How fear zaps your creativity
You're all alone, walking down a dark alley. Suddenly, a masked person jumps out from behind a garbage dumpster.
Do you take time to pause and think about this person's possible intentions?
Instead, a chemical reaction begins in your body, shooting cortisol and adrenaline through your bloodstream. You're now ready to do one of three things:
Fight, flee, or freeze.
Your body has shifted your energy toward those three reactionary options as a natural, evolutionary response to keep you alive.
It's a vital response. Unfortunately, many of us remain in that stressed, flight, flight, or freeze state on a daily basis.
One reason is fear. Fear generated by the media. Fear generated by politicians. Fear generated by societal expectations about money, success, and hustle. Fear generated by our bosses. Fear generated by our sales goals.
Fear generated by attachment to all the material things that are threatened by the governmental and economic response to COVID.
All that fear keeps that survival mechanism alive in our bodies. That constant level of stress isn't healthy for our bodies.
It also zaps our creativity.
When we enter that fear state, we shift off our conscious minds and revert to our subconscious minds. The former is where our creativity lies; the latter is where our programming is housed.
This is why boxers and competitive fighters practice day after day. They instill physical and mental programming, so that they don't have to get creative in the ring.
When we're in a constant state of fear at work or at home, we're also less likely to be creative, and make reactionary decisions based on survival, instead of creative decisions that might actually make us more fulfilled.
Here's an interesting interview with Dr. Wendy Suzuki, NYU Neuroscientist, professor and author of Healthy Brain Happy Life, in which she discusses fear's role in reducing our abundance mindsets and creativity:
We have a lot of knowledge about what happens when we are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. And those examples come from syndromes like PTSD, experiencing terrible situations for a long period of time.
Here we come to a concept of brain plasticity, which basically means that what you’re experiencing can change your brain. It can make your brain grow so that it’s nice and fluffy and strong or it can shrink it down.
So, guess what PTSD does? It can shrink the size of your temporal lobe and increase the size of the amygdala structure that is processing fear information. It also shrinks the size of a key brain area that I’ve studied for the last 25 years called the hippocampus, which is critical for long-term memory.
The hippocampus has been more recently implicated in creativity and imagination. Because what imagination is, is taking those things you have in your memory and putting them together in a new way.
So just in the way that the hippocampus allows us to think about the past and memory, it also allows us to imagine the future. Long-term stress is literally killing the cells in your hippocampus that contribute to the deterioration of your memory. But it’s also zapping your creativity.
Making decisions out of a state of fear might increase your chances of survival, but it's a sure-fire way to ensure you're not allowing your creativity to flow.
In doing so, you're preventing yourself from unleashing your most potent superpower.