Creativity is a subject that is of great interest to many people, including psychologists. The creative process has been highly studied, because many people try to grasp the elusive concept, or the next good idea. It’s not always easy. Creativity often comes to people when they are most relaxed and not necessarily searching for a solution. However, by learning to understand creativity, one can harness its potential and use it often. When most people try to solve a problem, they are often frustrated.
They look primarily to solutions that have worked in the past, or which are similar to other situations they’ve encountered. Psychologists call this “functional fixedness. ” It is a barrier to creativity. Some people may even consider unique solutions, but functional fixedness may cause them to automatically reject these solutions, because they don’t seem to logically fit the puzzle. Schemas are another part of typical solutions. People learn what has worked in the past, and they apply these ideas to future situations.
For example, “the cat ran away. Cats like to climb trees. I think I’ll go look in a nearby tree to see if the cat is there. ” While this information is incredibly helpful sometimes, it doesn’t always work when unique problems crop up. This is why when people let their minds wander, and they are relaxed and ready to consider unique, alternate solutions, they often are able to come up with something. Many people find that when they are not thinking about a problem anymore, the solution seems to magically come to them.
It may be something which they’d never thought of before, or which seems too crazy to work at first, but which they realize is perfect. This is creativity. Creativity can be applied to a variety of situations. People sometimes find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations, where they may have serious barriers to finding a solution. Many movies have been made about people in very difficult situations, and how the people found their way out of the situations. Often times, people show functional fixedness at the beginning of the movie, and the problem only seems to compound for them.
One mess leads to another, because the character is not understand the situation or how to truly go about solving it. Once they start to consider unique solutions, usually after a major turning point, they are finally able to come to terms with and solve the problem at hand. This is a problem in many films where people face tough circumstances. Creativity (or a lack thereof) can be applied to these situations, once the character finally reaches the major turning point. If the characters are not being creative, they may find themselves still stuck with the problem they are facing.
When they become creative, either through necessity or by accident, they may find the perfect solution. In the film Girl, Interrupted, Susanna is facing a very unique situation. She has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and placed in a mental hospital in the 1960s. This was a disturbing time to be in a mental hospital, because doctors had an influx of patients, and were using a lot of drugs, and sometimes abuse, to control them. While Susanna is in a private hospital and not a state hospital, which is a much nicer place, it is still no picnic.
No one believes Susanna that she doesn’t suffer from a mental illness, and she is not allowed to sign herself out of the hospital, even though, with her parents’ urging, she agreed to sign herself in. She is simply stuck there until she can find a solution to her problem, and a way to get out. One of the first creative things that Susanna learns is how to avoid taking her meds (this is one of the first functionally fixed solutions Susanna tries, which is part of her general avoidance of authority). Lisa shows her how to “prove” you have swallowed your medicine when you have not.
Then, she learns how to exchange pills with other residents, as she gives Daisy her Colace and Lisa gets Daisy’s Valium. Lisa also tells Susanna that the way to get free is to tell the psychiatrists as much as possible, so they will believe that you are getting better, discovering things about yourself, although Susanna entirely ignores this bit of advice early in the movie. Lisa has keys, and allows Susanna to open various doors, like the door to the music equipment in the art room. Later on, all of the girls sneak out and go down to the basement where they bowl, without any of the nurses finding out about it.
Sneaking around behind the backs of the doctors and nurses becomes a part of what the girls do, still managing to avoid authority. Lisa calls Dr. Wick “Dr. Dyke,” which is another way of flouting the authority and isn’t appreciated by staff. Susanna makes friends with the other girls as she gets to know them. As she does, she starts to accept what people have said about her, and starts to believe she actually tried to kill herself, and that she is crazy – or at least that she needs some help. When her friend, Toby, comes to bust her out and take her to Canada, she refuses to go with him, because of the girls are her friends.
She knows she needs to get out, but she is beginning to realize that simply leaving is not the way. However, Susanna and Lisa run away to go to Florida, and end up staying with Daisy, who has her own apartment now. Lisa goads Daisy about her father, and she kills herself the next morning. When they discover Daisy’s body, hanging in her bathroom, Lisa takes the money off of the corpse and leaves. Susanna stays, crying. She allows herself to be taken back to the hospital. It turns out to be a breakthrough for her. She cries in Val, the nurse’s arms, and discusses her feelings.
