The Illusion of Individuality: Where Do We Find Creativity and Spontaneity

November 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

The last couple of weeks I have reflected on creativity and identity. I have experienced how frightening and intimidating it can be to be allowed the freedom of individual thinking and think creatively. I find myself so restricted, but also my friends and colleagues around me are. We are used to the easy way out, when it has all been laid out for us and thought through with a plan for how to do it. If we follow the plan its correct, if we don’t we have failed. Independent thinking is not only frightening sometimes but it is also being obstructed as there is no invitation to do so. In one of my first posts Virtual Reality: Defining identity or Loosing It i was discussing how it seems like people in modern societies are claiming their identity but at the same time seeking social security through online social networking. When we shut off our computers and are “left alone” we might think that we lose the freedom and opportunities the web can offer us. But are we really just working against our own claim? Some claim that they feel more freedom or independency when they can shut of their mobile phones and stop answering e-mails for a couple of days, just like Vlad .

Psychoanalyst Fromm has written The Fear of Freedom which was first published in the UK in 1942. What is interesting is that Fromm talks about these exact same issues which can be seen as equally relevant today. He does refer much of his opinions to the extremes Nazism and Fascism which was natural to discuss at that time, however my attention was brought to the essence of his thoughts:

…the insignificance and powerlessness of the individual. This statement challenges the conventional belief that by freeing the individual from all external restraints modern democracy has achieved true individualism. We are proud that we are not subject to any external authority, that we are free to express our thoughts and feelings, and we take it for granted that this freedom almost automatically guarantees our individuality. The right to express our thoughts, however, means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own: freedom from external authority is a lasting gain only if the inner psychological conditions are such that we are able to establish our own individuality. have we achieved that aim, or are we at least approaching it? … we have shown that this powerlessness leads either to the kind of escape that we find in the authoritarian character, or else to a compulsive conforming in the process of which the isolated individual becomes an automaton, loses his self, and yet at the same time consciously conceives of himself as free and subject only to himself. It is important to consider how our culture fosters this tendency to conform, even though there is a space for only a few outstanding examples. The suppression of spontaneous feelings, and thereby the development of genuine individuality, starts very early, as a matter of fact with the earliest training of a child…

….The pathetic superstition prevails that by knowing more and more facts one arrives at knowledge of reality…To be sure, thinking without a knowledge of facts remains empty and fictitious; but “information” alone can be just as much an obstacle to thinking as the lack of it…

…Small children offer another instance of spontaneity. They have an ability to feel and think that which is really theirs; this are expressed in their faces. If one asks what makes for the attraction small children have for most people I believe that, apart from sentimental and conventional reasons, the answer must be that it is this very spontaneity. It appeals profoundly to everyone who is not so dead himself that he has lost the ability to perceive it. As a matter of fact, there is nothing more attractive and convincing than spontaneity whether it os to be found in a child, an artist, or in those individuals who cannot be grouped according to age or profession..Why is spontaneous activity the answer to the problem of freedom?…Spontaneous activity is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness without sacrificing the integrity of his self; for in the spontaneous realization of the self man unites himself a new world – with man, nature, and himself…

(Fromm, E. (2002) The Fear of Freedom, Chapter 7: ‘Freedom and Democracy’. London:Routledge)

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

I am not sure what to call this post Metha Bhavana

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