Editor’s note: This article is the fifth in an A-Z series on issues related to creative blocks. This month we look at how cultivating our emotional intelligence can facilitate creativity.
Being emotionally intelligent—that is, having the ability to identify, manage, and express emotions—has many benefits for one’s psychological health. Self-awareness, self-monitoring, and effective self-expression are key in maintaining our “emotional equilibrium” and managing interpersonal relations. Another advantage of cultivating emotional skills is that it can unleash creative thinking and help overcome creative blocks.
While creativity is more commonly perceived as something found in artists, there are numerous situations in which people from all professional backgrounds may need to exhibit creative thinking. Part of a software engineer’s job is to create something new or to generate new solutions to old problems. A business owner may need to come up with creative ways to increase revenue, satisfy clients, and remain marketable in the midst of a changing market. How can emotional intelligence spark creativity and help someone move from feeling “stuck” to experiencing creative movement?
Let us look at the example of a young entrepreneur who has a brilliant idea but continuously puts off its development. This creative block may have something to do with fear of failure, or it may have something to do with risk-averse personality traits. Another possibility is that the person’s procrastination speaks to his or her hidden assumption that nobody will support the idea; alternatively, it may relate to a recent death in the family which drains the person’s mental energy, leaving him or her unable to focus on professional dreams. Here’s where emotional intelligence comes in: Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, manage, and express emotions. The “blocked” entrepreneur described above would benefit from 1) acquiring an understanding of what is blocking him or her, 2) learning the necessary tool to manage any inhibiting emotions, and 3) finding an appropriate outlet for these emotions so that they don’t occupy his or her creative space.
Emotional intelligence is a tool for the discovery of what exactly is holding one back from fulfilling his or her goals. When we are able to identify how we feel about a situation, we are more capable of managing the feelings in a healthy way. In doing so, we are able to ensure that these feelings are not blocking us from achieving our creative, professional, and life goals. In addition, certain emotional and personality traits seem to allow for the flow of creative thinking and behavior. For example, the ability to display flexible thinking and openness to new experiences, both of which are key features of creativity, are linked to emotional intelligence. A person capable of identifying the emotional impact of an experience, demonstrates curiosity about the nature of this experience, and interprets it in a healthy way may feel more equipped to move past it and to generate novel and useful ideas.
So, how exactly does one become more intelligent emotionally? Here are four tips to get you going:
- Journal: Spend some time writing down your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to day-to-day events. Ask yourself, “What am I telling myself about this situation? What am I feeling?”
- Seek counseling: Weekly, biweekly, or even monthly counseling sessions with a professional can help you identify, manage, and express your feelings.
- Try new things: Being open to new experiences can be a source of novel stimuli, interactions, skills, feelings, and thoughts.
- Talk to others: Don’t be afraid to share your reactions to something and to ask others how they perceived something you did or said. Thoughtful communication can improve emotional intelligence.
Go ahead and work toward cultivating your emotional intelligence. By doing so, you will unlock hidden creative tendencies and work through creative blocks.
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