Creativity and self. Part One

We have already tried, although in a much abbreviated way, talk about psychology of self and creativity in previous posts, but separately. In this article we intend to review the different conceptions of creativity and especially the relationship between the self and creativity from the different schools of psychology and psychotherapy. But first we must re-open the concept of creativity in a broader way.


Multidisciplinary and multidimensional perspective of creativity

Creativity has traditionally been studied from the Arts and Humanities, but its field of influence has been extended to Sciences, Engineering, Design and Economics and creativity is analyzed as a human and social characteristic from philosophy, sociology, psychology and anthropology, and its application to the teaching / learning and innovation processes is studied.

In a multidisciplinary and integrating vision, creativity is the basic principle of application of intelligence to the improvement of the quality of life of people and, consequently, to the progress of society. Creativity is one of the fundamental strategies of the natural evolution of societies. Without creativity, there is neither evolution nor possible progress.

Current theories and models of creativity (from the end of the last century to the present) accept that the explanation of creativity comes from the structure resulting from the interaction between processes, products, personality and environment:

  1. The creative person
  2. The creative process
  3. The product or creative result
  4. The situation or environment

Some authors add a fifth element: the problem that “triggers” creativity (Urban, 1995), or a different one: the ability to persuade or the ability to convince others of the value of their work (Simonton, 1990).

According to Feldhusen and Goh (1995), a comprehensive assessment of creativity requires multiple measures related to cognitive processes, motivation, interests, attitudes and styles associated with creativity, as well as the results derived from creative processes and the influence of the environmental factors.

We can highlight three theoretical models of creativity:

  1. Componential Theory of Creativity (Amabile, 1996, Urban, 1990, 1995, 2002)
  2. Theory of investment (Sternberg and Lubart, 1993)
  3. Theoretical model of productive thinking (Treffinger, Feldhusen and Isaksen, 1990).

Creativity can be developed, and many methodologies have appeared throughout recent history. A brief compilation of them could be something similar to:

  1. Problem solving program: Purdue Creative Thinking Program, Creative Problem Solving, Productive Thinking Program, CoRT Thinking Program, etc.
  2. Creativity techniques: Analog connections, The Art of Asking, Lateral thinking, Brainstorming, TRIZ, Scamper, etc.
  3. Techniques or methods derived from Psychology and Psychotherapy: Psychoanalysis, Rogerian Therapy, Gestalt, Psychodrama, Transactional Analysis, Neopsychoanalysis, Transpersonal Maps, etc.
  4. New teaching / learning models: H. Gardner, M. Csikszentmihalyi, semiotic model of C.S. Peirce

Creativity seen from Philosophy

We can find different ways of understanding creativity or the creative process:

  1. human production of something from some pre-existing reality, but in such a way that what is produced is not necessarily found in such a reality.
  2. natural production of something from something pre-existing, but without the effect being included in the cause, or without there being a strict need for such an effect.
  3. divine production of something from a pre-existing reality, resulting in an order or a cosmos of previous chaos.
  4. divine production of something from nothing or creatio ex nihilo.

The creativity seen from the Psychology

  • Psychology analyzes creativity as a human capacity, as something that occurs within the subject and manifests itself in its behavior:
    • Cognitive Psychology investigates the cognitive processes involved in the creative act
    • Evolutionary Psychology investigates the different mental capacities that evolution has configured in the human brain (instincts, emotions, intuitions, reasoning and planning capacity)
    • Social Psychology studies the influence that the social context exerts on creative behaviors
  • The Neurosciences try to understand the neural circuits that take part in the creative process
  • Heuristic studies creativity as a generation of information processes

In the study of the characteristics of the creative person, aspects related to cognitive components, basic knowledge, domain of certain subjects, personality traits, interests and motivation are taken as reference.