Val tells her to write these things in her journals, and to share them with her doctors, which she does. This leads to Susanna getting off meds and truly feeling better. Lisa being gone helps her, too. Then Lisa returns, several weeks later. She is immediately placed in a locked room, in solitary confinement. Susanna goes to see her. Now that she is feeling better, she has something to offer to other people. Originally, Susanna used different schemas in getting along with people. She avoided them if possible, and did not talk to them.
When she was forced to talk to them, she spoke to them sarcastically, the same way she spoke to her parents. However, because so many people in the hospital were different, this no longer worked for her after awhile. Susanna needed some new ideas in how to deal with the situation the mental hospital presented to her. Susanna’s journal has finally given her the solution she needs. She shares her creativity with the doctors, instead of fighting them off and being rude to them. Once they can see inside her head, and understand her thoughts, they understand that she is not crazy, and they are willing to release her.
On her last night, Lisa steals her journal, and reads it aloud to all of the mental patients. Susanna has written what she thinks of all of the other women in her book, and they are angry. Lisa comes after Susanna because she is a sociopath. They have a big fight, and Susanna realizes that as screwed up as the world is, she’d rather be in it than in the mental hospital. Early in the movie, Susanna tries to solve her problems the same way she always has: by drifting in her mind and ignoring the people who surround her and want to help.
She tells her doctors she doesn’t care. She seems to be in a daydream state when someone is talking to her. She resists people as much as possible because she is angry that they can’t see her for who she is and let her go. This demonstrates functional fixedness; Susanna’s way of solving problems is very limited. After Daisy’s suicide, Susanna realizes that she must change the way she is approaching life if she wants to get out. Val suggests writing in her journal and sharing it, which is something she’d never considered.
Once she realizes that this, too, is a viable solution, she is able to actually unlock the key to freedom by thinking of herself and her thoughts, and being willing to open herself to other people and share herself with them. This unique and creative solution sets her free. It is obvious that there is a lesson to be learned from this situation. When there seems to be no solution to a problem, people should consider ideas that they have rejected. They should also be open to new ideas from people around them, who may just have the creative solution that they are looking for.
Looking at psychology through the lens of creativity can show people why the problems they are having seem to be sticking around, or getting worse. When people employ only familiar strategies, they may find that problems somehow do not get any better. However, when they are willing to be open minded and try new things, problems seem to be worked out better. It is also interesting to try to analyze different problems. Susanna’s problems are never quite obvious to her, even after she is considered cured. The people around her probably were able to see her for who she was quite a bit better.
In fact, in one scene, Val lifts her out of bed when she won’t move and dumps her in a bath of cold water. Susanna spits water out and yells at Val, saying horribly mean things to her. Val tells her she had better stop, because she isn’t crazy and shouldn’t act like it. Val, having been a nurse there for several years, knows what crazy people act like, and Susanna isn’t it. Susanna proclaims, even at the end, to not know whether she was ever crazy or not. But the people who worked with her, while they obviously considered her uncooperative at times, did not believe she was actually crazy.
She only needed, as her original doctor put it, “a rest. ” She also needed to come to terms with herself. Another interesting lesson is being able to look inside oneself, and to evaluate one’s own motivations, problems, and solutions. This is not always easy to do. Psychology can help, by examining those motivations. It can broaden one’s ability to think creatively and critically about a problem at hand. This is a crucial skill in evaluating peoples’ actions and motivations, especially one’s own. Psychology is very helpful and interesting, and helps to understand the human life and psyche.
It is not easy to find solutions for problems in life at any time, and especially not when the problems are as deep and serious as Susanna’s were. However, if people are willing to think ‘outside the box,’ and to look at unique ideas, they may be able to find better solutions to their problems. The use of schemas in problem solving is not applicable when a person is faced with a totally unique situation for which they have no schema. In that case, creativity is the best way to come up with a real solution to the problem.
Courtney from Study Moose
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