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How can we be creative when we feel stuck in a situation


Sometimes, we feel stuck in a situation. We feel like nothing seems to be working and that we can’t think of solutions for ourselves. Then we feel like any attempt to try and solve the problem is a useless exercise and give it all up, feeling frustrated and hopeless within. I came across an article ‘The Creative Power of Thinking Outside Yourself’. This article reminded me of something I often use with my clients in therapy. According to this article:

“New research suggests we generate more creative ideas for other people than for ourselves”

In therapy, I often find clients feeling stuck, where no alternative seems to be good enough. At such times, helping them accept and work with the problem rather than worry about “why” this happened to them is a first step. Once they are ready and willing to work through the issue, helping them to creatively look at their own situation and hunt for alternatives is most helpful. However, that is exactly the time creativity is at it’s all time low. Then, I try harnessing some creativity by making the situation objective. This is what I try:

‘Imagine it’s not you, but another person who’s feeling stuck’

I often suggest that they should forget about themselves momentarily and imagine that the situation is faced by a distant friend or acquaintance who is asking them for help. What would their possible suggestions be? We even role play this at times, with me playing the part of the distant friend and they playing the role of the advisor. More often than not we have a few alternatives slowly coming up. This only adds proof to what the article is saying, which is, we are indeed more creative when it comes to others.

However, according to me, the story does not end here.

I feel like asking myself..

Why is this true? Why are we not creative but ‘stuck’ when it comes to ourselves?

According to the article it is because:

“When we think about a ‘nameless other’, our minds tend to think more abstractly. In an abstract frame it becomes easier to make creative leaps because we aren’t stuck thinking about concrete details.”

There are a few thoughts I’d like to add to this. In my understanding, we are also ‘freer’ when thinking for the other. We do not have to bear the consequence of the creative (and therefore novel) actions, hence we are lesser concerned about the potential negatives of our choices. Also, we do not have an estimate of another person’s ability to live through the consequences of these creative actions or decisions. For instance, in suggesting creative gift ideas, we do not know their taste, likes etc., so again that gives us a bigger canvas to paint on.

How can we Use This to Help When We are Feeling Stuck?

One way to direct this creativity that we seem to have only for others to ourselves is what we know as “brainstorming”.

Think of a problem situation you’ve been trying to resolve.

Now, come up with as many alternatives as you possibly can to deal with the situation. The important bit is not to pass a judgment on any alternative initially. Eg., do not mentally say “this is viable”, “that is not possible” when brainstorming. Then much later after the creativity has bubbled over, one takes heart firstly seeing that a whole lot of solutions are at least probable if not possible.

Then perhaps you can decide what’s appropriate and what’s not after assessing the obvious consequences.

This could be an effective first step to help you get started when you are feeling stuck. Try it and let us know about your experiences through your comments.

Image Credit: mrsdkrebs

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  1. Sudin..
    That’s true! actually its a mix of things that keep us stuck. We fear consequences… slowly even fear change. Ironically I have seen several times what we have been trying hard to change for months or years, we start to fear it changing… We prefer staying in what I call the “uncomfortable comfort zone” 🙂
    Maybe I should write a post about this!!

  2. Its an interesting article on topic that perhaps many of us experience but may not be able to articulate. The article talks about how to be creative while thinking solutions. Many times one is not stuck for solution but the fear of consequence of choosing a particular solution leads to the status quo being mainatained

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