In Psychology of Creativity it is observed that creativity flourishes when we overcome the mental barriers that prevent us from accessing the key concepts that open the door to the novel and valuable resolution that we are looking for. Many of these barriers are self-imposed; others come from the environment; others are intrinsic to the functioning of the human brain. Knowing what the barriers and deficiencies of the brain will help us avoid them. Knowing more deeply our potentials will help us to be more effective.

Creativity and the self-concept

The capacity for emotional self-regulation, that is, the ability to voluntarily modify our psychological and emotional state, seems to be really important for effective involvement in the creative work process. Through the process of self-regulation we develop a knowledge and a metacognitive experience that places us in a better position to understand and regulate our behavior in the face of creative production or the identification of new products.

This self-regulation is generated from the interaction between the processes of self-monitoring, self-evaluation and self-reinforcement.

  • Self-monitoring is the process of paying deliberate attention to the behavior we show.
  • Self-evaluation includes the process of discriminating the differences between the information obtained in the process of paying attention and the expectations, own or social, regarding that behavior (Yau, 1991).
  • The Self-reinforcement process is the main motivational component that allows us to adjust our behavior to the external situations that we face. Without this motivational component, the difficulties that undoubtedly appear during the execution of any type of task would be perceived as “insurmountable walls” that would diminish our creative capacity (Pesut, 1990).
  • Metacognition, that is, our ability to understand and be aware of our own thoughts, to evaluate them and to regulate the action and effort made, are significantly correlated with our creative potential. (Feldhusen, 1995, Mokhtari and Reichard, 2002, Pesut, 1990).


Interpretation of creativity by techniques and methods derived from Psychology and Psychotherapy:

  1. Psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud)
  2. Rogerian therapy (Carl Rogers)
  3. Gestalt therapy (various authors)
  4. Psychodrama (Jacob Levy Moreno and others)
  5. Alfred Adler
  6. Horward Gardner
  7. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  8. Charles Sanders Peirce
  9. Jiddu Krishnamurti


1. Creativity according to Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis (…) shows us the influence of the unconscious on works of art, but always emphasizing that what psychoanalysis points out and explains is only an aspect – although important – of the genesis of the creations of the spirit “(Freud, 1981).

For Sigmund Freud “Creativity originates in an unconscious conflict”. He said that the individual protects himself from his instincts and the outside world because they do not provide him with the satisfaction of his instincts, retiring to internal psychic processes. Thanks to the internal world of the individual a new reality is created product of his creativity.

Freud, in “Civilization and Its Discontents” (1930) states that the human being never finds exactly what he is looking for; Between the pleasure sought and the pleasure found, there is always a distance, and there lies the causes of the malaise in the culture. Freud argues that, in the face of discomfort, there are different possible paths: one is the disease, the symptom, addictions and even religion are ways of addressing the malaise in the culture. But, Freud reassures us, by telling us that there are other possible ways for humanity: creativity with others, work with others.

Freud views creative energy as a derivation of sublimated infantile sexuality, and that creative expression results from the reduction of tension. These processes take place in the unconscious, where creative solutions lie and neurotic solutions to conflicts.

Freud tells us about the sublimation in relation to the creative work. (According to Erika Landau, the basis of all psychoanalytic theories about creativity is the concept of sublimation). Sublimation for Freud is a process that consists in the deviation of instinctive sexual forces (which implies energy, economic and also dynamic elements), and its orientation toward a non-sexual purpose, but for example to cultural purposes and among them the creation artistic.

Following Freud, Helene Deutsch analyzes the creative process under the pressure of instinctual impulses, and under the emerging threat of the neurotic solution, the unconscious defense induces the creation of a work of art.

Kris (1952) affirms that creativity in general is only possible thanks to the regression of the ego.

Rose (1963) distinguishes between creative and regressive imagination. The creative represents an expansion of the boundaries of the self, which helps by maintaining its balance between the corporeal self and the identity of the self in the social dimension.

2. Creativity according to Rogeriana therapy

Carl Rogers, exponent of Humanistic Psychology states that “creativity is an emergency in action of a new relational product, manifesting on the one hand the uniqueness of the individual and on the other the materials, facts, people or circumstances of his life”.

