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Three Emotional Blocks to Creativity

Solutions to help you get unstuck so you can create, innovate and connect.

Whether you are an ad executive trying to craft a slogan as victorious as Apple’s “Think Different” campaign developed by TBWA/Chiat/Day; a scientist investigating the effects of new drugs on rapidly mutating viruses; a designer orchestrating color schemes and remodeling options; or if you are engaging in the more routine choices of daily living like deciding what to make for dinner and what to do for family and date night, creativity feeds the outcome.

Creativity is the substance of life. It solves problems. It creates meaning. It infuses life into the choices we make. It is the material manifestation of ethereal imagination and inspiration. What happens when you feel stuck and unable to perform and create?

Perhaps you are simply going through the process. It takes time and the struggle may very well prove a necessary ingredient to the ultimate discovery and decision. Yet, sometimes, there is something deeper that is blocking you. In fact, it is not only blocking you, but it’s also choking the life and energy out of your being and leaving you listless, lost, and uncertain.

While there could be a number of causes for this, there are three common and particularly pernicious emotional states that block creativity and life flow. The good news is there are steps you can take for recourse.

Perfectionism: The first and possibly most recognizable condition is perfectionism. Perfectionism is at the root of procrastination, self-doubt, bullish behaviors toward self and others, and self-sabotage. The inner belief is that something must be perfect to be worthy or good enough. Therefore, people wait and beat themselves up (and others) as they measure outputs against impossible standards. While doing one’s best is commendable, it backfires when an intolerant judge of anything less than perfect is at the helm.

Steps for counteracting perfectionism:

  • Stop and try to catch the inner dialogue that might be chiding and harassing you to reach unattainable perfectionistic standards. Ask yourself if the impossible standard or deadline is worth the grief you are experiencing.
  • As an exercise, try drawing a picture or making some sort of craft that is purposely wrong. You can even take a page out of a coloring book and scribble all over it. Notice how you feel and pay attention to any resistance or discomfort that comes up.
  • Take a moment to relax the muscles in your face and body and as you take a few deep breaths, ponder the question: “What if I didn’t have the answers and the solutions came from outside of me?”

Greed: The second, and rather sly, emotional state is greed. Greed has a way of blocking the energy of creativity in the subtlest of ways as many people are unaware they are experiencing it. Aspects of greed include wanting recognition and credit. It is the ego that screams “Look at me!” Greed doesn’t collaborate, share, or play well with others. It’s desperate and will steal ideas and anything it can to feed the ego’s endless hunger. Greed fuels bragging and is the antithesis of creativity, for it already has the answers and doesn’t need to investigate, learn, or grow.

Steps for counteracting greed:

  • Pause to examine your self-worth and self-acceptance. While you may touch upon an area that thinks you are the best, can you find the places within you that think you’re not worthy at all? Is there a voice that says you’re a fraud? Can you try to reassure that part of you? We typically seek outside of ourselves what we refuse to give ourselves.
  • As an exercise, do something nice for someone else without their knowing it was from you. The more you practice anonymous giving, the more you will tap into flow and feel the ethereal spirit giving back to you.
  • Take a moment to relax the muscles in your face and body and as you take a few deep breaths, ponder the question: “What if everything I needed was already inside of me?”

Bitterness: The third emotional state that can result in extreme toxicity to the spirit and creativity is bitterness. Bitterness is the antithesis of gratitude and the seeds of bitterness result in resentment and can lead to hate. Bitterness fosters discontent and contempt for people, places and life circumstances. Creativity cannot flourish in bitterness, as it acts like acid drenching a blossoming rose bush. While people, places and life circumstances can present us with thorns, the grateful spirit understands the thorns and focuses on the beauty and fragrance of the blooms.

Steps for counteracting bitterness:

  • Take time to explore what makes you upset. Be aware that sweeping frustration under the proverbial rug only serves to empower and fuel bitterness and can lead to unexpected emotional outbursts and rage. Bringing hurt and resentments to light can help foster understanding of our own unconscious motives and expectations—which can paradoxically lead to forgiveness, peace, and ultimately a state of gratitude for the lesson the experience provided.
  • As an exercise, write down all the things you dislike and the characteristics of each person, place, situation, and thing that gives you discontent. Then explore if you can find any of those characteristics in yourself. Try to forgive the negative characteristics you discover and then write down all of the positive aspects you can identify with each person, place, situation, and thing you previously described. An example might be a complaint about a neighbor’s barking dog. A potential lesson that could come from it is recognizing the times you have “barked” at someone. The gratitude that can be felt from the experience is the opportunity to reflect and heal the previous experience—while also being grateful for the gift of ears that can hear, along with the insight of intuiting the lesson.
  • Take a moment to relax the muscles in your face and body and as you take a few deep breaths, ponder the questions: “What if this annoyance or injustice is teaching me something? How can I see with eyes of gratitude and transform the energy of bitterness into awareness and compassion?”

Every artist and person struggles with the creative process. The struggle is normal—and possibly the point of life. Within each trial and creative endeavor is the opportunity to grow, heal and create. The greatest creations capture our lessons (a piece of our life) and pass it along to others for their enrichment. In this process, we are reminded we are all connected and part of a greater creative whole.