Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Creative Life: Often Unpleasant, But Meaningful

Human Meaning

Creativity & Emotions: Creative individuals are free to display the full range of emotions, Scott Barry Kaufman writes, and are not restricted by societal norms of what is appropriate or acceptable: “But perhaps most tellingly, the researchers found that creativity was more strongly related to the sum of positive and negative emotions than measures of positive or negative emotions alone. This suggests that the capacity to experience intense emotions– both positive and negative– may be central to the Creative Life.”
Photo Credit & Source
: Scientific American

An article, by , in Scientific American explores the relationship between creativity and well-being, suggesting that the creative life is not necessarily happy, but it is meaningful and leads to greater well-being than a life devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and happiness.

Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, writes about some of the expectations common to a life devoted to creative expression:
While the Creative Life is not directly associated with traditional conceptualizations of happiness, the Creative Life appears to be associated with a more deeply meaningful life. In his book “Authentic Happiness“, Martin Seligman distinguishes between the “Pleasant Life” and the “Meaningful Life”. The Pleasant Life is what people tend to think of when they think of happiness: a life full of positive emotions and joy, and lacking challenge or struggle. The Pleasant Life is mainly about getting what you want and need. It is associated with feeling good in the moment, and being a taker more than a giver. In contrast, the Meaningful Life is linked to self-expression, and doing positive things for others. Certainly, there are factors that contribute to both the Pleasant Life and the Meaningful Life– including feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored– but there are also some key differences between living a pleasant and meaningful life.

The Meaningful Life is associated with increased stress and anxiety, but it is also linked to greater integration of the past, present, and future, resiliency, and the
ability to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties. After all, as the Buddhists have long noted, every life has its 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. “Humans may resemble many other creatures in their striving for happiness, but the quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human, and uniquely so,” notes lead author Roy Baumeister.

The deep connection between creativity and meaning was noted long ago by the great creativity researcher Frank X. Barron. Through his pioneering research on some of the most creative people of his generation,
Barron came to realize that creative people have the remarkable capacity to become intimate with themselves. According to psychologist Ruth Richards, they “dare to look within, even at one’s irrational and less conscious material, including one’s ‘shadow’ materials”. Richards refers to this capacity as “courageous openness”.
This used to be referred to as having a well-rounded character, and reading literature gives a greater understanding of such an idea, to wit, an indication of a life well-read and well-lived. And, I would like to add, self-understood. A deep understanding of the self is not at all the same as superficial view of one’s wants and needs; the latter is narcissistic, while the former is giving. It is also true that the majority of creative persons do not view the accumulation of wealth or money as their primary goal or purpose—not that money is unimportant; it is—but not as important as the other things that dominate their thoughts. In short, a beautiful mind.

These individuals, rare as they are, can be found in all areas of life, not only in the arts and humanities, where they are more dominant, but also in the sciences, in music, in religion, in teaching and in business. Sometimes, they go unrecognized, but they continue their creative pursuits as a means of providing intrinsic pleasure.

Creative persons, in search for the older truths of beauty, meaning and justice do not have the single-minded determination to accumulate wealth that marks the persons who successfully achieve such purposes and priorities. Such individuals are happy, as many studies show, but it is a situational happiness and not one emanating from an integrated individual. Moreover, the pursuers of wealth are unlikely burdened by the thoughts of meaning that penetrate and circulate within the minds of creative individuals. As for creative individuals and the pursuers of power, the historical record is thin on the number of such persons.

For more, go to [ScienAmer].