The Highly Creative Person
The story of the highly creative person is one that found me. Although I spent the first part of my life in the performing arts, my current experience with creativity emerged only after I left ballet and the violin for clinical social work.
When I started to work as a psychotherapist, I began to see recurrent patterns and themes in the form of certain problems and issues, which clients brought into session. The recognition of these themes helped me to see that many people entering therapy were actually suffering from two sets of problems – the problems for which they sought treatment and those which stemmed from having unidentified or underutilized creative abilities.
I realized that the failure to sufficiently integrate several specific fields of study into mental health treatment were causing many highly creative individuals to remain unidentified or under-attended to, and thereby at risk for multiple problems and difficulties which often worsened over time. Many of these difficulties derived from an inability to identify, understand and manage the existence of their creative abilities in the first place.
After repeatedly witnessing the fallout that occurred in the lives of talented individuals when they were unable to identify their creative identity or cope with the expectable challenges that accompanied their abilities, my focus of professional attention was directed to the matter of ‘unidentified creativity’ and the task of assisting creatively-gifted individuals to recognize and work more effectively with their abilities in order to achieve personal fulfillment and professional excellence.
In addition to the issues, which subsequently became the content of the self-test, Consider these Questions, I noted the existence of ten, over-arching thematic experiences, which seemed to have a bearing on the lives of many highly creative individuals, whether they were consciously aware of these factors or not:
- Highly creative individuals and their aptitudes can be easily overlooked, particularly when one has an occupational identity unrelated to the visual or performing arts. Those who already identify themselves as ‘creative’ often need additional resources to meet the challenges that accompany their abilities and to maximize their creative potential.
- Creatively-gifted individuals can more readily be identified through the presence of specific aptitudes, including:
- High ideaphoria – a naturally rapid flow of ideas;
- Divergent thinking – a natural inclination for simultaneous and multifaceted thinking, used in addition to linear thinking;
- Acute sensory skills – in one or more of the five senses,most often exhibited in terms of having strong sensitivities to light, sound or visual images;
- Strong intuitive capabilities – the experience of ‘knowing’ something is true and being highly accurate without a reliance on concrete information;
- Empathically-heightened consciousness – an acute awareness and understanding of one’s own feelings as they occur, and the ability to be highly attuned to the emotions of others.
- Analytically-heightened consciousness – great clarity and precision in thought and language.
These aptitudes, when used in combination, give rise to creative intelligence – a proficiency for innovative thinking and application. From creative intelligence a diverse array of creative manifestations come forth.
- Creative aptitudes can be experienced as both gift and challenge. Specific challenges usually correlate to specific aptitudes. For example, feeling overwhelmed can frequently accompany a naturally high flow of ideas. This phenomenon may be considered the ‘double-edged sword’ experience that accompanies the existence of creative aptitudes.
- Creative aptitudes often remain hidden ‘underneath’ an easily-recognized ‘problem’ in daily life. Some problems are actual problems and some are ‘in the eye of the beholder.’ While everyone is usually aware of the problem; the ability may remain indefinitely obscured, especially when it is only viewed as a ‘problem to be corrected,’ i.e., being ‘too sensitive,’ ‘too much of a perfectionist,’ and so forth.
- Many highly creative people are faced with an apparent paradox. While they may have the ability to deal with complex subject matter in a seemingly effortless manner, they can struggle with relatively simple tasks. They might feel confused about why this is so, since these tasks are usually not difficult, objectively-speaking.
- When abilities, experiences and perceptions have been insufficiently acknowledged, or outright maligned, psychological trauma may have occurred. This trauma can be triggered again on a recurrent basis when others do not appear to appreciate or sufficiently understand one’s perspectives or the meaning of one’s actions. As a result, many come to believe that their way of seeing and doing things is somehow not valid. If noticed at all, instances of feeling traumatized may not be considered legitimate as such since the experience may not match conventional criteria of what constitutes a ‘real’ trauma.
- When mainstream images of daily life do not feel compatible with their own values and interests, highly creative people can feel particularly marginalized. This experience can lead to a feeling of being ‘psychologically homeless.’
- Highly creative people can face a lifetime of hardship and psychological pain when they do not see themselves or their abilities clearly. As a result, they may fit themselves into situations that are unsuitable for their abilities, and may blame themselves when they are unable to resolve their problems. They often experience deep anguish when they are not able to materialize their talents in a recognizable or tangible form even though, on some level, they may realize that they are capable. They feel confused in their attempts to figure this ‘puzzle’ out.
- Those who receive mental health treatment from doctors or therapists who remain under-educated about the characteristics of gifted and talented individuals are often at risk of receiving an inaccurate or inappropriate mental health diagnosis. The experience of receiving misguided treatment can cause further complications, compounding pre-existing difficulties.
- Driven by a need to discover what they are meant to do in life, creatively-gifted individuals often have a strong desire to respond to a vocation, though initially they may not know what it is. The need to attend to a ‘calling’ can be pushed aside for a while, but cannot be avoided indefinitely without incurring some sort of psychological and/or concrete cost. After a time, many realize it is best to accept the appropriate sacrifices that accompany a vocation, rather than the costs incurred by continuing to avoid tending to their life’s work. Even when other things in life are ‘good enough,’ the recognition that there is no replacement for the fulfillment that comes from responding to a vocational imperative is seen as a centrally important form of acceptance in coming to terms with one’s creativity.
- Underneath the satisfaction that comes from outer accomplishment is a deep desire for something more: Self-mastery – experiencing one’s self as becoming progressively more competent and confident, thus more fully able to express and assert one’s intention in the world.
The recognition of these themes prompted me to engage in the ongoing process of refining a professional philosophy and methodology that would effectively target the personal and professional needs of the highly creative person.