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Creativity is an Ebb and Flow Process

“Sometimes, we place too rigid or high expectations on ourselves. For instance, some creative professionals have this idea that success means creativity would come easy for them, when in reality, creativity is an ebb and flow process.”

Creativity coach Lisa Riley – from post Self-care and Creative Achievement.

In her book The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen writes that author and Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes “illuminates creativity’s natural cycles” in her book The Creative Fire, and “describes the creative process, which is analogous to the fulfillment of potential, as a ‘loss and restoration’ pattern of slowing down, descent, underground gathering, quickening, and a burst of intensity.

“This ebb and flow is the reality of the creative life and that we must expect and accept.”

For many creative and gifted people, who place demanding expectations on themselves, and operate with high sensitivity, intensity and imaginational excitability, it may be a real challenge to allow this slowing and turning inward.

[For more about excitability, see my post Channeling Intensity Through Creative Expression, among others.]

Jacobsen continues, “Nonetheless, we must also understand the unnatural forces that impede the creative process and keep the resources of the true self out of reach. Although creative energy can never be extinguished entirely, sometimes, as Estes explains, due to such things as internalized complexes or fear to commit, the creative incubation period is interrupted or prolonged.”

She adds, “Destructive complexes are often permitted to grow to a size where they can attack the soul and hold it hostage. These complexes are often the result of being denigrated and devalued.”

Not being very clear about this concept, I looked up the Wikipedia page “Complex (psychology)” which explains, ‘Early in Jung’s career, he developed the concept of the “complex”…meaning a personal unconscious, core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes organized around a common theme.’

Jacobsen’s reference to being denigrated and devalued reminds me of ideas of therapist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD, who thinks “Criticism is a real crippler…you may not be aware just how powerful a negative force criticism can be, how much damage it can do to your self-confidence, or how seriously it can deflect you from your path.”

From post: Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity.

Maybe you feel held back in developing and expressing your creativity by some of these dynamics; I know I have been.


The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD.

The Gifted Adult by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD.


Creativity is an Ebb and Flow Process

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Creativity is an Ebb and Flow Process. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Aug 2012
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