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Often strong emotions can be great sources for inspiration!


Although we value strong positive emotions like joy, love, comfort, belonging, happiness, and success, what about the dark side?

What about anger, confrontation, fear, loss, grief, frustration, and rage?

These negative emotions are uncomfortable for many of us.

BUT, did you know that many highly creative endeavors, unique concepts and new products have resulted from the channeled energies from our negative emotional experiences?

 It turns out that the bad stuff we all experience from time to time can help us in an unexpected way: by activating our creativity!

So why and how does this all work?

Researchers have found that somber moods, melancholy, self-doubt, and anxiety can stimulate areas of the brain associated with analytical thought, problem-solving, and the sustained attention needed to devise novel solutions to problems.

In trying to find relief for those uncomfortable sensations, some of us seek to channel our emotions in a productive, memorable or consuming way. Thus, we learn to use strong negative emotional connections as focal points for relieving our senses of tension through creation. This form of inspiration allows the creative self to channel strong negative emotions into tangible, representative products or abstractions. Often these activities provide us with senses of momentary or permanent relief, or they may herald our progression toward the return of balance and equilibrium.

The challenge becomes how to turn something negative or stressful into a catalyst for something productive rather than destructive or paralyzing.

Using negative emotions to fuel creativity, and turn your internal frustration, grief, despair, or anger into a creative response, product, or action can be immensely cathartic, even emotionally healing.

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a perfect example.

Unimaginable anger, grief and loss were directed into something positive and socially beneficial.

PLEASE don’t go looking for situations that are full of intensely stressful, negative experiences. I am not suggesting that for a second!

Instead, use them as a reminder that we can take deeply negative emotional responses, and deal with them in productive, focused and creative ways.

I have been working with a lot of teams recently that are feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the pandemic. Rather than giving into those feelings, try your utmost to channel them in productive and emotionally healthy ways.

Norwegian Business School professor Geir Kaufmann, Ph.D, has done a boatload of research on the relationship between negative emotions and creativity.

Previously the belief was that negative moods zapped people of their energy and dampened their spirits. But as Kaufmann and many other researchers are finding, our most complex creative ideas may emerge out of dark moods.

Another possibility is that a negative mood leads us into a state of introspection and detailed thinking. It might be that deep internal thought that results in greater creativity.

It’s definitely easier to go the other way with our emotions—to let sadness and anger overtake us instead of using them to embark on creative journeys.

But, that’s not good for our mental health or productivity.

Instead, harness your negative emotions and use them as creative fuel!