Creativity comes in many forms: finding new ways to manage a child's hunt by painting a portrait that moves observers or solving a business performance problem. Creative thinking feeds new ideas, new solutions and often greater happiness. While many people associate creativity with intense, unilateral emotional experiences, some research shows that ambiguity can play an important role in creative thinking.
What is ambiguity?
Ambiguity is a state of mixed emotions or contradictory views. An ambitious person may wish to follow multiple actions (Example: wanting to see two movies playing at the same time). Ambiguity could also mean that we see valid points on both sides of an argument. For example, a person may think that abortion is unethical in most cases, but still supports the selection movement.
Ambition can be an unpleasant experience, especially when people feel dubious about matters of deep personal importance. A person may feel controversial about his relationship with an incomplete parent. They may love raising children, but hatred that restricts the freedom of parents.
Deeply controversial people can fight to make decisions. This may feel exhausting, frustrating, and deeply paralyzing. For a strong example, witness to Chidi Anagonye's extreme fatigue decision in the popular TV series Good location.
However, the discomfort of ambiguity can trigger creative thinking and thoughtful decision-making. People who are concerned about this annoyance may want to consider how ambiguity enables them to view issues from multiple perspectives. Ambition can allow them to keep their minds open, reduce the risk of prejudice, and eventually lead to better decisions.
Creativity and Decisions
Researchers believed that only positive emotions fueled creativity. This seems reasonable in the first blush. It makes an intuitive feeling that a person who is happy while writing is more likely to write creatively. But emerging research shows that the intensity of a feeling, not positivity or negativity, is what affects creativity.
A study published in 2013 claims that situations of low emotional tension tend to widen a person's cognitive field. Meanwhile, situations of high emotional tension limit their cognitive focus. In other words, nervousness or fun is more likely to enhance creativity than tremor or ecstasy. Positive and negative feelings seem to affect creativity equally.
Good decisions are not made when you are frustrated and trying to understand it. When you free yourself from the traps of your reasonable mind, you will be able to see and hear other solutions that go beyond what your mind can do.Another study in 2013 found that the existence of a variety of emotional experiences can play an important role in creativity. One feature of the study examined was "emotional engagement" or the degree to which people are open to feeling a series of human emotions. The study that found emotional involvement supports more creative achievement in the arts. This feature provided artistic creativity better than either a person's IQ or their intellectual interest in the subject.
These results show the role of ambivalence in creativity. People who are open to the full field of human emotions are more likely to experience some ambivalence – so envy and happiness for a friend's success, for example. People who are not open to uncomfortable feelings can try to stifle negative emotions.
A 2006 study supports the idea that ambiguity can offer creative fuels. In two laboratory experiments, the researchers found that people experiencing emotional ambiguity were more experienced in recognizing unusual conceptual relationships. This can support creative thinking. The study argues that ambiguity is an unusual emotional experience, a combination of seemingly incompatible emotions. People who feel controversial may be more sensitive to unique associations that do not perceive doubts.
Kim Egel, MA, MFT, a California therapist who often works with creative thinkers, underlines the role of ambivalence in mind-liberating decision-making.
"When you think of making a decision as a creative process, this prospect can help you get out of your logical head and help you make the most of your heart. Good decisions are not made when you are frustrated and trying to understand it When you free yourself from the traps of your reasonable mind, you will be able to see and hear other solutions that go beyond what your mind can think of, "he told GoodTherapy.
Creative thinking is, by definition, different thinking about something. Ambiance allows an individual to integrate multiple perspectives. Reliability may feel comfortable, but it is unlikely to help a person go beyond his preconceptions of producing new solutions.
When doubt is a sign of a bigger problem
Like most emotional states, ambiguity is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. People should instead appreciate ambiguity based on how it affects their lives and general well-being. People who face creative thinking and thoughtful problem solving during ambivalence situations can focus on this as a useful tool. For others, ambiguity prevents stochastic decision-making and undermines relationships.
Ambiguity can be a bigger problem when:
- It becomes a relationship plan. Some people feel controversial about all their relationships. This may be a way to avoid intimacy or to escape responsibility. It can also ruin relationships.
- A person is ambiguous due to chronic mental health issues. For example, people with anxiety may have a problem in making decisions because stress causes them to assess any potential risk.
- Ambiguity causes great discomfort. Some controversial people are not able to make decisions quickly or easily. They can feel pressured to make the "perfect" decision in all circumstances or pay equal respect to every possible opinion on a subject.
- Ambiguity is due to negative social forces. For example, a woman with a high position in a male dominated field may feel controversial about her success because of the fraudster syndrome. Sometimes people feel controversial because they are worried they do not deserve their success or they can not trust their feelings.
Treatment can help with all these issues and much more. A sympathetic therapist can support a person as he learns to understand and struggle with a sense of ambiguity. They can help the individual trust his feelings, make decisions, and leave his fear or self-confidence. Instead of rejecting all ambiguities as negative, the right therapist can help a person gain value from experience.
- Fong, C.T. (2006). The effects of emotional ambivalence on creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 49(5), 1016-1030. Retrieved from https://journals.aom.org/doi/full/10.5465/amj.2006.22798182
- Harmon-Jones, E., Gable, P.A., & Price, T. F. (2013, August 5). Does the negative affect always narrow and positive affects always widen the mind? Taking into account the influence of driving force on the cognitive field. Current trends in psychological science, 22(4), 301-307. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963721413481353
- Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Opening up on experience: A model of four factors and relationships with creative achievement in the arts and sciences. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 47(4), 233-255. Retrieved from https://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Kaufman-2013.pdf
- Kaufman, S. B. (2015, August 12). The feelings that make us more creative. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-emotions-that-make-us-more-creative
- Leslie, J. (2013, June 13). Ambiguity is awful. Slate. Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/2013/06/ambimance-conflicted-feelings-cause-discomfort-and-creativity.html
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