Creativity vs. Obedience / Conformity

I’m not sure if creativity and obedience / conformity are mutually exclusive but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they are. I know that creativity is a natural thing for human beings. Anyone who has children or watched the ways they go about getting what they want KNOWS that they’ll pull out all the stops and come-up with new moves over and over again until they get what they want. Over time they’ll develop a strategy based on what worked before and they’ll adjust it when new behaviors prove fruitful.

It is amazing to witness because there is something special about seeing brand new actions being created out of a basic human want or need and the ability to produce novel behavior.

Much less amazing is being witness to the cultivation of obedience / conformity. It’s life draining and it stifles the progress of young people towards self determination and self expression. I can understand that there is a time and place for these things, but that time isn’t always and the place isn’t everywhere. Certain behaviors are needed for people to coexist and to work together productively and in harmony. Interrupting other peoples conversations for non emergency things isn’t helpful, ignoring well established social conventions that make possible individual liberty should be stopped quickly and doing dangerous or harmful things cannot be allowed to continue. But there is very little else that falls into the MUST BE ELIMINATED category.

Sure, it’s a lot easier for me, not having children, to righteously say that anything that culls the creativity of a human being is bad but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. If you are a parent, try saying each of these two sentences out loud to see which one feels better or is true.

“I want my child to be self expressed, to uncover and maximize their talents and become whatever they want to be.”

“I want my child to be the best cog in the machine that they can be.”

This is not a scientific test, it’s emotionally manipulating because it leads you to say the answer I want you to say. But there is a very good chance that, as a parent, you’d want your child or children to have the almost complete freedom to choose the life they want.

So right now consider the possibility that creativity and obedience / conformity cannot exist together. Imagine what happens when a child’s spontaneous behavior is unnecessary chastised and ridiculed in an attempt to stop, change or completely eliminate it. Now consider that most spontaneous behavior of children is their form of play and completely harmless. Most of it will burn itself out after a short period of time anyway so they don’t need to conform to any notion other people have for them. What difference does it make if a child is singing or humming quietly at the dinner table? What harm is there in repeating everything you say? It can be annoying as hell but that is it; if you make a game out of it, it can be a very effective teaching tool and very funny when they repeat preciously scientific things.

In the coaching, personal development and self-help fields there is an idea that coaches and mentors offer people increased choices, information about the outcomes of behaviors and rewards for good behaviors of the people they work with. Bad behaviors are not punished and very little attention is paid to them. The reason we approach people like this is because punishing behaviors decreases choices and tends to make people defensive; defensive people tend to close off and this hinders progress as it eliminates creativity and produces fight, flee, or freeze responses.

It’s also worth mentioning that if pain is used or a lack of fairness is perceived, these are the only thing that the subject is going to process. This is why beating a child may stop them from doing something, but it is going to create long term damage that will get in the way at some point in the future. Violence is inhibiting and while it may create obedience / conformity, it suppresses everything that lead up to the event. The lessons the child learns are that spontaneous behaviors need to be avoided and the perpetrator of the violence or unfair act cannot be trusted.

If you want to help someone foster their creative skills and possibly solve some of the worlds problems leave them alone when they are doing things that annoy you, encourage them when they come-up with novel or new solutions and reward them when they transport a skill from one area into another area. Give them the freedom to understand or figure out their own world and if they seem to be spending a lot of time in their head get them to talk about what they are experiencing. Even if they don’t know how to express it, give them the liberty to use their brain any way they want.

Let’s be fair, so much of what we do is only the result of us living in a developed society. There’s nothing natural about it and over time children will figure out how they need to exist within the world. Allow them to cultivate their creative instincts and enjoy the amazing things the human brain is capable of.