Creativity Crisis?

Is there a creativity crisis?  Where have all the creative people gone?  Or have they been under our noses all the time?  Many highly sensitive people and high sensation seeking highly sensitive people identify as creative individuals.  The eight signs of a creative person (listed below) would describe many HSPs and HSS/HSPs on an innate basis.









Of the eight “signs” HSPs would likely embody the big picture thinking, autonomous, daydreaming aspects very well while the HSS/HSP would embody the above three plus risk-taking, defiant, spontaneous, playful, and resilient to a greater degree because of sensation seeking’s four aspects:

Thrill and adventure seeking

Experience and novelty seeking


Susceptibility for boredom

It is interesting to note that this new book, by educational psychologist KH Kim, seems to describe HSPs and HSS/HSPs very well.  Though there are certainly many other creative people in the overall population HSPs and HSS/HSPs may be more intrinsically oriented toward creative lives (in many manifestations) due to our “toolbox” being preloaded with the appropriate tools for creative thinking.
The section on how to support creative people would also apply very well to HSPs and HSS/HSPs in the workplace and beyond.  Both groups tend to require a high degree of autonomy, prefer open-minded and inclusive workplaces, and can benefit from a certain degree of structure (as supplied by a mentor for example).  Uncontrolled or undirected autonomy may result in little but when we live within structures that have expectations we may be more likely to actually apply the fruits of our explorations to projects and problems.
While I may question whether there is a creativity crisis I do believe there is much support for a lack of understanding or appreciation that exists in the workplace and beyond with regard to creative people (HSP and otherwise).  The key, beyond offering autonomy, inclusiveness, and mentorship, lies in valuing creativity as a resource in our society that lies at the heart of all forward progress.  Creativity is more than a means to an end (a unique new product or service designed to sell, sell, sell) it’s a way of life wherein the creative person must be free to understand and accept his or her own creative nature, which by definition is a difficult way of being.  Until we can begin to accept that not all people are alike and make allowances for those with a different perspective, those who think and act differently, creativity will continue to be undervalued and misunderstood.
Tracy Cooper-
Tracy Cooper, Ph.D. is the author of Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career, and Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person.

How to Combat America’s Creativity Crisis

By Michael Ruiz | January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

A new book explains how to recognize and encourage creativity in society—before it’s too late.


The United States prides itself on being a beacon of innovation.

But there has been a substantial dive in the nation’s creativity in the last few decades, according to research by educational psychologist KH Kim, author of the new book The Creativity Challenge. Kim has tested more than 270,000 people, from kindergartners to adults, looking at (among other things) their ability to come up with original ideas, think in a detailed and elaborative way, synthesize information, and be open-minded and curious—what she considers creativity. Her research has found that Americans’ creativity rose from 1966 to 1990, but began significantly declining after then.

And that’s a problem. “America has an increasingly limited number of individuals who are capable of finding and implementing solutions to problems the nation faces today,” she writes. “If this trend isn’t reversed soon, America will be unable to tackle the challenges of the future.”

According to Kim’s research, the cause of the creativity crisis is a “gradual, society-wide shift away from the values that were the foundation of the American Creativity.” In the 20th century, global immigration to America brought different perspectives that helped fuel the country’s creativity, she explains. In turn, the American educational system encouraged creativity with its emphasis on intellectual diversity, curiosity, risk taking, and non-conformity. However, economic realities caused a shift in these values: Starting in the 1980s, cultivating creativity didn’t seem like the path to a stable job, and schools shifted to focus on improving standardized test scores in order to get funding, Kim writes.

The Creativity Challenge addresses how to combat this disheartening trend. Her book is a challenge for all of us—particularly those in leadership positions—to create environments that encourage creativity and all of the benefits it brings.

Eight signs of a creative person

One way to foster creativity is for managers, educators, and parents to understand the kinds of behaviors and attitudes creative people exhibit, and to recognize and support them. In other words, we have to recognize what creativity looks like in the wild—in the people we manage, in our children and students, and even in ourselves. Kim’s book identifies more than twenty behaviors that are common among creative people, based on decades of research that she reviewed. Many of them, particularly the following, can sometimes be misinterpreted as rebelliousness and impracticality.

