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Oblique Strategies

Oblique Strategies, subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, was a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by Brian Eno (British musician, composer and record producer) and Peter Schmidt (British artist and painter). It was first published in 1975 and it originally consisted of a deck of 113 cards, each with a creative suggestion on it. Eno has used them while working with music artists such as David Bowie and Coldplay.

A few of the suggestions are specific to music composition but most are generic ideas and advice which can be used to spur creative thinking, breakthrough a creative block, deadlock or a dilemma. Examples include:

  • Use an old idea.
  • Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Repetition is a form of change
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

Inspiration can be making a connection you had not made before or looking at something in a new way. And that is why these oblique strategies can be so useful. As Steve Jobs (Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple) put it, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things”.

The 2001 edition introduction includes the following observation, “These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear”.

Now, you don’t have to have a physical deck of cards anymore. Created in 2022 by Maksim Morozov there is an online version with 213 different suggestions. This is very useful in itself, but you might want to craft a few suggestions that are specific to the industry you work in.

If you are struggling with a lack of creativity then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.

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Creativity – the Power of Sleep

I have been doing some work recently with a client to help them boost their creativity and I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experience. I have also written recently about the different types of brainwaves and how they reflect what the brain is doing and the great Thomas Edison who used sleep and other techniques to sustain his amazing pace of invention.

We all have had situations where you are trying to solve a problem or remember something and we just can’t do. So, we stop thinking about it and do something else and the answer comes to us. Be it driving on the motorway, showering or brushing our teeth anytime you are doing something you don’t have to think too deeply about your theta brainwaves rise and your subconscious is engages. And then, Eureka! That’s your subconscious working on the problem and serving up the answer.

And letting your subconscious work on a problem is a very powerful way to come up with new ideas and solve problems.  Albert Einstein (German born Theoretical Physicist) clearly knew about this as he said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

Another time when we can unleash this creative power is when we are half asleep, either when waking or falling asleep. I recently wrote about Thomas Edison and how he used sleep. So, mentally run through the day’s challenges first thing in the morning while you are still in this state or last thing at night as you start to fall asleep. This sets the agenda for your subconscious and can bring incredible results.

If you have a specific problem then just as you become conscious in the morning, but while your eyes are closed and your brain’s still dreamy, think of the issue. Don’t try to force your thoughts but do remain focused and relaxed. You might get a few useful ideas or perhaps a flash of inspiration. These ideas can come in a rush and are usually free of internal censorship. You might need your conscious mind to polish them up a little.

A word of advice, these ideas and inspirations, because they are born of theta waves can be short lived and fleeting. So, have a notepad by your bed or quickly grab your phone and take notes or make a voice recording.

It is possible to have periods of theta wave activity and creativity during the waking hours. This can be when your mind is not activate, perhaps while watching TV or exercising. These periods typically last up to 15 minutes before the conscious mind checks in for a bit. This can be an extremely productive time and can be a period of meaningful and creative mental activity.

So, in summary, eat, sleep, solve problems and repeat.  If you are struggling with a lack of creativity or sleep then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.

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Creativity – Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison (1847 to 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. With 1,093 US patents, as well as numerous patents in other countries, Edison is regarded as the most prolific inventor in American, if not world, history. If you work in any job that requires some element of creativity then you may have wondered how he did it. He certainly valued the mind over the body and this is best illustrated by the quote, “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around”.

Well he used a form of self-hypnosis to problem solve, come up with ideas and inventions.  When you are awake your conscious mind is fully in control and you are producing beta brain waves. By lowering the brainwave frequency into alpha and even theta wave lengths you are more relaxed. This allows you conscious mind to loosen its control and allow your subconscious to be more dominant. As he said, “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil”.

He also reportedly slept only three to four hours at night and was said to have regarded sleep as a waste of time and a heritage from our cave days. I am not sure that wasn’t just bravado or a trick to try to hamper his rivals such as Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. He did in fact value sleep and seems to have understood its importance.  We now know that sleep is essential for good mental health and is useful for overcoming creative blocks.

So while he used his apparent lack of sleep as a badge of honour he frequently power napped. He had numerous cots located throughout his home and workplace. And there are many photos of him taking a nap in these cots in various locations. And he may well have been onto something. Increasingly today we realise that sleeping for one long period is a relatively new thing. There are many references to ‘first sleep’, ‘second sleep’ and ‘morning sleep’ in older legal documents, literature and other archival information from pre-Industrial times. Meaning that sleeping for a shorter time, but more frequently was common.

As anyone who has meditated, used self-hypnosis or tried deep relaxation techniques knows, there is a risk that you fall asleep. In this day and age we set an alarm on our phone to make sure we don’t over sleep. But Edison would hold marbles in his hands so that if he fell asleep they would fall to the ground and wake him.

Now, there is an irony that Edison seemed to really understand how to use sleep to his advantage, while at the same time invented the electric light bulb. As it was the light bulb, and the industrial revolution, that disrupted our internal clocks, our sleeping habits and sparked numerous cases on insomnia.

If you are struggling with a lack of creativity or sleep then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.

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Brain Waves

Now, you might think this post is about inspiration and creativity and indirectly it is. But this blog is, literally, about brainwaves. So, what are brain waves? Well, brain waves or neural oscillations are rhythmic or repetitive patterns of neural activity in the central nervous system. Through research and observation we are able to tell what the brain is doing be measuring the frequency of the brain waves being produced.

