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Cultivating a Creative Mindset

Yesterday, I gave my first online workshop, Cultivating a Creative Mindset. I talked about 2 states of mind that typically help AND hinder us when we try to create.

At one extreme is that state of mind that loves to plan and organize. It’s filled with ideas, opinions, and anticipation, ready to make things happen, usually as predictably as possible. Some people call that our left brain. It’s great for executing ideas, but often preoccupied with control. It gets anxious easily when things don’t go as planned. This is the mind of checklists, blueprints, clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and tasks. This is the mind that’s comfortable with the kind of success that comes with well-executed strategies.

Is this you?

At the other extreme is that state of mind that’s dreamy and imaginative. It's also filled with ideas, but maybe a little too comfortable with beginnings that never quite come into fruition. Some people call this our right brain....

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Planning for the New Year

While I welcome each new year, I always make an effort to say goodbye to the old. On the final day of the year, I consider all that has passed and attend to the thoughts and feelings that arise. Many emotions: relief, gratitude, frustration, gladness. It’s a great opportunity for self-reflection, taking inventory, and anticipating the year to come.

No wonder many of us begin each year with resolutions. Planning is a tool for strengthening our resolve. And at the end of the year, motivation is high for acknowledging unfinished projects, recommitting to big dreams, and prioritizing time and resources for the coming year.

So I end this year with that mix of wistfulness for the year passed and excitement for the year to come. I’m planning for big things.

Toward that end, I’m doing things differently.

Years ago, I left behind most of the organizing practices I’d relied on to structure my days. I set aside my agendas and planners, my checklists and folders. I was...

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Putting Yourself Out There

I did my first Facebook live yesterday. Wow! It was as terrifying as everyone says. Especially for someone like me, not especially interested in mediated exposure, an introvert at heart. Still, when you’re growing a brand new business and an online community, the willingness to make yourself known through writing and images in the form of posts - whether on a blog like this or social media platforms - is a must.

It was an extemporaneous ramble in the form of a Facebook group “open house” that turned out to be just me, my iPhone camera, and a few visitors. Fortunately, my new business offering is on creativity, and the subject of fear naturally came up. Isn’t that one of the biggest creative hurdles? I was able to share my own anxieties openly. I was in feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway mode. It was so helpful to just admit it. And keep going. On camera no less. Live.

Creativity opens us to vulnerability. Putting ourselves out there is tough. It’s hard to...

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Fast Failure

When I worked as a designer, trying things out was a natural part of the process. Making models and sketches were ways of testing ideas by making them visible, tangible. Once real, we could put them in front of people for feedback. What worked? What didn’t? Revisions were based on that feedback. “Back to the drawing board” was the norm. Then another cycle of feedback, and another, honing in on our final solution.

As you can see, failure was the norm. For each thing that worked in a given round of design, were all those that didn’t. Failure wasn’t a big deal. It was a natural part of figuring things out. Honing in. Refining. Improving. In the business world “fail fast” has become a mantra for companies trying to foster a culture of innovation. It helps ease the inhibiting fear that can come with the prospect of failure.

Often my clients express a sense of failure in the many thoughts, feelings, and attitudes they bring. The therapist in me...

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Visual Dialog

creative doing drawing Nov 26, 2017

I’m mostly a “talk therapist,” something I’m a little embarrassed about given my background in art and design, and my training in Somatic Experiencing, where the body is the focus. I think I’ve always been drawn to words. My parents fostered a love of reading when I was a child, since reading was the key to knowledge and advancement. Early on, I taught myself through the written word. My favorite books were “how to” books that taught me skills. I loved going to the library and looking at back-issues of Popular Mechanics, reading cookbooks, and studying needlework through Victorian handbooks.

So even though words predominate in my therapy sessions, I do shift focus now and then, a shift that benefits my clients and me. Sometimes the shift is toward sensations in the body, the felt experience of a moment. Other times, the shift is toward imagery.

One activity I’ve done with clients individually and in groups involves taking turns...

