Creativity “facilitates inner resources like flexibility, openness, compassion and a sense of perspective,” said Joy Malek, MS, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of SoulFull, where she offers psychotherapy, coaching and creative workshops. This is why using creativity can be so illuminating.
Creativity can help us gain clarity about important moments or situations in our lives. It can help us explore our emotions and our dreams — both of which are often too murky to make sense of. And yet both can be rich sources of insight.
Below, Malek shared several valuable creative techniques for illuminating our emotions and dreams and connecting to our inner wisdom.
Exploring Our Emotions
Sometimes, it’s hard to get a handle on what we’re feeling. It’s rare that we only feel one emotion about one situation. Usually, we’re flooded with several emotions — some of which are contradictory. We might feel both devastated and relieved. We might feel both apprehensive and excited.
In this exercise Malek suggested folding a piece of paper down the middle. On one half, draw, collage or write what you’re feeling about a specific situation.
Next check in with yourself to see what other feelings are present. On the other half of the page, give voice to this different feeling.
Then think of what image or word honors or synthesizes both sides. Put this image or word in the center, on the fold of your page. This represents “the coming together of opposites.”
Malek shared this example: You’re really anxious about an upcoming project. On one side of the page, you create art that illustrates your insecurities and fear. On the other side, you depict a flutter of excitement, a sense that the project is challenging and will help you grow.
After reflecting on what connects anxiety and excitement, you come up with the word “opportunity.” It seems to “hold a sense of apprehension as well as positive possibility,” she said. You decide to use an image of a mountain climber. It speaks to challenging yourself in the midst of uncertainty, she said.
Exploring Our Dreams
Dreams can be revelatory when we spend time with them in our imagination, Malek said. A dream image that’s neutral or even off-putting can bring insight, she said.
She suggested drawing, sculpting or journaling about our dreams. For instance we might ask: “Where is the wisdom? Where is the healing?”
Malek shared this example of gaining clarity from a dream:
You might have a dream about being stuck high above the ground in a tree, with seemingly no way to get down. In imagination, feel into the experience of being stuck in that precarious position. Is this a familiar feeling? Is there any situation in your life that is generating those same feelings?
Play with the dream in your imagination. How do you see yourself getting down from the tree? Do you call for help? Do you build a ladder? Is there wisdom in staying put, and listening to what the feelings might be teaching you? Now, does your imagined response to the dream hold any insight about how to handle current situations in your life?
Following Our Creative Impulses
We also can gain clarity and insight by acknowledging and following our impulses. According to Malek, “We tend to dismiss a lot of creative thoughts as ‘tangential’ or ‘irrelevant.’ But it’s often our intuition knocking, asking to take the lead in powerful and healing ways.”
For instance, you’re working on a collage. You have an idea of what you want to create. As you’re fulfilling your vision, a thought pops into your head about wanting to rip up the picture. You follow that impulse, and tear it up. Then you follow your intuition on how to reassemble it. The finished product doesn’t look like what you envisioned. But “it turns out that the collage is actually about feeling ‘pulled apart,’ and finding the ability to put yourself back together,” Malek said.
When we play with creative techniques like the above, we discover insights about ourselves we might’ve not otherwise discovered. Using our imagination gives us access to an abyss of thoughts, questions, answers, feelings, ideas.
It opens up an entire world of you.