Ego and Self are good together

Anne Hamrin Simonsson: Representations of micro-life (photo Ellington)

Why does a person spend one and a half hours trying to make 90 people –  artists, filmmakers and businesspeople – understand what creativity is? Why do we need to know? Is there no better way to spend our time than delving in speculations about a phenomenon that’s as difficult to know and define as creativity?

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Bengt Renander did this at Västsvenska Filmdagarna on October 13, 2017. And I liked him for doing it. Bengt is known as a coach for change and development in people’s careers and lives, and creativity is one of his main tools for this. So, as I would think, knowing the fine details of one’s tools is as crucial for those of us, working with art and business, as it is for someone working with jet engines, or digital software.

Instructions for using a new tool have to be accurate and precise. However, Bengt Renander’s descriptions of creativity, clarifying as they were, still lacked in precision at one important point.

One of the most important things to know about creativity is how to activate it. I’ll give you a short description of Bengt’s model of creativity. I’ll then show you where it failed as I see it. This will also indicate a way of activating your creativity – a way that works.

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Wild horses. Marie Juslin (photo Ellington)

In Bengt Renander’s model of creativity, the mind consists of two main and opposing powers. The Ego and the Self. It is important to know what these concepts mean if you want understand how to use them. Renander’s model is accurate so far. The Ego, he says, is the part of your mind that strives for you to be normal. The Ego makes you think about performing and achieving properly, and it wants you to focus on making the right choices. It is full of fears of what other people might think and it is fearful of making mistakes. It fosters guilt about the past and anxiety about the future. When the Ego is in charge, Renander says, it is impossible for you to know what you really want.

In Renander’s model, the Self is the witness that registers what you do and who you are. The Self is complacent and calm. The Self induces you to know what you want, and in crisis, it always wants you to take a step back, distancing yourself from pain and fears, to see what the situation is like. And so far I don’t disagree with Renander. In saying this, he has lots of experience, practice and theory behind his back.

It is when he says that creativity resides in the Self that I disagree. It is only when you put the Self in charge, he says, that you can become who you are. And it is only when you let the Self reign that creativity can flourish.

Whatever Renander says to the contrary, this makes the Ego the negative force, like the evil power, somewhat like the devil. And the Self becomes the god of your mind, the plus power, the real you. Alright! He tries to say that the Ego is not really bad at all, but he never gets to the point where he could say that Ego and Self are two sides, equally important, of what is really you.

When you see that Self and Ego are equally important, you will understand that for creativity to occur, these two sides need to stop competing for power over you and your mind. They both have important qualities and capacities. Ego and Self need to come to peace, and when Ego and Self can work together, that’s when you are truly you, and that’s when creativity comes into being.

New ideas (photo Ellington)

I think it is important to know this. Then you can see that what you need to do is to have this inner conversation between the opposing powers of your mind. That’s your tool that you need to hone and shape by practice again and again. This tool – the inner dialogue – can bridge the gap between Ego and Self and put a lot of energy into play. That’s what is called flow and creativity.

Ellington

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Read Bengt Renander’s books (in Swedish)

Creativity, what is it?

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Wall painting in Hammarkullen, Göteborg (photo Ellington)

Ellington: Arletta, I wonder what is creativity?

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Arletta: To me, it is when I come up with an idea that I never thought of before. Why do you ask?

Ellington: Because I’ve discovered that there are very different kinds of creativity.

Arletta: Yes, of course there are! In addition to the kind I just mentioned, there’s the creativity that takes place when two people really converse with each other and, together, they understand something new that none of them would have come to think of on their own.

Ellington: Right. And then there’s the inspiration to action in the face of danger.

Arletta: But listen! What I’m interested in is artistic creativity. One that makes you see beauty where others see nothing or even ugliness. And then there’s the ability that allows you to express what you see so that others can begin to see it too.

Ellington: But what then do you call the kind of creativity that makes you see how you can sell your visions of beauty?

Arletta: Isn’t that a kind of political knowledge? And social? I mean, feeling and expressing what’s beautiful is one thing. Feeling how you can sell it is another.

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Bengt Renander’s model of creativity (photo Ellington)

Ellington: This is exactly what I thought when I heard Bengt Renander speak about creativity at Västsvenska Filmdagarna last Friday. I’m not sure he cares about that difference.

Arletta: So what’s the difference, then?

Ellington: It’s the difference between artistic and entrepreneurial creativeness.

Arletta: Yes, I know. But how exactly are they different?

Ellington: I thought Gina Kim …

Arletta: You mean Gina Kim, the Virtual Reality film-maker?

Ellington: Yes. There were some things she said that made me see what artistic creativity is about. Like when she said she needed to let the viewer know that the film wasn’t shot in the room where the girl was actually murdered.

Arletta: How did this show her artistic creativity?

Ellington: She needed to be honest with the viewer that this was fiction and not wholly documentary. And at the same time it was important for her not to lose the viewer’s belief that this was real.

Arletta: I understand that she could solve this dilemma only with artistic creativity. But how did she do it?

Elliington: By moving from documentary to fairy-tale. She let the dying woman leave her body and go out in the streets in search of someone to be at her side when she died. And in this Virtual Reality art-work this someone is the viewer.

Arletta: Does she manage to do this? To make the viewer experience being there with the woman when she dies?

Ellington: She does!

Arletta: I understand that what artistic creativity does here is to show what dying was for this woman. And being actually there, VR-wise, creates empathy in the viewer. So tell me now what’s the difference between this and entrepreneurial creativity!

Ellington: Entrepreneurial creativity is when you look at the market and its players to see who will buy your work, you look at the time and money invested in your work to see what’s your price, and you look at the future of your genre and then you decide how to do business with your work.

Arletta: I can see that these are different kinds of creativity. Do we need to care about that difference?

Ellington: Do we?

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Art glass and its creator at VIDA museum, Öland (photo Ellington)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otto von Münchow wrote a clarifying post about creativity on his blog In Flow (Oct 23, 2017)

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