Here in Australia, the beginning of December through to the end of February represents Summer and the beginning of the new year and the start of many new initiatives in business, life and lots more.

When anyone is looking to make any kind of change in their life, often the approach they take needs to become attractive or appealing in order for them to maintain it and often it may not remain attractive or appealing for as long as we like. I get many people who tell me that they find it difficult to maintain enthusiasm or keep on investing the required levels of energy to make a real success of a project or a goal, especially those of us who have suffered extreme traumas.

So, for that reason, I want to talk about enhancing creativity. When you become more creative, you can begin to make more out of your everyday experiences and perceptions of what it is that you are doing, you can make life more colourful and have more fun and joy when you are more creative.

But first, we need to address a pressing issue. Can traumatic experiences make you more creative?

While many people experience trauma after surviving a life-changing adverse event, whether it be a natural disaster or an act of violence, a successful recovery often leads to posttraumatic growth. 

Whether through improved personal relationships, the discovery of new possibilities in life, increased self-confidence and inner strength, heightened spirituality, or a renewed appreciation of the joy of life, many survivors can describe their lives as being stronger than ever due to the hardships they experienced.

Traumatised children may present with a wide range of disruptive behaviours making it difficult to implement holistic therapeutic interventions. The number of primary caregivers disrupted placements and repeated traumatic events contribute to the overall mental health, and a greater number of occurrences increases the risk of maladjustment, even later in life, especially if issues remain unaddressed.

Those that do grow beyond their trauma, don’t really leave it behind, their experiences have made them grow in ways that people rarely understand. This may show itself as disenfranchised trauma, this is another beast altogether, especially if it’s ignored by immediate family or even society in general.

Advocates should be aware that the primary victim of trauma will likely need supportive measures that should include, but not be limited to, attention to their individual needs, opportunities for therapy, support and intervention. For instance, some creative people may be able to channel their negative experiences into inspiration for their work, and possibly use creativity as a coping strategy for dealing with hardship. However, demonstrating a link between creativity and trauma has been more difficult. Current studies perceive creative growth does not necessarily carry over into actual creative achievements, especially after experiencing disenfranchisement.

Posttraumatic growth can take different directions depending on the life paths that survivors and people around them may follow. Could using creative arts therapy help trauma survivors move on with their lives by encouraging posttraumatic growth? As research continues to explore the often-murky relationship between adversity and creativity, we may discover new ways of encouraging healing and enhancing creativity in all humans.

So what is Creativity?

Good question. We can all be creative; creativity is about making new connections – and that is physiologically true within our neurology. Creativity is the mind’s growing edge. It often involves a lot of discovery. By creating new connections you build your brain power and developmental and interpersonal flexibility which can begin to heighten your ability to do a vast array of things with more and more ease.

John Cleese’s summary of the 5 key tips for creating space & time for creativity.

  1. Space – “You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”
  2. Time – “It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”
  3. Time – “Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.
  4. Confidence – “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”
  5. Humour – “The main evolutionary significance of humour is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”

Imagine this; every time you link two things together, you create a third entity. That new connection can itself then connect with other ideas, additional possibilities. Imagine the impact this can have on a system like your brain!

Being creative on an individual level has the same potential: when you connect things together, you go beyond both of them; and you have the possibility of forming new beliefs about yourself and your potential. I remember when I reunited with my birth mother, I was so excited, I would read so much material that I felt like my brain was literally growing and stretching with each interaction. I was learning what it meant to finally see a person that looked and acted like me. That may not seem too scary, but for an adoptee, it’s absolutely terrifying.

As a child I had such a vivid imagination, I can remember when I used to play daydream for hours and days on end as a youngster, I was not just imagining who my mother and father may be but I was also asking myself if I had any biological brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, I was never given the time, space or confidence to address the evolution of my identity, it was forbidden to even speak of it.

Children are amazingly creative, each of us has been a child (some still are!). Children show their creativity in the way they discover their environment and make their own meanings of it. Many children create new worlds while playing with toys, they don’t need elaborate or sophisticated toys, equipment or props, the meaning comes from within themselves.

As an adoptee, just like being creative, time frames and KPI’s are irrelevant and destructive to the creative process. I am extremely aware of the need to give yourself permission and time and space to confidently make new connections and links which is what creativity is all about, especially while coming to terms with incorporating new facets of identity. It is about the process rather than the outcome or the final destination because in such a scenario you are always growing and in ways, people in society or close family and friends have absolutely no idea of. After all, there’s absolutely no playbook for reunion.

So many people approach me with preconceived ideas for what they want, for the most part, this is great however if a good creative brief is not acquired, creative control is not relinquished, or rediculous timeframes and KPI’s are inforced the environment required to be creative is ultimately eliminated. I often say “I’m a designer, not a screwdriver”.

Honestly being a professional creative is easy, but when changing habits, updating behaviours, resolving issues, or just making life happier in any way, if you can deal with your trauma, it’s extremely hard. To be creative with words, ideas, thoughts, materials, patterns and to find humour within your surroundings may force you to create your own internal world in order to survive. In adoption land, this is called “being in the fog.”

A positive outcome of all this trauma is my inherent ability to go within! Creativity allows me to create something new with each situation or creative brief, however, having the right environment is absolutely key. Above all, being creative returns us to that state where we are curious. It is about being absorbed and enjoying doing what you are doing, paying attention to detail, having a grand vision, being excited and playful, wondering what would happen if….

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