For those of you who do not have the time to read the article, the basics of the story are as follows: Roger Ebert is a well known American film critic and screenwriter. About four years ago he had most of his lower jaw removed due to cancer. Complications followed eventually leaving him unable to eat, drink or speak. Through all this he remains a prolific writer with a positive outlook on life.
Since then I’ve been thinking about how Creativity plays a part in our viewpoint of others. How often do we see someone with an awkward gait, a disfigured face or a speech impediment and automatically assume lack of intelligence? When someone tells us that the person we are about to meet has special needs of some sort, do we find ourselves shrinking back inside? Becoming nervous? Or, how often do we see a foreigner struggling with our language and mentally put them in a class below ourselves?
While these are common reactions, with a little Imagination we can work to change them.
The Power of Imagination
In part, Imagination allows you to envision things that have never happened – or at least have never happened to you. It allows you to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and feel the pinches, the blisters, the unique challenges and the perks of being that person. Of course, our Imaginations are only able to tell us so much. We don’t want them to run away and come up with fanciful ideas that are far from the truth. However, we can use our Imagination as a tool to help us empathize and relate to others.
What powers your Imagination? Creativity of course.
Creativity is the force behind Imagination. She/he provides the ability to make mental jumps between what you have actually experienced and what you need to feel in order to empathize or understand that person.
Lets take the example above of speaking to a foreigner who struggles with your language. Perhaps you have experienced the difficulty of learning another language, and watched people speak very slowly and simply (like they are talking to a three-year-old) just so you can understand. Take those experiences, use your Imagination and bridge the gap between yourself and the person struggling with your language.
Look into their eyes and search to find the inner person. Allow your Imagination to play with questions: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Where have you been?’ ‘What have you seen?’ ‘What can you teach me?’ Imagine how the person would speak their own language – their eyes lighting up, their words coming thick and fast, their meaning flowing like clear water. That’s the person they really are. And even if you never get the opportunity to see it in reality, you’ve glimpsed it in your head.
With Imagination Comes Understanding
What about your family and friends? Can a Creative Viewpoint of them make a difference? Yes!
You see, none of us think exactly the same. We have different personality types, different childhood experiences that make us who we are, different opinions on things. Each of us are unique. So, we cannot assume someone sees situations exactly the same as we do. Creativity and Imagination can help us envision other people’s ways of looking at things.
For example, what if one of your family members suffers from depression? While this can be very difficult for the person with depression to cope with, it can also be difficult for a person without depression to understand. Perhaps you’re thinking: Why can’t you just buck up? Thinks aren’t that bad. We all have bad days but you can’t let them get you down. You have to pull yourself together and try harder.
While those thoughts may seem reasonable from the standpoint of a person without depression, things are by no means that simple on the other side. Try imaginining the following.
What if it was always raining in your head? What if everything you saw was just shades of blue and grey? What if every step you took every day was through a thick, oppressive mist and you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face? What if every thought that ran through your head spat on you as it passed?
Everyone has a different description of their depression, nuances that make it personal. But the basics are the same. You can’t just ‘snap out of it.’ It’s a daily struggle. And often, when you think you’re on the mend, that’s when it will hit you in the small of the back and knock you down again.
Although it may be very difficult for you to understand if you have never experienced depression yourself, talking to your friend or family member, listening to what they are saying and creating an equivalent picture in your mind can help you increase your empathy.
No matter whether the person we are learning about is someone with special needs, a foreigner, a friend, a child, an elderly person, a family member, we should create impressions of people with our heart and our hope, rather than our eye which only sees the surface.
Have you experienced a similar Creative Viewpoint recently?