MINDRAMP PODCAST - FLOURISH AS YOU AGE

FLOURISH - Creative Use of Our Multiple Minds

May 24, 2024 Michael C. Patterson Season 4 Episode 38
FLOURISH - Creative Use of Our Multiple Minds
MINDRAMP PODCAST - FLOURISH AS YOU AGE
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MINDRAMP PODCAST - FLOURISH AS YOU AGE
FLOURISH - Creative Use of Our Multiple Minds
May 24, 2024 Season 4 Episode 38
Michael C. Patterson

In this episode I focus on two aspects of creativity, making the points that creativity is a dynamic dance between novelty and routing and that creativity is a multi-phased process that requires the use of multiple mindsets and divergent cognitive functions. 

I discuss the hemisphere hypothesis and suggest that we can keep our aging minds nimble and  adaptive if we find a collaborative balance between our experiential mind and our conceptual mind. We fall prey to limiting ageist stereotypes, however, when we allow the conceptual mind to dominate and get caught up in restrictive ideas  and stultifying routinesl 

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In this episode I focus on two aspects of creativity, making the points that creativity is a dynamic dance between novelty and routing and that creativity is a multi-phased process that requires the use of multiple mindsets and divergent cognitive functions. 

I discuss the hemisphere hypothesis and suggest that we can keep our aging minds nimble and  adaptive if we find a collaborative balance between our experiential mind and our conceptual mind. We fall prey to limiting ageist stereotypes, however, when we allow the conceptual mind to dominate and get caught up in restrictive ideas  and stultifying routinesl 

Support the Show.

Support our work to promote creative aging. Subscribe to the MINDRAMP Podcast.

CREATIVE UE OF OUR MULTIPLE MINDS

 Hi. Welcome back to the Flourish as You Age podcast where we have been trying to figure out how to manage our unruly minds so that we can flourish rather than flounder as we age. I’m Michael C. Patterson.

In this episode I want to focus on two aspects of creativity and discuss how they interact with the hemisphere hypothesis. I want to suggest that creativity is a dynamic interplay between novelty and routine. And, I want to make the point that creativity is a process that has multiple stages and, therefore, uses multiple modes of thinking. 

Let’s start with the Hemisphere Hypothesis, as proposed by scholar Iain McGilchrist in his book The Master & His Emissary. The simple hypothesis, based on a wealth of accumulated research,  is that the two hemispheres of the human brain have two very different ways of processing reality. They offer us two distinct types of awareness. I think of it as having two minds: an experiential mind (the RH) and a conceptual mind (the LH). Where the RH grounds us in direct sensory experiences, the LH invites us into a virtual world of symbols, concepts and ideas. In very broad terms, the RH deals well with novelty and change, while the LH is more comfortable with routines and stability

 These two modes of thinking give the human brain a great deal of power and flexibility. We are faced with a constantly changing world and our two hemispheres deal with these changes in different ways. The RH tries to flow with the change; the LH tries to stabilize it. RH takes in what is happening and figures out how to adapt and interact successfully with the new reality. It is okay with uncertainty, it just flows with the flow. 

The LH, on the other hand, wants to bring order and stability to the chaos of life, so it finds patterns, sorts things into categories and, generally tried to determine the rules of the game. The LH wants to simplify things by standardizing behavioral responses, so it establish rules, regulations and routines. 

When the two hemispheres are working together they balance each other out,  they compliment each other and are highly creative. The rules and routines of the LH are useful and practical for a time, but they tend to be overly rigid and inflexible. Rules and regulations are created for specific circumstances and when those circumstances change - as they always do - the must be modified, which is the role of the RH.  

Creative thinking is adaptive. It is a dynamic give and take between change and stability, between novelty and routine. We get into a creative flow, when we continually find novel ways to update and amplify existing routines or when we generate new routines to replace obsolete ones.  

When we experience the instability of change and newness, we respond by finding new patterns and establishing new routines that work with the new circumstances. But life continues to change and the new routines become stale or obsolete and the process starts again.  A creative and adaptive behavior advances in a constant spiral of modification, evolution and development. 

