By Hwaa Irfan
A sister, a neighbor spends all her time in the kitchen. Married after she graduated, with two boys, she finds the kitchen is the only place where she exists – her children exist on the periphery of her life. Another sister who was raised in a “traditional” Islamic way, is a joy to be with, because she enjoys her children, and is not ashamed to show the child within, because she her creative expression is practiced daily through her research in physical chemistry. To her, physical chemistry is like creating a whole entity that she knows exists in the world. The first sister lives away from her community, in the city, and the second sister lives in her rural community. Only the first sister is acknowledged by the West, because she fulfills a Muslim stereotype, whereas the second sister is not uncommon. Both sisters can come from any community, any culture, anywhere on this earth. When a woman is prevented from creative expression, either through her body, as with having children, and/or in other aspects of her life, an inner antagonism develops. It may transpire as a gender stereotype, gossiping, backbiting, manipulating human relations, or as a victim of violence on one level or another. Or she might be a bullying, a control freak, either way, these are just manifestations of the loss of the creative principle in one’s life. At times of war, occupation etc, we see it is the women who rise above the situation, and are able to find solutions to what men may have given up on in the midst of a disaster. Could this be, because the creative principle is stronger in men than women?
In a paper presented by David Harrington et al at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association as far back as 1980, entitled Creative Self Concept, Masculinity, Femininity, and the Three Models of Androgny this important issue was explored as a gender-based issue. Not in terms of men are “x”, and women are “y”, but in terms of the feminine and masculine within each person. The criteria for androgyny applied is when there is balance between the masculine and feminine within. In cultural terms we might not define human relations in such terms, but it is an essential part if human interaction that leads to developing strong kinship ties in most developing countries of the world. It is in the modern world that has only an information base, and not a knowledge base, whereby self identity is compelled to play out a series of limited roles, without learning to come to terms with one’s gender as a male or a female. The definition of androgyny is explained by the example of an architect. The masculine principle would project a concern for technical/engineering details. The feminine would demonstrate an aesthetic sensitivity, whereas the androgynous principle would harmonize both aspects in practice. However, if both masculine and feminine principles have weak expression, the result will be very different!
Participant consisted of 85 undergraduate women from Santa Cruz, University of California, and 105 male undergraduates from Berkeley, University of California. All in all, in a secular society, the candidates for the study had yet to establish themselves as creative individuals.
Surprisingly, it was found that the creative principle in the candidates arose from their masculine principle in both male and female students. Amongst female students their psychological concept of femininity and creative self concept leaned towards the negative placing a negative understanding to feminine self concept. The female students only made positive association of their creative self concept with one adjective “friendly.” Otherwise, they made negative associations with their creative self concept with the following adjectives:
Those students who demonstrated strong male-female principles i.e. had strong androgynous inclinations, demonstrated a higher creative self concept than those who demonstrated a strong female principle (96.7%), i.e. 95% for female students, and 100% for male students. The female students who were balanced in their masculine and feminine principles i.e. androgynous self concept, scored higher in the creative principle than the female students who held a masculine self concept. Both male and female students with an androgynous self concept scored significantly higher than all non-androgynous students showing a strong creative self concept, but equally all that those with a masculine self concept scored significantly higher than non-masculine students.
At the same time, the adjectives selected to reflect “creativity”, are very individualistic +secular, and Western in nature, i.e. at the exclusion of others, which reflects the type of “creativity that is being manifested. In a traditional non-Western context, the creative person is creative with their lives at the inclusion of others, which allows them the freedom to explore their art, without harm. For example, Egyptian artist, and professor of art Abdel-Aziz El-Guindi for the past 20 years had art students meet up every Friday as to what has become the Gamaat Al-Laqta Al-Waheda, or “the One-Shot Society,” with young students joining all the time. After a communal breakfast, the students spread out in typical Cairene localities focusing on a particular angle of a theme for the week. Each student with their own style, and medium set off to capture local scenes on canvass so to speak. In the process the students learn not only to “see”, but also to connect with the human environment that they observe. Students comment that they:
“We don’t just paint such people, we also try to bond with them and to learn from them.”
“When the moment came to say good-bye, we realised how deep the bonds were that connected us,”
“We had been able to draw closer to ordinary people…”
“This is not just painting or just another exhibition: it is a form of documentation of daily life.”
Learned to be committed to important issues in society, and the need to mix with people.
“We have built up quite a rapport with some of the people in the working-class area in which we work… They bring us tea and sweets, and they can be quite pleased when they appear in our paintings.”
This takes real love and creativity to convey to one’s students through their own experiences the meaning of their art as a part of live, not separate from it! It is perhaps because of the lack of connectedness in secular societies, why there is a deep need for the creative person to withdraw from others, yet the creativity that calls from within rather than from without, is confronted with an over-kill of what those societies deems as being creative.
The authors of the study consider the results to have serious implications for women striving to be creative with their reference point for the source of that creativity being masculine due to “pressures toward “gender appropriate characteristics.” However this assumes that their masculine self concept is theirs, i.e. it has not been shaped by the environment on which they have been nurtured along with schooling, or as a reaction to. For instance, in order to succeed in the schooling system that predominates most education systems, demands calling on practices that are masculine in nature. The authors affirm this by concluding as follows:
“Obviously, currently social trends permitting greater sex-role flexibility for both sexes may make it easier for men and, especially, women to develop creative self-concepts and to behave creatively”.
