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Emotional Intelligence To Be Creative – Part 3

Joss Whedon

What emotions and thinking may hold us back from being more creative?

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence article “Creativity, Emotions and the Arts” quoted in Part 2 talks about students holding back from being creative out of concerns “that people might think original ideas are silly” – but this kind of retreating from creative work can apply to us at any age.

An example might be Joss Whedon – one of my favorite artists, who has credits as actor, writer, producer and director of movies and TV shows including Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. etc etc.

He received the third annual 2009 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard. One of his comments about being a creator:

“If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea I’ve realized, I have ten I sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”

From my article Multitalented Creative People.

Enabling artists to make art

Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, specializing in creative artist issues, trauma recovery and other concerns.

Cheryl AruttShe comments: “I have always believed that the best way to protect the art is to protect the artist. These skills need not be feared as antithetical to art.

“Learning how to regulate internal states, how and when to use self-soothing techniques, and how to know when we are actually safe — these are key to emotional well-being for anyone, but for artists, they are especially useful.”

Accessing strong emotions safely

“Rather than shutting down more intense experiences, these emotional ‘muscles’ and strategies provide the breadcrumb trail to find our way back from intense states, allowing us to visit certain states of mind for creative purposes (or to learn about ourselves), without finding ourselves trapped there.”

Read more and see her TEDx video “That Good Feeling of Control” (and link to her site) in her article Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist.


Inside Out and Emotional Health

The animated movie “Inside Out” tells the story of a young girl, Riley, who has to leave her Midwest life behind when her family moves to San Francisco.

Characters depict her primary emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – and the inner conflicts they cause her, as well as her parents, who have their own inner conflicts to deal with.

The movie was named “Best Animated Feature” at the 2016 Oscars.

In her review for Counseling Today magazine, Erin Shifflett writes:

“A person’s mind is a mysterious labyrinth of thoughts, feelings, memories, ideas and compulsions; the mind of a young girl is likely even more complex.

“Disney-Pixar’s latest animated offering, Inside Out, bravely delves into that intricate world in a way that effectively captures the nuances of the way people feel and think—and maybe helps them understand why they act the way they do sometimes.

“Developed with the guidance of University of California, Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, the film tells the tale of Riley, an 11-year old whose family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco.

“Through the move, Riley loses her friends and beloved hockey team and is forced to transition to a place where pizza is served with broccoli as a topping and the cool girls in school wear eye shadow, much to Riley’s surprise.”

Shifflett describes the role of the “five emotions operating at Headquarters (Riley’s brain): Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger. …

“The importance of Sadness and, indeed, the other less pleasant emotions such as Fear, Disgust and Anger, is highlighted multiple times throughout the film when their roles and functions are explained.”

From Emotion, personified: What “Inside Out” gets right about mental health By Erin Shifflett June 25, 2015.

Producer and director Pete Docter said in his acceptance speech:

“This film was really born from watching our kids grow up, which is not easy!

“Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering – there are days you’re going to feel sad. You’re going to feel angry. You’re going to feel scared. That’s nothing you can choose.

“But you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It will make a world of difference.”

Read more and see links etc in article: Inside Out and Emotional Health.


Shifting our emotions using creative expression

Along with the other topics of this article (emotional intelligence and managing emotional health), art therapy is something that has been of interest to me for decades, and I have often written posts quoting psychologists and artists.

This current piece, then, is only a sample of what you might find on my multiple sites.

Jane Piirto, Ph.D. comments about her experience writing:

My Teeming Brain“As I wrote it I felt at peace and relieved. The integration of these two selves, my efficient career-woman self, and my mystical poetic self, took many years, and now I never speak or present myself without both of me showing.

“That is why I try to read a poem every time.     This example from my own life as an artist illustrates the use of metaphor in healing, and in creation.

“A metaphor stands for something else. It is symbolic. An image is a visual or aural representation that is metaphoric. Often these are coded. A code is a language that transmits a message.

“Creating metaphors and images that may be coded in ways the makers don’t even realize, permits the emotion to be changed, to be released through a safe and therapeutic means.”

From her article Metaphor and Image in Counseling the Talented.

The image is from her book My Teeming Brain: Understanding Creative Writers.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy approach for the treatment of trauma and stress.

I have experienced benefits from EMDR – greatly reducing the emotional “charge” on some difficult memories from my childhood.

See my article where I talk briefly about this, and which includes comments by Cheryl Arutt, therapist Lisa Erickson and others: Dealing with trauma and abuse to live a bigger, more creative life.

EFT / Tapping

Like EMDR, Tapping or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), is another body-oriented approach to managing emotional reactions.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe is one of many therapists enthusiastic about the value of Tapping, and she uses a variety of approaches with her clients, including emotionally focused therapy, process experiential psychotherapy, energy psychology, EMDR, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Radcliffe also has used Holosync audio CDs for years to benefit herself and her clients, and says: “I make it as a suggestion to clients who are experiencing stress, who are very anxious, or just need a fresh reworking of the brain.”

See my post, which includes a brief audio interview: Psychotherapist Sarah Chana Radcliffe on technologies for growth.

How does Tapping work?

tapping pointsIn her article Treating the unspeakable: How art therapy and emotional freedom technique can help patients when words alone fail, Lisa Falls, (MFA, MPS, ATR-BC, Art Therapy Instructor, UC San Diego Extension) explains:

“EFT consists of the simple stimulation of particular acupressure points. This process, also known as Tapping or Meridian Therapy, is combined with specific language that addresses the issues of concern.

“EFT focuses on the profound effects of the body’s subtle energies using the theory that the cause of all negative emotions are disruptions in the body’s energy system. …

David Feinstein, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says that this retrains parts of the brain, including the limbic system, and can actually alter the neural pathways, resulting in the elimination of conditioned fear pathways in the amygdala…”

The image is from The Tapping Solution site which includes free resources.


Emotional Health Resources page

Emotional Health Resources

Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.


Emotional Intelligence To Be Creative – Part 3

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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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Emotional Intelligence To Be Creative – Part 3. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Mar 2016
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