Although changes in brain activity is normal, for example falling asleep, what hypnosis does is move you from a higher frequency (full awake) to a lower frequency (relaxed) of brain waves. The lower the frequency the lower your level of consciousness and thus the more receptive the subconscious becomes.

The highest level of brain waves are call Beta waves and they occupy the frequency range between 12 and 40 hertz (Hz). You produce these waves when you are conscious and awake.  This is a normal state for us to be in during the day. Typical activities include thinking, problem solving, reading, writing and talking. 

Alpha waves occupy the range between 8 and 12 Hz and are associated with calm and relaxed periods.  These waves act like a bridge between your conscious and unconscious minds. This alpha state is sometimes described as being in “the now” or being in the present. These are typically produced when relaxed, meditating or when your eyes are closed. This is an ideal state for learning – absorbing and digesting information.

As you become more relaxed, alpha waves become more prevalent, but you are still awake. When you become unconscious more theta waves are produced. These waves are in the range 4 to 8 Hz. You produce these waves when you enter sleep, practise visualisation or under hypnosis. When theta waves are produced your conscious mind is pretty much switched off. This mean you can access your creative side, dream, experience deep meditation as well as delve inside memories.

Delta waves are produced when you are asleep and occur in the low end of the range up to 4 Hz.  The deeper you sleep, the more delta waves are present.  Delta wave production are a sign of a good night’s sleep, healing and boosting your immune system. Sadly, the older you get, the fewer delta waves are produced and this explains the expression ‘to sleep like a baby’. 

The human brain is an incredible thing and one we know little about it. As Neil deGrasse Tyson (American Astrophysicist and Author) said, “Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find”.

Despite this, what insights we have allow us to understand and do more.  For example, if you are looking to be creativity then you need to get out of your conscious mind and do activities that reduce the frequency of your brain waves. And, while problem solving can be a logical, conscious process (beta waves), creative problem solving can be done with alpha (when relaxed) and theta waves (visualisation, mediating).  

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Creative Block

As technology continues to automate routine tasks, it’s the use of creativity that is increasingly important in many jobs and hobbies. But what happens when you creativity deserts you? When you have Creative Block? Well fear not, Hypnotherapy has been used to overcome creative blocks in many people, both famous and not famous. And as I recently discovered and Charles Bukowski (German-American Poet and Novelist) agrees, “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

A friend of mine is a writer and he has from time to time suffered with short periods of writers block. He tried various approaches to resolve it including working on regardless but the only thing that works for him is to rest and do something else and let his subconscious work on things.  Now this is fine if you have it for a short time, but what if you are a writer and you simply cannot write? For weeks, months, even years.

Philipp Meyer (American Writer) has a theory about it. He said, “I don’t think “writer’s block” actually exists. It’s basically insecurity — it’s your own internal critic turned up to a higher level than it’s supposed to be at that moment, because when you’re starting a work — when the page is blank, when the canvas is open — your critic has to be turned down to zero… The point is actually to get stuff on paper, just to allow yourself to kind of flow. It is only by writing that you’ll discover characters, ideas, things like this.”

Now that’s an interesting idea as it’s thought that prolonged periods of creative block has a root in the mind and is the result of a lack of confidence, burnout, stress or even depression. Fortunately, Hypnotherapy has a well-established track record in helping with all these conditions.

One famous example of Hypnotherapy overcoming creative block is Sergei Rachmaninoff (Russian Composer). The debut of his First Symphony in 1897 did not go well and he received widespread poor reviews of his work. Subsequently he suffered a prolonged period of depression and was unable to compose for three years. Then, from January to April 1900, Rachmaninoff underwent Hypnotherapy with Dr Nicolai Dahl (Russian Physician). The sessions were designed to help improve his appetite, sleep pattern, mood and rekindle his ability to compose again. The treatment was successful and so much so that Rachmaninoff dedicated his Second Symphony, completed in 1901, to Dr Dahl.

Robert Greenberg (American Composer, Pianist, and Musicologist) explored Rachmaninoff’s creative struggles in his Scandalous Overtures series.

So, if you are struggling with some form of creative block then get in touch. Hypnotherapy can help boost your creativity and can also explore the reasons for the block and resolve them.

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Just Because

27 August is National Just Because Day. Why? Well, just because. It’s a day to stop worrying about why and just do.

As we become adults we tend to develop routines, always doing what is expected of us or what works well for us. But on this special day those unspoken rules no longer apply. It’s a chance to be a little spontaneous. It’s also a good opportunity to spread some positivity to others. The possibilities are endless. The only thing holding you back is you.
This idea is closely related to innovation and creativity. Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ways of thinking or doing and develop new and original ideas, methods, etc. Trying new things, challenging the status que and keeping an open mind are important steps to improving your quality of life. As Henry Miller (American Author) said, “All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience”.

“Just Because” activities usually stem from a “what if” train of thought. Try a new route to work, you might find a better / shorter one. That brand of coffee you have been drinking for the last ten years, perhaps try a few new ones, you might find something better. As Benny Hill (British Comedian) said, “Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect”.

On a slightly grander scale, perhaps go on an impromptu road trip, send a message to someone you haven’t spoken to recently or surprise a friend or relative with flowers. Why? Just because.

Doing something like this could create a positive ripple effect for everyone they meet. Don’t forget to teach your friends about Just Because Day, you can encourage them to spread the good news. Be the bearer of good vibes. Doing something like this could create a positive ripple effect for everyone you meet and everyone they meet.