  • Big-picture-thinking: Creative people think abstractly, looking past the concrete details of the current situation and seeking new solutions. However, with their optimism and curiosity, they are sometimes seen as dreamy and unrealistic.
  • Spontaneous: Creative individuals tend to be flexible and act fast on new opportunities, approaching them with an open mind and a playful perspective—which can come off as impulsive.
  • Playful: Creative people tend to be lighthearted and have a drive to explore the world. On the other hand, this can also be seen as mischievous.
  • Resilient: Creative people can pick themselves up after a failure and bounce back from challenges, refocusing on new ways to overcome adversities. Sometimes, this comes across as combative.
  • Autonomous: Creative people often strive for independence in their thoughts and actions, relying on intrinsic motivation to pursue their goals. At times, such individuals can seem out of control.
  • Defiant: Creative people have a tendency to reject existing norms and authorities in pursuit of their own goals. This allows them to see what others cannot see and develop solutions that push boundaries, which can seem rebellious.
  • Risk-taking: Fueled by their optimism, many creative people are willing to forgo security in favor of uncertain rewards. To the average person, this may come across as reckless.
  • Daydreaming: By daydreaming, creative individuals are able to envision new perspectives and solutions—but along the way, some of their ideas might seem delusional.

How to support creatives

The most challenging aspect of recognizing creativity is that it takes place behind the scenes: You may see someone daydreaming at work and not know whether they’re procrastinating or laying the groundwork for a creative insight. The process of creativity is somewhat invisible, even though its results are powerful.

With that in mind, Kim offers some suggestions for supporting creativity:

  • Offer creatives the resources they need. Innovators are like plants, Kim says; they are hungry for resources so that they can grow and develop. This includes offering them the time and freedom to explore informal activities that might inspire them, from continuing education at work to alternate assignments at school. If an employee wants to spend a work day visiting a new exhibit at a museum, you might let them—perhaps they’ve fallen into a rut and need something to spark their next project idea.
  • Foster diversity. Environments that are multicultural and open to diverse languages, ethnicities, and sexualities make room for different perspectives that challenge our pre-existing thought patterns. Leaders should aim to avoid creating a community that is culturally homogenous and conformity-based.
  • Encourage mentorship. Kim suggests that mentors are beneficial to individuals’ sense of creativity. “They eventually push mentees toward new opportunities to discover their own uniqueness by taking intellectual risks or defying the crowd,” she writes. Leaders can structure their organizations in a way that encourages more experienced workers or students to mentor others.

With these guidelines in mind, we can work to develop environments that are structured to foster creativity, which in turn will benefit organizations and help society confront today’s challenges with much-needed fresh ideas.

“Human beings have an unprecedented ability and potential to create, and many find that in the act of creating they fulfill their true purpose in life,” writes Kim.

Sensitive and in Love Documetary

Sensitive and in Love-the Documentary

Will and Diana Harper, the director and producer of Sensitive the Movie are making a new film about high sensitivity and relationships. They are currently looking for sensitive people to interview for the film who have been married (or in partnership) and the relationship didn’t work out due to a lack of understanding of the temperament between partners. They are also interested in interviewing people who are in relationship where the couple was able to work out the differences in temperament between partners.

If you are interested in being interviewed in person, please contact Diana Harper, the film’s producer at: Please let her know where you live, your contact information, and briefly in a few sentences what you wish to share about your experience of an HSP in relationship with a non-HSP. The interviews will tentatively be scheduled for February 10th to February 22nd.

For more information about the film please visit:

Excerpt from: Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Excerpt from Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career:Cover Thrive

“Flow is a concept developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi to encapsulate the experience we have when we are engaged in a task or project that causes us to stretch our abilities, to be fully engaged and aware in the moment as we pursue a challenging goal. The experience of flow can take place while performing any task whether it is work, performing, parenting, sports, or any other activity that fits the criteria of causing us to become fully absorbed in the moment in pursuit of that worthwhile goal. When we are in such states we lose all sense of self-consciousness, lose track of time, and push ourselves to grow. This capacity was likely evolved as a survival mechanism long ago when those individuals who learned to push themselves toward challenging goals achieved a survival advantage over those who did not. In short flow and the desire to be in a state of full engagement of our capacities is inherent in our species. For HSPs, the need to be in a state of flow seems to be even more imperative due to a temperament that is innately creative, curious, exploratory, deeply conscientious, and complex.”

As 2017 begins I remind all highly sensitive people of the need to have flow experiences in life. It is through these experiences that we push ourselves to master new challenges, develop new confidence in our abilities, and keep life fresh, alive, and vital. What’s your first flow experience of 2017? I’d love to hear……/…/1514693232

Positive Disintegration

Excerpt from Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person (Chapter 7):
“The creative mindset is one we know to be complex, fluid, and open. The creative instinct in sensitive sensation seekers may keep us in a state of potential emotional chaos at any given time, but it also serves to loosen our primitive inner structures that otherwise keep us from further personality development. The disintegrating/reintegrating processes so many sensitive sensation seekers experience doesn’t mean we are unbalanced emotionally it means that we may live in a state of positive disintegration in service to our quest for a personality ideal. Positive disintegration, in this sense, is a theory that places value on the sort of complex, messy, uncertain emotional lives we sensitive sensation seekers experience, rather than viewing this swirling inner milieu as a pathology. That places the theory of positive disintegration on a par with no other theory of personality development” (Tracy Cooper, 2016).…/…/B01L9W8AH2

