Creativity and Change

For most people the word change conjures up images of difficulty and stress, not improvement and growth. This is because we humans are hard wired to resist change: familiarity equates with safety and certainty (even when it is neither safe nor certain), whereas the new is seen as threatening because it has yet to prove itself in the crucible of daily life.

The new and better will indeed destroy the old, thus its power to overthrow what is ready to go but resists destruction. Like the apocryphal story about a tribe in ancient times that threw inventors over the cliff; many of us would rather stick with the unworkable than deal with the anxiety that goes with stepping into the unknown.

Needing a guarantee of success may cause you to avoid risks, resulting in a feeling of stagnation you try to alleviate with drama-ridden or vicarious relationships that take the place of genuine excitement. By contrast, a creative life is an ongoing process of challenge and growth. Each new goal you set has its stage of drudgery and triumph, a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.  The elation you feel when you “get there” is in direct measure to the terror you felt until you were sure you made the right decision.

Fear and Creativity Travel Together

One of my clients told me she just wanted to get beyond fear.

“Every day when I wake up my goal is to not feel anxious,” Annette said.

“Well, that’s the day you’ll be dead,” I said, and we both laughed.

Annette had a history of perfectionism, a trait she developed while growing up in a controlling family whose need to be certain got passed on to her. Annette had just moved overseas to start a new job and life. Although she had lived in the country before, was fluent in the language, and she had supportive friends and colleagues there, unlike a decade ago, this time the move was permanent and the professional risk much higher. Her self-doubt was so intense Annette thought she was developing an anxiety disorder. This level of fear is a sign the conscious mind is not in tune with a subconscious desire to be free from restrictions.

The freedom urge will lie dormant until the subconscious “arranges” an event that starts the process of setting us free from whatever blocks growth. This can be an accident or illness, the breakup of a relationship, loss of a job, belief system, or someone who confronts us with our need to change.  When we are not conscious of what we need, we react with inertia, fear and anger, blaming events or others for our distress. In Annette’s case, she had felt bored and restless for over a year. After listening once again to her frustration, I urged her to take the leap. Within two weeks Annette was on the airplane. A day after she landed doubt reared its head: Are you out of your mind? Did you really think this through?