On Creative Power

Petite Fleur, paper collage, 2022

There is no good reason why we should not develop and change until the last day we live.

Karen Horney

I always enjoy reading classic psychology books. They give me a sense of being transported to another time, of experiencing the genesis of ideas that shape how we think even today. Among my favorite theorists from the early days of psychology is Karen Horney, a German psychoanalyst who is credited with being the founder of “feminine psychology”. What I like most about Horney is that, when compared to her cohorts, she was something of a positivist—at least I think so. She believed that, when left to our own devices, we would move naturally toward self-realization, or actualization. That we would work to fulfill our potential, to be more truthful with ourselves, and to forge mutually respectful, authentic relationships with other people. She also believed that we had within us the power to heal ourselves—to do the hard work of introspection and analysis and find our own path to greater psychological freedom.

Man, by his very nature and of his own accord, strives toward self-realization, and that his set of values evolves from such striving. Apparently he cannot, for example, develop his full human potentialities unless he is truthful to himself; unless he is active and productive; unless he relates himself to others in the spirit of mutuality.

Karen Horney

As I read the above passage in Horney’s Neurosis and Human Growth yesterday, I was struck by a thought: it is our creative power that we sacrifice when we become civilized. It is our creative power that we sacrifice for who we think we should be. And it is to creativity that we often instinctively go first when we feel lost, like we no longer know who we are, or like there’s something in our lives—some part of ourselves—that’s missing

We may learn or re-learn how to draw, to paint, to write, or take photographs—all activities that not only rekindle our creative power but that also help us learn how to express ourselves, how to play freely, how to allow the inner self to speak. We may also become more active in our daily lives by starting a workout routine, learning how to cook, leaving an unsatisfying job, or spending more time outdoors—all exercises of creative power and all exercises that help us engage with the world in new and exciting ways.

You Are the Reason, paper collage, 2022

Indeed, the most marvelous thing about creative power, in whichever ways we feel inclined to use it, is that it seems almost boundless. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. And who knows who we might become, what potentialities we might actualize, what inner demons we might dispel as we become more actively aligned with ourselves, take greater responsibility for our own development?

This is a process that, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I am endlessly intrigued with. But it isn’t necessarily an easy one. Indeed, I’d say that when and where it really counts, reclaiming our creative power isn’t easy at all.

What do I mean by that? As we wake up to ourselves and slowly begin to reclaim our creative power, we are faced with the task of looking inward, figuring out what we want, what’s important to us, of sloughing off bad habits, and of tackling those forces within us that control our behavior often without our even realizing it. The latter is what Carl Jung calls our “shadow” selves—and recognizing those forces is probably the most difficult task we’re faced with. 

Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event. 

C. G. Jung

There are surely a multitude of ways to bring the “shadow” to consciousness. Learning to examine our most powerful emotional reactions—knee-jerk style reactions, and especially to things (and people) we don’t like—is one I have found most beneficial. If I find myself faced with someone who really irritates me, or who says or does something I really, really don’t like, I find I am best served if I quash the initial urge to respond knee-jerk style. That is, if my inner emotional response is such that I powerfully want to lash out, it is all the more important that I don’t. Because my inner response is far less about the other person and far more about what is happening inside of me. That is, it’s trying to tell me something. And the more powerful the feeling, the more important the message. To harness my creative power in these circumstances means to utilize the space between stimulus and response. For reflection. For controlled and decisive action. For telling myself what very well may be an extremely uncomfortable truth about myself. 

That’s the hardest part, by the way: being honest with ourselves especially when it’s uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable the truth is, the more imperative it is that we bring it out into the light.

6 responses to “On Creative Power”

  1. That’s such a good idea, to examine my own knee-jerk reactions. I’ve always been subscribed to the thought that my emotions are notifications from the universe, and that I’d do well to look at them as they crop up. Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another intriguing and fascinating post. And what a quote from Jung, Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event. Thank you for these posts, they always give me something to think about. Much appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “the most marvelous thing about creative power, in whichever ways we feel inclined to use it, is that it seems almost boundless. The more we use it, the stronger it gets.” Wow, this line is so true. And I love how your entries are encouraging such wonderful interactions from your readers 🙂
    You do such a terrific job both intellectualizing such meaningful topics as well as making those deep topics feel accessible in our daily lives..well done, again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I always enjoy engaging with readers about meaningful topics. One of the rewards of blogging, to be sure. 🙂 I’m happy you found this post valuable. I very much enjoy reading psychological theory, and I always hope to make the ideas relatable and/or useful. And I am glad those sentiments about creative power resonate with you. It is sometimes nice to remind ourselves of those kinds of truths.


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