The creative principle arises out of the seat of the emotions, which society in general allows to be expressed in gender appropriate terms. Gender appropriateness differs from society-to-society, and culture-culture, but in general girls are allowed to “express” outwardly, and not boys. However, in that outward “expression”, there is a standard level of expectation from girls as they grow up. As that expression is externalized, there is more scope to culture behavior. As girls growing up, there is more commonality, and less individuality. Boys growing up are prevented from “expressing” emotions to the external world, but they are given more liberty to explore their own development, and are therefore less subject to being “cultured” to a standardized fashion which allows them greater individuality. Therefore for girls growing up, the idea of individual expression might be aligned more with what boys can do and what girls are not allowed to do, as women and men serve the tribe differently. When this serving becomes negative then there is a negative impact on the tribe.
Physiologically, the seat of the emotions is the amygdala, which is a apart of the limbic system of the brain. It is so powerful that it takes control of our thoughts – our brain, so depending where we are along the progress line of self/spiritual development/jihad an nafs, our emotions color eve the way we think, and perceive the world around us. When we feel fear, the amygdala sends urgent messages to all parts of the body preparing the body for fight or flight, but what if those fears are not real! If the amygdala was to be removed, one would not be able to recognize loved ones, feelings, and no personal meaning, to interact, or tears. It has long been assumed, that skill and qualifications sets one up in this world for a happy life, but in the midst of a crisis, it is the creative principle that arises from one’s emotional intelligence that sets one apart whether in peace time or in war. This includes:
• Self motivation
• Persistence despite obstacles
• Mood regulation
• Recognizing what one does have
It has been found that IQ only accounts for 20% of success in life,
The creative principle becomes circumvented thus not serving the individual in a manner that helps them to find their place in this world when we:
• Fear abandonment
• Feel insecure financially
• Hold concerns about social status
• Concerns about children
• Emotional block
The historical nature of secular societies instills competiveness, insecurity, and low self esteem. The demand to fall under a certain type and fit in with the mass mind, robs individuality, creativity, and instills self objectivity.
We choose our spouses according to our creative principle. If we feel save, and supportive we are able to take our place in the world, and achieve our goals. The anima is a term coined by psychotherapist Carl Jung to describe the feminine principle in men. It is the anima that an emotionally challenged man projects onto the woman in his life, but if he is open, he will be receptive to his feelings, his thoughts, and expectations, and will work through them in some creative manner that will allow for a deeper consciousness, and greater self realization. In so doing, the true person is born, and one who is in possession of himself, and cannot be possessed by another. He will find an inner guide, himself, and receptivity to the spirit of nature.
The same is true of the animus – the masculine principle in women. Negative expression of the animus means that she is always right, there are no exceptions, love is all she wants, and can drive her loved ones to derision. If a woman with a negative animus confronts her shadow, her animus, gets to know, work through, and understand this part of her nature, she will find a valuable inner guide, and her qualities of enterprise, courage, truthfulness, and a spiritual path, by as Jung stated:
- “The woman must find the courage and inner broadmindedness to question the sacredness of her own convictions… Only then will the manifestations of the Self get through to her, and will she be able consciously to understanding their meaning.”
And this achieved through non-identification with the anima in men, and the animus in women. In so doing, there is greater harmony, as she becomes aligned to her truer nature, i.e. to transform, which is why women are equipped to nurture others. Then there is less contradiction between one’s inner world, and the outer world.
Women act out and transfer negative feelings to the uterus, ovaries, the pelvic area in general, and the lower back. This is the source of their creative energy. If they are not creating, whether that be with children or other aspects of our lives, the creative principle becomes internalized and negative, descend into unhealthy practices that reflect the opposite of the creative principle. In turn there is blocked energy in the pelvic area of a woman with related illnesses ensuing (fibroids, endometriosis, menstrual etc). In terms of “expression” there is a lack of ability to be open, and therefore to be receptive, and to receive. This may manifest itself in the form of a problem pertaining to
• Feeling insecure
• Control/self serving
• Fear of spouse at some level
• Intimacy with spouse
• Emotional distancing blocking the heart
• Serial relationships without connection
• Emotionally explosive
• Overly ambitious
• Cannot distinguish between own feelings and the feelings of others
• Overly sensitive
• Fertility issues
• Bury emotions
When we become enslaved by something, i.e. owned/possessed we are not free to live a more productive and creative life. Nothing is a surprise because we cease to live in the present, the only time frame that we can make some input to. We groan more, complain more about what we thought we wanted, because it is not in harmony with our true selves. We fear our true selves simply because we fear what we do not know, and maybe because we have never thought there could be another “me.” Yet, when we think of having children, do we ever consider that who we are now, whether real or not will shape our children or turn them into rebels without a cause because something within that do not understand is making Chinese whispers!
Harrington, D.M. et al “Creative Self-Concept, Masculinity, Femininity and Three Models of Androgyny.” Convention of the American Psychological Association, Quebec, Canada. 1980.
Goleman, D. “Emotional Intelligence” Bantam Books, U.S. 1996.
Jung, C. “Man and His Symbols” Picador, U.K. 1964
Mursi, M. “One Shot at Authenticity.” http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1014/cu33.htm
Northrup, C. “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”. Bantam Books, U.S. 1998.