From Reactive to Creative: "C" First
You cannot creatively solve a problem when you are in a reaction.
Posted November 21, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- When you are anxious or frustrated, often something from the past has invaded the present.
- By definition, you cannot be completely connected to what is right in front of you.
- To change these automatic, hardwired reactions, you must first create some “space” between you and your reaction.
- You must “C” first in order to come out of the reactive mode.
Hard work and creativity are equally important to successfully developing and implementing new ideas, both personally and in the business world. It can be argued that insanity is the antithesis of creativity. Consider Albert Einstein’s thoughts on what constitutes insane behavior: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
Looking at this quote more carefully, you might ask why a person would continue to engage in obviously self-destructive behavior. One reason is that we become conditioned throughout our lifetime to react automatically to certain stimuli based on our unique programmed patterns. To create meaningful change, it is critical to break up these automatic links. You can then reprogram your responses to more functional and pleasant ones. There are three steps in reprogramming your nervous system.
- Creating new circuits
Kinds of awareness
Awareness is the link to every aspect of your healing journey. Here are four suggested types of awareness:
- Ingrained patterns
It is clear that the first step in cultivating deeper awareness is recognizing when you are unaware. Awareness is the opposite of projecting your perception of the world onto others and situations. Understanding the different types of awareness allows you to expand your consciousness quickly. Without it, you are continuing to reinforce your life outlook in that if your life “data input” confirms your view, it strengthens it. What is more problematic is that if you receive conflicting messages, you’ll reject them. This is an even more powerful force in strengthening your outlook and “filter.” How can you really learn and change? Continually projecting your views eventually becomes tedious and you’ll become more “set in your ways.” It is the way your brain works. The marketing world calls this phenomenon, “reactance,” and they use it to their advantage.1
Make some “space”
Consider how much more interesting life could be if you learned the skill of creating some “space” before your brain instantly kicks into a reactive or projection mode. Then you would be better able to see others’ views, meet their needs, and it is incredibly more interesting. Words like curiosity, awe, gratitude, compassion, and empathy will re-enter your consciousness. Your body chemistry shifts into safety physiology resulting in a deep sense of connection and contentment.
Anger is the antithesis of awareness. Yet in chronic pain, you are trapped and understandably frustrated. Anger completely blocks awareness by definition. Yet, you need to become aware to break through the anger barrier. It is a terribly vicious cycle and that is why it requires tools and persistence to move through anger.
Awareness – “C’ing”
The first step in problem solving is seeing ALL aspects of a given problem AND having a choice in how to respond. To be creative, the “C/see” needs to be first. All of us know that certain phrases, behaviors, situations, people, etc. will elicit a fairly predictable and rapid reaction. You are reacting before you have even absorbed or comprehended the full scope of the problem. Consequently, you may make a flawed decision. Unfortunately, these programmed reactions become stronger with age and repetition. The phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is an accurate phrase. It is not that the dog cannot be taught. He or she must be open to being taught.
It is helpful to be aware of these two words throughout the day. You can quickly see when you are in a reaction and can quickly switch into a creative mode. Experiencing creativity is not only effective, but also more enjoyable.
The difference between these two words – and these two concepts – is that in the word “creative,” the “C” is at the beginning. You must understand and see a problem first before you can solve it. In “reactive” the “C” is buried in the middle of the word. The location of the letter “C/see” can be thought of as reflecting the concepts this article is conveying. It’s a good way to remember why you cannot be creative in problem solving if you are in a reactive mode.
There are many methods of accomplishing this. Instead of having a “stimulus-automatic response” situation, you now have a “stimulus-choice of response” scenario. With repetition, the more functional responses will become the automatic default mode. That is the beauty of neuroplasticity.
Questions and considerations
- Have you noticed that when you are upset, it seems like your thinking is clear, sharp, and focused? It is, except that it is all about you.
- Do you really feel you are able to see the whole situation through the other person’s eyes when you are agitated?
- It is humbling and sobering that when you are calm, many answers become obvious in retrospect. Often the “issue” may even disappear. Anger really is temporary insanity.
- Consider the possibility that you have been in a baseline state of being upset for so long, that it feels "normal" to you. It is one of the core ingrained patterns that is almost impossible to see without outside help.
1. Berger, Jonah. The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind. Simon and Schuster. New York, NY, 2020.