Skip to main content

How The Union of Opposites Optimizes Creativity

In the June 25, 2014 issue of The Atlantic, journalist Joshua Wolf Shenk explores the union of opposites that was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arguably one of the most creative pairs of the last 50 years. He describes Paul as meticulous, organized, tenacious, a natural diplomat but protective of his ideas, while John was more impulsive, impatient, sometimes rude but flexible and open to others' ideas. “John needed Paul’s attention to detail and persistence,” Shenk cites Cynthia Lennon, John’s first
by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP
wife as saying. “Paul needed John’s anarchic, lateral thinking."
   The union of opposites is one of the central dynamics to the creative process - the union of thought and emotion, or of structure and order that must combine with freedom and experimentation to produce novelty that is useful and meaningful. And partnerships in every area of life seem to benefit from this kind of balance between visionary thinking and the plodding perseverance of bringing it into form, between acceptance of conventional limits and boundary-breaking. 

  "Creativity is a stepwise process in which idea A spurs a new but closely related thought, which promotes another incremental step, and the chain of little mental advances sometimes eventually ends with an innovative idea in a group setting," according to a research study of engineers' creative process that was published in the journal Cognitve Science.  Researcher Christian Schunn concludes that "inspiration creates
some perspiration. The lesson seems to be that if you're not making creative progress,

don't wait for a bolt from the blue, keep talking to your peers, and keep sweating." 

     "'Paul and John seemed to be almost archetypal embodiments of order and disorder," Shenk writes. "The ancient Greeks gave form to these two sides of human nature in Apollo, who stood for the rational and the self-disciplined, and Dionysys, who represented the spontaneous and the emotional. Frienrich Nietzsche proposed that the interaction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian was the foundation of creative work, and modern creativity research has confirmed this insight, revealing the key relationship between breaking and making, challenging and refining, disrupting and organizing."


Jude Treder-Wolff is a consultant/trainer and writer/performer. She is host and creator of (mostly) TRUE THINGS storytelling slam. 


Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 

Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff

   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

IMPROV RULES: Social-Emotional Development From The Classroom To The Consulting Room Using AI

"I think improv helps people become better humans. It makes people listen better. Improv rules are life rules. And so, if a lot more people are taking improv, a lot more people are being thoughtful in their daily life about how they interact with each other....We could say that saying 'yes' is the foundational thing, but really its listening and hearing what the other person is saying. Then building off of that rather than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your thing. That's the hardest thing to learn as an improviser-its to listen. And I think that's one of the hardest things to do as a person." 
Learning To Listen, With The Help of Improv, on
Improvisation can be a seemingly magical experience from the perspective of both improviser and observer. People with little or no actual knowledge about one another, in an empty space, create a world, a relationship, a story with neither script nor director nor defined outcome. It can appea…