It’s as simple as biology sometimes. Any negative emotion can shut down our creativity, but I am going to describe fear.
Bruce Lipton, cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief, explains that a single-celled organism can move towards a situation, which is growth, or away from it, which is self-preservation. It can’t, however, do both at the same time.
Neither can humans. Fear, the easiest negative emotion to describe in this context, is a natural response to a situation perceived as life- threatening. Biologically, it’ss designed to set off a series of life-saving responses.
The following happens:
The hypothalamus realizes the threat and makes an emergency call to the pituitary, the master gland. The pituitary signals to the adrenal gland, which creates adrenaline, to make us more alert and focused, and cortisol, which converts protein to energy and releases glycogen to gives the body the fuel needed for a rapid response.
Blood is diverted to the legs and arms, so you can flee or fight. Blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates accelerate. Our muscles tense; our senses sharpen. The immune system, which uses a lot of energy, gets shut down. (This is why frequent or constant anxiety can lead to illness.)
How does this relate to creativity? Let’s say you have a great idea. You get very excited about it, and you start to develop it. This corresponds to the growth aspect of a single-celled organism.
Then you think about launching this idea. Here you could substitute “book,” “painting,” “marketing plan,” or any creative project.
The thoughts occur, “What if they don’t like it?” “What if they make fun of me?” “What if they fire me?” Fear can take over, and if it does, your creativity shuts down as you switch into life-saving mode.
You might be thinking, “But would the above responses really be life-threatening?” Not to everyone. But to the extent that a human is a herd animal, the disapproval of other herd members means being out in the cold, at the mercy of whatever dangers threaten a solitary creature. So it’s not an outlandish statement.
However, it’s a great question, because it holds within it the germ of the solution. You can choose your response.
You can examine how you react to the criticism of others. You can ask yourself why others’ good opinion is so vital to you. This isn’t necessarily a speedy process, but it can expose a lot of responses you learned in childhood that are stored in your subconscious mind.
In future posts, I will describe how other negative emotions can have similar effects to that of fear in stifling creativity.