as when a process fails to produce the required outputs. It may also be indirect, such as the ‘problem’ a customer has when no suitable product or service exists yet to satisfy their particular need.” (Hay, 1992, p. 184).
In that book, I went on to describe how ego states can be a useful framework for understanding the psychological aspects of creativity and the behavioural elements of brainstorming. I used a simplification of Parent, Adult and Child, implying a mix of internal and behavioural:
Among other things, our Child ego state is curious and creative. Unfortunately, many of us experience curbs on our creativity and curiosity, perhaps to keep us safe but maybe also to keep things safe from us! Or perhaps our caregivers are busy or neglectful. We may come to associate creativity with danger, pain, chastisement – and because we have a deep need for love and approval we may stop doing things that displease the grown-ups. Instead, we ‘learn’ the ‘right’ way to do things. At school, more of this teaching takes place, as we discover what low marks we get if we make up our own answers to the teacher’s questions instead of quoting from the textbook. By the time we are adults, we may have pushed much of our original creativity underground. We display to the world our Adapted Child more often than we show our Natural Child and may have forgotten that we ever had much creative ability.
Reinforcing the learning and adaptation process of our Child ego state is our Parent ego state. If we were encouraged to be creative, we will also be comfortable about our own creativity. However, if we were laughed at when we wore a pan as a hat, we are likely to laugh in the same way when we see a child doing as we used to. If we were told our ideas were impractical, we will tell others why their ideas are impractical. Thus, the implicit messages about creativity being stupid or a waste of time are passed on through generations. Internally, we may react negatively to ourselves at the first sign of any creativity. When we replay Parent in this way, we may also stimulate a corresponding replay of a recording in Child so that we feel discomfort that is related to the past. This feeling can be re-experienced powerfully enough in the present to stop us being creative even though other people are encouraging us to put forward ideas.
Our mediator between our own Parent and Child ego states is our Adult ego state. With luck, this ego state also filters the effects of other people so that we have some protection from their conditioning. When in Adult ego state, we think. We identify problems, recognise the need to find a solution, consider the advantages and disadvantages of various options, review the implications, weigh the probabilities of success, and make decisions. We may do this in fractions of a second or it may be a process that extends over days as we keep coming back to the problem. Our input includes data from our Parent, which has stored away our experiences of how such matters were tackled in the past. This ego state will provide us with options that we recall being used successfully on previous occasions. It will be up to our Adult to analyse whether the current situation is similar enough to the past to make an option relevant.
Our Adult may also have to deal with feelings of discomfort if being creative led to unpleasant experiences in the past. It will also have to sift through any ideas we do have to check which ones could be implemented without too many problems. It is as if Adult takes the raw material from Child ego state, imagines what would happen if the various ideas were pursued, and then develops practicable options.
In practice, Adult is likely to arrive at solutions that are a mix of Child creativity and Parent experience. Provided we are not too cluttered with negative messages, our Child can see totally new ways of doing things. Provided we are not too set in our ways, our Parent sees the implications of the new idea based on what happened in similar situations in the past. Adult synthesises the two sets of inputs and adds any relevant external data, such as information and opinions from other people, before making the final selection of a course of action.
In my next blog I will write some more about how this approach to creativity also help us with brainstorming.
Hay, Julie (1992) Transactional Analysis for Trainers Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill (currently published as 2nd edition, 2009, Hertford: Sherwood Publishing)
© 2018 Julie Hay
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