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The Ten Commandments That Block Creativity [Apr. 5th, 2005|08:01 pm]
I recently found this paper, that was given to me by my Creative Visualization teacher in the late 1980's.
Even though it was written in the sixties, I still find it very valid.

The Ten Commandments That Block Creativity
by Stanley Krippner

"Our general failure (over the past three thousand years of human history) to notice the inseparability of things, and to be aware of our own basic unity with the external world, is the result of specializing in a particular kind of consciousness. For we have very largely based culture and civilization on concentrated attention, on using the mind as a spotlight rather than a floodlight, and by this means analyzing the world into separate bits. Controlled attention is drummed into us in schools; It is essential to the three R's; It is the foundation of all careful thought and detailed description.... But the price we pay for this vision of the world in vivid detail, bit by bit, is that we lose sight of the relationships and unities between the bits." -Alan Watts

Those aspects of cultural training, which hamper creativity, can be identified by their rules and commandments, sometimes overly stated, sometimes covertly implied. Our society is governed by these:

1. Everything Thou Doest Must Be Useful.
America's emphasis on practicality has produced many worthwhile results, but it has often been carried to extreme with deleterious effects upon children. Toys are now made to be realistic and educational, not to allow a child’s imagination free rein. Poet John Clardi said, "there is no poetry for the practical man"; but, if a person spends all his time in practicality and not in imaginative fantasy, "he must become something less than a man...."

2. Everything that Thou Doest Must Be Successful.
In our achievement-orientated culture, the idea that one should be thoroughly competent and adequate in everything that he does is foremost. Children steeped in tradition will hesitate to display imagination, or ideas, or creative products, for fear of ridicule and censure. These children sacrifice their creative potential to abide by the common standards of success.

3. Everything Thou Doest Must Be Perfect.
A child who is criticized by someone for work he has done is apt to take this as an attack on him, rather than on his work. An adult who attempts in this way to stir a child to further efforts will find that this extra effort is not made and that the child ends up deeming himself a failure.

4. Everyone Thou Knowest Must Like Thee.
The need for universal acceptance is instilled in our children at an early age. This prevents them from forming their own concept of self-respect and instead substitutes a fear of being unloved. Children will forfeit their own creative ability, for the sake of being “one of the gang” and accepted.

5. Thou Shalt Not Prefer Solitude to Togetherness.
The classroom overemphasizes enforced group interaction and group dynamics. Solitude is often feared by adults as a sign of emotional instability. Adults must learn to differentiate between healthy solitude and morbid withdrawal. Some types of creative performance must be done individually, according to the whim of the gifted person, not the rules of society.

6. Remember Concentrated Attention and Keep it Holy.
Western civilization has learned to use a mind as a spotlight rather than as a floodlight. A child learns to analyze bits and pieces, although it is the total picture, learned by a floodlight, which leads to discovery and increases perceptions of relations and details. This floodlight mind is almost totally ignored in American schooling, and it is not just the children but the entire society that suffers from this lack.

7. Thou Shalt Not Diverge From Culturally-Imposed Sex Norms.
Creativity, by its very nature, is a sensitive and independent attribute. But in our culture, sensitivity is considered a feminine trait, and independence a masculine one. A highly creative boy will be considered effeminate and a gifted girl masculine. If parents and teachers teach healthy attitudes they will produce children who are secure enough in their sex roles, and will not forego creative pursuits through fear of being known as a “sissy” or a “tomboy”.

8. Thou Shalt Not Express Excessive Emotional Feeling.
Highly creative people are likely to be highly emotional, because it is access to their feelings that enables them to be imaginative. However, a child will be told to “tone it down” by his teacher if he dares to be overexpressive, or loud. Often, for this reason, the creative have a reputation for rebellion, although it is independence in thought they are showing, not malice.

9. Thou Shalt Not Be Ambiguous.
Americans find it difficult to accept paradoxes, but the creative child is torn by choice. He sees the advantages in any possible alternatives open to him. Unfortunately, adults will tend to try to force the child into hasty decision, rather than to tolerate this tentativeness, until a conclusion can be reached, although these young people when circumstances require it are capable of making the best, wisest, and most responsible decisions.

10. Thou Shalt Not Rock The Cultural Boat.
Children who are too inquisitive, or have a very vivid imagination will be told to “shut up” or they even will be told that people will think they are “crazy”. Often these children will decide that the best thing to so is to leave these thoughts hidden, even from themselves, rather than risk the consequences which they have been told to expect.

These Ten Commandments are implicit rather than explicit, in the American Culture. Nevertheless, they must be broken, circumvented, or compromised before creativity can be effectively stimulated in our homes and schools.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 14th Annual Meeting of the National Association for Gifted Children, Hartford, Conn., May 1967

Dr, Krippner is Senior Research Associate, Community Mental Health center, Dream laboratory, malmonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.