As we prepare to close 2016 and begin a new year we might also think of the new year as an opportunity to commit ourselves to greater self-awareness, well-functioning (including attention to our overall health), and greater connectivity with others. Our lives will never be the neat, clean, linear trajectories so often emphasized in Western society. They will, however, be far more interesting and potentially rewarding because we will very likely seek out experiences, adventures, and people who will stimulate us in our preferred way. I suggest that in 2017 we begin to prize the role of chaos and unpredictability in our lives. The world desperately needs more healers, creators, and leaders who are able to embrace ambiguity, forgo ego, and focus on building fair and loving communities where we may live up to our incredible potential as thinking, feeling beings who are sentient and aware. Happy new year to all~

What’s Holding You Back? Thoughts on Change

Have you been considering changing careers?  Now is a great time to begin seriously plotting your exit strategy.  With the winter solstice’s arrival, we begin the upswing (at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere) toward longer daylight each day and, img_20161104_183125358implicitly, greater personal energy.  One writer described the winter solstice as the return of Yang energy (Yin representing the counterbalancing energy that dwindles until the winter solstice).  With the return of Yang energy (or simply greater sunlight if you prefer) we have an amazing opportunity to ride along on the upswing.  What’s holding you back?

Many highly sensitive people may find ourselves feeling anxious about change.  Change and anxiety go hand in hand in many senses but anxiety that is paralyzing prevents us from making the changes we may already know we need to make to improve our lives.  Make no mistake, anxiety serves a purpose in alerting us to the need to consider or reflect on our proposed change before making a choice.  Reflection and deep consideration are hallmarks of sensory processing sensitivity.  Without deep processing of all stimulation, our trait would be of little value.  With deep processing comes an examination of the situation including how the change will affect us personally (how we experience change), how it will affect our families, and how the change will affect our careers.  Within each consideration, anxiety will exist regarding our desire for positive outcomes and an avoidance of negative results (which go hand in hand with change because change always involves some level of risk).

There is a certain security in knowing what to expect but routine that does not vary significantly may also be stifling or limiting in time.  For sure, we all have to earn money to pay for our daily living but within that we are also more than pawns in a never-ending game of exchange of monetary resources (money) for goods and services.  Our societies may be set up on a monetary basis but we know as highly sensitive people (a number of whom are likely gifted individuals) that life is more complex than simply maintaining a rote existence akin to being a machine.  We know that to be alive, curious, creative, and deep thinking and deep feeling means we ask questions that are fundamental to understanding whether we should take one course of action or another.  We know that being creative demands of us that we occasionally shed our skins and emerge from often long processes of ambiguity sporting new skins of iridescent hues.  Much as the butterfly must undergo a chrysalis stage to emerge as a spectacularly beautiful, fragile sailor of the atmosphere we must be willing to enter a chrysalis stage at times where life may be uncertain.  Anxiety about entering such stages is entirely normal because we prefer definite outcomes, in fact, in Western societies we have been conditioned to think in a linear fashion where A+B must equal C.  I challenge us to do and be more.

Highly sensitive people experience stimulation cognitively certainly but we also experience stimulation somatically with emotions serving as the conduit through which we become aware of the need to focus on what is in front of us.  Emotions are messy and unpleasant at times and they create a ton of useless anxiety that may be very difficult to manage but they do serve as an activating mechanism to begin the deep processing our trait is known for.  Once we begin to feel and think deeply we often find ourselves stuck in loops that are difficult to break.  Is it a wonder that we may at times fear change even when we know it may be the best course of action?  Who wants to intentionally feel and think in a chronic loop of overlapping thoughts and waves of complexity?  It can be daunting, not to mention paralyzing.  How can we break through this wall?

Often, we need to seek the counsel of others who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and knowledgeable.  Often, our own counsel is one voice in what should be a choir of voices informing our choices.  Putting together your own wisdom committee may be essential to working through the complexities in a huge life change.  Why would we consider that our own counsel is sufficient when we are so close to the situation?  Why would we think that others may not be able or willing to serve on our committees?  Many highly sensitive people may have experienced adverse childhood events (ACEs) that make trusting other difficult.  If you have experienced ACEs trust may never be easy to give but the reality is trusted others may be the key to fully understanding and appreciating whether and how we should move forward with a change we are considering.  Your wisdom committee may consist of several knowledgeable people who you know well (and who know you), but there may be others you need to recruit with specific knowledge of an industry or a given local area.  Why would anyone serve on your wisdom committee?  Because you will be willing to serve on theirs!  It’s a reciprocal situation of give and take.  You may feel less than enthused about asking others to serve but rest assured those who are willing to serve will feel no hesitation in helping you; those who hesitate will be of no value to you.

