Keep Worrying! Emotional Highs and Lows Actually Increase Creativity
Today, I feel pretty good in this new life. I am ready to face another week with optimism and renewed energy. Tomorrow – well that could be an entirely different story. Getting out of bed may be difficult due to the overwhelming uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds. My emotions – all of our emotions - have been all over the place during the past six weeks. And no wonder. We are figuring out a process – how to connect the facts to formulate a new narrative around how to stay healthy, how to work differently, and how to attend school in unexpected ways. This process can cause negative emotions from the anxiety of needing to quickly adjust to something new; it can also cause positive emotions from successfully adapting to a new method after a few failed attempts. During this crisis, we find ourselves fluctuating between positive and negative emotions often. Here’s some good news: Research* tells us that the simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotions or “emotional ambivalence” actually fuels creativity – more than either extreme emotion does on its own. How does this work? Studies have found that simultaneously experiencing multiple emotions that are not typically experienced together (e.g., fear and happiness, loneliness and bliss) inform your brain that you are in an unusual environment where other unusual relationships may also exist. This heightened sensitivity to unusual associations is a critical contributor to your creativity.
So, buckle up, and ride your emotional rollercoaster knowing that your next big idea could be just around the corner of another wicked turn.
*Fong, C. (2006)
Ivonne Chand O’Neal, Ph.D., is the Founder and Principal of MUSE Research, a creativity and arts research consulting firm. She currently serves as Chief Research Strategist for Crayola, sits on the Board of Directors for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the Advisory Board for the Human Flourishing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Editorial Boards for the Creativity Research Journal and Art Education.