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Therapists & Their Offices

creative doing Nov 19, 2017

I recently attended a small meeting of therapists interested in creativity. We met in the office of one of us, a studio-like setting rich with media, materials, light, and a wonderful view. It was perfect for the kind of work she does, and the clients interested in working with her. At one point, our conversation meandered to the topic of our therapy offices: what we choose to display, how we decorate our spaces, and how clients sometimes respond to what they find. We also talked about what our spaces convey about us.

Some therapists personalize their spaces extensively, either deliberately (or unintentionally) communicating who they are, creating spaces in which they feel comfortable and at home. Others strive for a studied neutrality that doesn’t impose too much of themselves, decoratively or otherwise, in keeping with the neutral stance many find effective and necessary as therapists.

When our offices declare too loudly who we are as therapists and people, does it crowd out...

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Balancing Effort & Ease

Every attempt at behavioral change demands doing things differently. In my work with clients in recovery from drug and alcohol use, great effort is made at “staying clean.” This typically involves avoiding people, places, and things associated with substance use, developing “trigger management skills,” and making lifestyle changes. It’s hard work. And when it becomes too hard, relapse happens. Or if not full-blown relapse, a “slip,” before the client resumes their recovery efforts.

Whenever this happens in any behavioral change effort, especially when abstinence of any kind is the desired goal (think dieting), fatigue arises. The effort becomes tiring, too much work. The client eventually gives in, seeking relief from an effort that’s become overwhelming.

Too much concerted effort just doesn’t work in the long run. It is too much work. It is tiring. It is a drag. It does feel like punishment. It feels depriving because it is.

...

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Imagine

creative doing obstacles Nov 06, 2017

I've had my fair share of failures, and I've witnessed many that were not my own. Looking closely, I recognize something they all have in common: a failure of the imagination, an inability to envision another possibility. So we get what we get:  more of the same, stuckness, boredom, or a dream unrealized.

When we’re able to envision - to see richly with the mind’s eye - possibility opens. Imagining allows us to expand the scope of what we consider - to see past our usual limits. It makes room for more. And when we give ourselves permission to take our imaginings seriously, they have a way of leading us, energizing us to take action. We’re able to see the steps we need to take and take them instead of thinking about them. A rich imagination inspires action.

If you’ve gotten lost in your daydreams and fantasies, you undoubtedly disagree. Maybe your imaginings have produced a state of intoxicated avoidance. You’d rather be in your head than in the...

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Relating through Props & Play

From time to time, I use props in my therapy sessions. They’re great for introducing a sense of play, and for mediating the interaction between me and my client(s). I’ve used the Hoberman Sphere pictured above to demonstrate cognitive concepts to my group therapy clients, opening and closing the sphere to demonstrate flexibility and constriction. Each time, my clients are absolutely alert and attentive. After the demonstration, we pass the sphere around, with each member flexing it to demonstrate their current state.

The barriers that arise during talk therapy can often be overcome by using props, since they support kinesthetic engagement. (Of course, some clients are as resistant to props as they are to speaking.) Sometimes I use a shawl (any length of cloth or rope or even a flexible band would do), holding one end while my client holds the other. We pull, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, each trying to match the give and take of the other. It’s a dance, but a...

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Choosing a Career, or Dreaming One?

I lived many professional lives before becoming a therapist. While I was always grateful for those opportunities, I never felt quite “in my element” within those professional communities. Whether design, tech, or academe, I felt like an outsider. So it’s been a blessing to find myself feeling right at home as a therapist.

Oddly, it was never something I considered outright. I wasn’t one of those I’ve-always-wanted-to-help-people kind of people. I was always too engrossed in my own struggles to have much leftover for others. At least that’s what I thought.

So imagine my surprise when one day, a little over 10 years ago, the thought of becoming a therapist crossed my mind. No one could have been more surprised than me. It arose out of nowhere, startling, like a dream. But instead of rejecting it outright as a preposterous idea, I let the dreaminess of it live in me.

Sometimes I took conscious steps to explore the possibility:  I looked...

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