Highly sensitive people are typically highly intuitive and perceptive.  Many of us may be quite used to following our gut instincts but gut instincts may be quite wrong as well.  This is where your wisdom committee will allow you to objectively assess a situation and reflect on your “instincts.”  Facts and empirical experience have a way of informing a situation so we may base our decisions on more than gut instincts.  Intuition does play a valuable role in decision-making but we must temper it with realistic assessments that may run counter to what we are feeling.  One of the hazards of being a deep feeling person is we feel everything more deeply than may be warranted.  Having a wisdom committee that can reign in our instincts in service to a larger gain may be just what we need at times.  There are other considerations that may weigh heavily on choices we make: our families.

Few of us make decisions in a vacuum.  Most of us have spouses or significant others and children or extended family who may factor in a great deal in the decision-making process.  What becomes of our kid’s educations if we move to take a new position?  How will our partners adapt or adjust to being in a new area or do they even wish for us to make the change?  What if we have an extended family member we are a caregiver for?  What happens to them?  These questions are all valid and should go into the mix of aspects that we should consider and plan for.  No decision we make will occur without affecting the lives of those with us and around us.  Again, this is where your wisdom committee comes into play in offering objective views from a variety of viewpoints.  Cumulatively, once you have these viewpoints you have a richer tapestry of hard-won knowledge from competent professionals and trusted others to base your choices on.  What happens when we have input from our wisdom committee?

Once we know how others think and feel about our proposed change/s we must be willing to enter a chrysalis stage to allow for a period of reflection in which we weigh the many factors involved in any significant change.  Career may seem like the most important issue in life on some levels but beyond a point, career serves no function.  The sum total of who you are is more than the career choices you have made or will make.  Life consists of many layers of complexity that exist in a time and place.  Wait a year and circumstances may be entirely different.  Career, then, is one layer of complexity, albeit a thick layer that does demand our fullest focus and energies, in a larger mosaic of interrelated and interconnected webs of complexity and synergistic dynamisms.  Depending on the stage we may be at in our career may determine much regarding a change.  Early career people may benefit from (indeed need to make crucial changes) while mid-career people may be focused on finding a niche within an existing career that offers more variety, greater creative challenges, and pay.  Late career people may need to weigh and balance issues of health and/or desires to work on the most meaningful contributions.  Wherever we find ourselves in career stage (perhaps you have had no one particular career) we will need to do our due diligence in accurately assessing and evaluating the best information we are able to collect.  When we confront anxiety with this “case” we may find that it retreats to some extent and we begin to feel more confident and at peace (at least tentatively) with our decision to make a change.

As 2016 draws to a rapid close and the winter solstice offers the promise of new light and life we are afforded the opportunity to connect with the natural upswing of natural daylight in developing inside our chrysalis cocoons before bursting out ready to confidently take the steps necessary to effectively initiate positive change in our lives that is well-considered, well-timed and balanced between gut level instinct and rational thought processes.  Highly sensitive people may be quite creative people in forming and reforming our lives to meet our needs.  In that regard, we embody creativity in a deeper, more meaningful sense than is possible for a society that views creativity and creative people as impractical dreamers.  Dreamers we may be but dreamers of lives that are founded on more than the profit motive or superficial, trite notions of conforming to a preset, arbitrary, stifling “box” of beliefs, values, and norms that run counter to our best instincts for meaningful existence and creativity enacted.

Change is often anxiety-producing and we should move beyond bearing the weight of the world upon our shoulders alone.  In 2017 I challenge you to move beyond anxiety by forming your own wisdom committee to reduce your fears, enhance your choices for positive change, and develop confidence in your ability to control your life and contribute to the health and well-being of others through conscious, embodied action.

Dr. Tracy Cooper is the author of Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career and Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person.  Dr. Cooper consults on a one on one basis with people in career crisis and transition offering his unique vision and leadership in working through often difficult change processes.  He appeared in the documentary film Sensitive-The Untold Story with Dr. Elaine Aron and others articulating the current conceptualization of sensory processing sensitivity and the most significant aspects of the trait.

For a limited time, Dr. Cooper is offering a winter solstice discount of 20% on individual consulting and Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career and Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person, only at, as a way of extending his services and work to a wider audience.  Empower yourself in 2017 by investing in yourself in 2016!

How to Reinvent Your Career

Posted Nov 14, 2016