This spiral of creative development is interrupted or halted when we get stuck using old routines, When we fail to recognize that our circumstances have changed and the old rituals and habits no longer serve us well. From the hemispheric perspective we lose our creative flow when the LH, our conceptual mind, dominates and refuses to allow the RH, our experiential mind, to bring it back into the flow of real experience.  

Iain McGilchrist thinks this just what has happened to the modern mind. We live in virtual worlds that make sense only in terns of their own rules and regulations. These echo chambers are dismissive of other points of view and refuse to accept that life has changed. They sacrifice their potential for creative growth on the alter of stability and certainty.  

 The second point I want to make about creativity and the hemisphere hypothesis is that both must be understood as processes, active, changing events that emerge over time. 

It is very common, even for so-called experts, to think of creativity as a single event, the Aha! Moment, that seemingly magical moment of insight and understanding. “By George, I’ve got it!” “Eureka!”  It is, indeed, a magical moment. Books and articles on creativity are filled with examples of scientific and artistic solutions that came to people while in the shower, on stroll, or in a dream. When what was a confused jumble of thoughts suddenly comes together in a moment of insight, we feel as though we we have been touched by the muse of inspiration or tapped into some current of spiritual wisdom.

This leads to the mistaken belief that we can be creative without doing the work, without learning the skills, without putting in the time and effort, without progressing through the steps. Without learning to manage our mental states and be intuitive, random and open-minded in some phases and linear and logical in others.  Creativity requires no magic;. But we do need to understand how our mind works and we need to learn how to activate certain mental states when they are helpful and inhibit them when they get in the way.  

I divide the creative process into four main phases each of which has two or three sub-stages within them. For simplicity, I’ll stick with the four main phases. There is an Initiation Phase that gets us going and involves a lot of the initial research and skill-building. Only then do we move into the Idea Generation phase. This is when we play with the information allow our ideas to incubate. If we are lucky, the incubation leads to the insight of an Aha! Moment. If not, we can generate ideas through logic and deduction. Then, once we have a fertile idea, we need to give it a try to see if it works, so the final two phases of the creative process are the Implementation phase and the Evaluation or Verification phase. 

The point is that both aspects of the creative process take advantage of the divergent skills of the two hemispheres of our brain, using the varied skills of both the experiential mind and the conceptual mind. Creative thinking is an iterative process that never really ends. Like the endless cycles of birth, death and new life, the conclusion of one creative cycle gives rise to a new creative challenge and a new multi-phase process of discovery and growth. Creative thinking forever spirals the mind forward towards greater development and mastery.  

To flourish we need to keep our minds as active and creative as they can be. We are forever facing new challenges that require us to be as nimble and adaptive as possible. We lose our ability to think creatively when we grasp onto our existing modes of thought and become myopic and closed-minded. We interrupt the flow of the creative process when we get stuck in tired rituals and routines; when we allow our conceptual mind to take over and lose contact with our more intuitive experiential mind.  

We lose mental fluidity when we embrace destructive ageist concepts. Ageist stereotypes characterize old people as being stodgy and stuck in their ways. And, of course, this is true in some cases. But many a closed-minded old person probably started out as a stodgy and closed-minded young person. But change is always possible. Our brains remain plastic and malleable throughout our life. We can change the structure of our brains, and the function of our minds, by being mindful of what gets our attention, mindful about the kind of ideas we cultivate, the kind of feelings we nurture and the type of experiences we seek. 

The wisdom that we like to associate with advanced age probably involves the ability to recognize our own strengths and shortcomings and the courage to shun mental states that cause pain and strife and instead to cultivate thoughts and feelings that contribute to happiness and joy.

To summarize. I see creativity as a dynamic process of multiple stages that dances between novelty and routine. It requires the collaboration of both hemispheres,  making full use of our experiential minded our conceptual mind. It is a self perpetuating process that propels us into a constant spiral of growth and development.


Thanks for joining me. I hope some of these ideas about creativity have some practical utility in your life. Hopefully we can all use the creative capacity of our multiple minds to cultivate wellbeing and to flourish as we age. 
















Introduction
The Hemisphere Hypothesis
Novelty & Routine
Getting Stuck in Obsolete Routines
Creativity is a Multi-Phased Process
Keeping Our Minds Nimble and Adaptive
Aging Brains are Still Plastic
Summary