Rogers considers that the capital condition of creativity is that the individual perceives his surroundings without prejudice. Thus, creativity is the product of new relationships that arise from the uniqueness of the individual and the circumstances, from the atmosphere that makes possible the freedom and psychological security where the individual can start up their potential and realize.

Rogers supports the thesis of self-realization motivated by the need of an individual to express and activate all their abilities. Emphasizes the openness to experiences, the ability to respond to the environment, internal evaluation and the ability to manipulate elements and concepts. For the author the person is creative when he realizes his potential as a human being.

In his work “Freedom and creativity in education”, he advocates precisely to unlock the “I” with the liberation of the self in the individual.
For Rogers the only educated man is the man who has learned how to learn, how to adapt and how to change.

(To be continued)


If you want to know a little bit more …


Feldhusen, J.F. y Goh, B.E. (1995). Assessing and Accesing Creativity: An Integrative Review of Theory, Research, and Development. Creativity Research Journal, 8(3).

Sternberg, R.J. y Lubart, T.I. (1993). Creative Giftedness: A Multivariate Investment Approach. Gifted Child Quarterly, 37(1).

Treffinger, D.J.; Feldhusen, J.F. y Isaksen, S.G. (1990). Organization and Structure of Productive Thinking. Creative Learning Today, 4(2), pp. 6–8.

Amabile, T. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to the social psychology of creativity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Urban, K. K. (2002). The general and special case: Development and nurturing of creativity. Keynote address at the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness, Bangkok, August 12-16, 2002.

Urban, K.K. (1991). On the development of creativity in children. Creativity Research Journal, 4 (2), 177-191.

Urban, K.K. (1995). Different Models in Describing, Exploring, Explaining and Nurturing Creativity in Society. European Journal for High Ability, 6, pp. 143–159.

Simonton, D.K. (1990). History, Chemistry, Psychology, and Genius: An intellectual Autobiography of Historiometry. En: Runco, M.A. y Albert, R.S. (Eds.). Theories of Creativity. Newbury Park, CA:  Sage, pp. 92–115.

Munro, J. (2005?) Insights into the creativity process: The components of creativity.

Yau, C. (1991). An Essential Interrelationship: Healthy Self-Esteem And Productive Creativity. Journal Of Creative Behavior, V. 25, Nº 2, Second Quarter.

Pesut, D. (1990). Toward a new definition of creativity. Nurse Educator,10(1), 5.

Feldhusen, J.F. (1995). A knowledge base, metacognitive skills, and personality factors. Journal of Creative Behavior, 29(4), 255-268

Mokhtari, K. & Reichard, C.A. (2002). Assessing students’metacognitive awareness of reading strategies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(2), 249-259.

Sanz de Acedo, M.L. y Sanz de Acedo, M.T. (2013) How creative potential is related to metacognition. European Journal of Education and Psychology 2013, Vol. 6, Nº 2 (Págs. 69-81)

Guilera, Ll. (2011) Anatomía de la creatividad. FUNDIT – Escola Superior de Disseny ESDi

Karwowski, M. (2015) Development of the Creative Self-Concept. Creativity. Theories – Research – Applications Vol. 2, Issue 2, 2015

Fernández, R. y Peralta, F. (1998) Estudio de tres modelos de creatividad: criterios para la identificación de la producción creativa.  FAISCA. Revista de Altas Capacidades. Vol 6 (1998).

Weixlberger, C. (2013) La Creatividad desde el punto de vista del psicoanálisis. RUTA: Revista Universitària de Treballs Acadèmics, Nº. 5, 2013.

Landau, E. (2003) El valor de ser superdotado. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte,

Consejería de Educación de la Comunidad de Madrid, Fundación CEIM.

Rogers, C. y Freiberg, H.J. (1996) Libertad y creatividad en la educación. Paidós. 1996.


Other websites of interest in the subject: