Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Adding Depth Psychology to the Collaboratory

Originally posted on June 5, 2012

There’s a new web network HASTAC—humanities, arts, sciences, technology, “Advanced Collaboratory.” Collaboratory? What a great word! Anyways, I thought I’d join and try to play with some of those folks (maybe you?) I wrote on my blog there: I notice you don’t have a category for depth psychology. While rather far from Freud in most of his ideas—but resonant to the power of the subconscious mind—I do agree with his vision that what he was opening the door to, and in spite of his personal blind spots, was the actuality that the non-rational mind is relevant in all fields of endeavor quite apart from the treatment of major or minor mental illness. (That, in fact, was a moderate deviation along the path of the evolution of consciousness: Freudian approaches and their derivatives have not been effective as a major treatment of significant mental illnesses. They—and even more, various refinements of psychotherapy—are effective to a varying degree in most of the less-than-major mental illnesses, and in a supportive (adjunctive) way even in aiding in the recovery of the major disorders.)

But it is important to consider such subtleties as the need for encouragement; the reality of vulnerability; the susceptibility to shame; the excitement of others’ being creative and playful, too; the power of what Keith Sawyer calls “group genius”; the potential of improvisation and other forms of spontaneity; and so forth.

I’ve recently enjoyed Cathy N. Davidson’s book, Now You See It, and just learned about HASTAC. I know others who might also enjoy this network. I’m seeking others who want to look at the psychological foundations and methods of creativity development, consciousness development, and such. I am aware of a recent synthesis, a powerful combination of methods that can work synergistically with what I gather to be HASTAC’s goals. Having a way to get there amplifies all the noble intentions.

Basically, creativity is moved forward as a plausible goal, a high value. (It can even be described and discussed as a philosophical or even theological goal!) Bergson noted this, but Moreno asked, “How can we turn this into a method? How can we develop practical ways of bringing creativity into our lives?” Happily, he had a number of germs of ideas that I’ve been shaping and refining a bit, the first sentence of this paragraph being a beginning.

Second, while rarely creativity comes as a flash, more often it comes as a core intuition, but needs to be treated like an ore buried in a rock to extract the essential element. You need two components for this that play off of each other: Spontaneity, or the mental attitude that is capable of thinking out of the box, creatively; and Improvisation, the activity that if done right stokes up the spontaneity, and the spontaneity drives the improvisation in a positive feedback loop.

Third, I make these points because “if it’s done right” implies that it can be done wrong. One way of improvising “wrong” is to be too up-tight about possibly being “wrong,”—i.e., making a mistake. So that leads to a sub-principle called “playfulness” which adds then a kind of lubrication to the whole process. For many kids, they can be remarkably persistent in trying and trying again in getting the knack of a skill or a puzzle. They tend not to collapse in defeat too early at the game. The truth is that most of improvisation and creativity involves persistence, patience, trying again, re-thinking. It is only foolish entitlement that demands that creativity will result in “success” quickly.

Fourth, playfulness, in turn, requires a context of safety—some physical (so the laboratory doesn’t explode and you with it)—but mainly social. That is to say, you need to feel okay about people not getting too mad at you, too alienated. Some people have the gumption to go against the grain this way, true; but most folks need encouragement, support, others getting on board, and the raising of group cohesion, the sense of “yes, we can!” morale, etc. Expecting people to be creative without these foundations is heroic, but also for most people unrealistic. Most people need more emotional support, and it’s worthwhile imagining how classes and organizations can be structured so as to promote morale and mutual encouragement rather than hyper-individualism and competitive secret-keeping.

Well, who else is there who wants to think about these things and discuss with me?  Sincerely, Adam Blatner  

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