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April 28, 2021
Imagination is freedom.
It’s not only the force we use to transcend reality, but it’s also the indispensable tool for combatting the demolition of it.
Anytime the natural order of our universe gets disturbed, we can use our creativity to ease ourselves back into to a state of calm. Despite our disorientation, we can use imagination as our faithful force to restore ourselves.
Doesn’t that sound like a useful skill for surviving times of turbulence and transition?
It’s been a lifesaver for me. When major changes occur in my life, I’ve found that framing my new situation as an opportunity to use my creativity, is precisely what allows me to bounce back quickly and reorient myself to a place of sanity.
It almost turns it into a game. Which parts of myself can be engaged to solve this interesting problem?
Rollo, the humanistic psychologist who wrote extensively about the creative process, frames this idea most poetically in his book:
Imagination is the outreaching of mind. It is the individual’s capacity to accept the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images, and every other sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the preconscious.
Here’s an example of this outreaching of the mind. Let’s say your workout routine is thrown out of whack by things out of your control like inclement weather, mass transit closures, travel constraints, injury, or a global pandemic in which millions of people are trapped in their homes for months at a time.
That totally sucks, and would personally make me mad at the world.
But if you allow it to, that event will trigger the creative part of your brain.
Okay, what modifications can you make to this workout? What resources are available that would allow you to get a similar result?
That might mean taking an online class from your home, heading out for a run instead of going to the pool, or my personal favorite, doing hot yoga in the sauna if there are no studios nearby.
It may sound excessive, obsessive and extreme, but to me, it’s all just a game. Figuring out how to hack your own routine within the constraints of your situation can be as fulfilling as the activity itself.
Listen, the human brain does some strange things during times of change. When the status quo goes to shit, that disruption activates the same threat and reward responses in our brains that we rely on for physical survival. Cortisol starts firing into our blood stream. We start scrambling for fundamental human needs like certainty and simplicity and autonomy.
There’s a popular study by a group of researched who coined the term neuroleadership, which is a clinical way of saying, leading the brain in a friendly way. Their work talks about the importance of generating feelings of autonomy during times of change. Because our sense of autonomy enables wellbeing and stronger cognitive functions. In contrast, if we experience a lack of autonomy, it causes a strong threat response.
All the more reason to treat turbulence as an opportunity to use our creativity. It makes us feel like ourselves again. Like a real human being who has sovereignty over their choices.
If we learn use our imaginations prolifically, we can not only transcend reality, but combat the demolition of it.
Remember, every moment is a chance to be creative, to reinvent ourselves.
How are you making embracing constant change into a regular practice?