The following is an excerpt from "Positive Resistance" (2021, Gözlem Press) by Renan Koen, translated from the Turkish by Sibel İpeker, and edited by Elahe Hosseinzadeh
When it comes to creativity, it immediately makes sense to create a work of art or a piece of music. However, the creativity I want to talk about is one that we can live in every field and every minute of life. Gaining flexibility by going beyond what we have known so far. With the help of this flexibility we have gained, we can find a solution to our current occupation in our life. “I can never figure this out!” “I can’t find a way out”, “I can never stand this” “I’m right, he’s wrong” or “We do this, we are not like them, they are foreigners” and many other similar ways, instead of being flexible and creatively finding solutions. This is actually something that helps our mental structure tremendously.
Nowadays, science focuses on two different mental structures. One of them is “Fixed Mental Structure” and the other is “Flexible, Growing Mental Structure”. Basically, I can describe these two mental structures as follows: Fixed Mental Structure categorizes every event that happens as success or failure, while Flexible Mental Structure considers every event that happens as a means of improvement. Actually, one of them is aggressive and the other one is peaceful. One of them is captured in his own prison, the other one is free. A person may naturally be in a fixed mental structure or a flexible mental structure, but it is possible to switch from a fixed mental structure to a flexible one. The biggest tool that will enable this transition is to discover one’s own creativity. A person’s own creativity is hidden in his abilities. Everyone is surely very skilled at least at one thing, whatever it is, in whatever field it is. What we call talent is a predisposition, and predisposition makes it easier to learn and be creative in that field. The person who has learned to be creative once can be creative in all aspects of his/ her life.
What is this creativity, what effect does it have on the human brain?
When a person learns or creates something new, he activates an area in his brain that he has not used before. Creation activates many parts of the brain simultaneously. This process, in which many emotions and thoughts are activated at the same time, provides a significant expansion in the brain. At the same time, doing something creative, being creative takes us out of the situation we are in at that moment. Through creativity, we move to a new state in our perspective by activating a new area in our brain. In this way, a person who has learned to go from place to place and has realized this, has now gained the ability to use the same creativity in his/ her life. This gives the person a considerable amount of flexibility. This flexibility, acquired through the ability to create life, brings along more prejudice and honest confrontation with the situations we are in. In fact, it does not only bring, but it also enables us to produce solutions in a realistic and flexible way without the need to instrumentalize anything during confrontation. This approach to life makes us more resilient, healthier in all respects, and more and more Positively Resistant towards life.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihályi too called this situation “Flow”. Flow is when the person is performing any activity, to be completely devoted to this activity. It passes to a certain mental state by enjoying the activity he/she is in with all his/her energy. According to Csikszentmihályi, flow is the motivation gathered at a certain point. Emotions in the flow are at the service of practice and learning. However, all emotions acted positively. Moreover, positively activated emotions are integrated with the activity. There is nothing for the person other than the activity they are focusing on at that moment. All this brings about a sense of joy, a state of joy.
The creativity we are in with determination changes both the direction of our life, our emotions, and our mental structure in a flexible and positive way. In fact, there are many ways we can all recall the creativity that we used so much to express ourselves when we were babies. We can change the way we think, get creative art education, follow a path we have never followed in any subject, and take a step into a fuller creative way of life. Let’s not forget that a baby who does not know how to speak yet can manage to express himself/ herself by using his/her creativity. So, we can all use our creativity to express ourselves in peaceful ways. In each of us, we can awaken this competence, which has been present since our infancy but has been obscured in time with what we are taught, and we can use it to become a healthier individual, this is one of the most natural rights of human beings.
With my deepest respects and gratitude to the brave Teresiensdadt / Terezin composers, with high positive resistance, who honestly confront the situation they are in, protect their place without giving up until their last breath with the power they have received from their creations and the discipline they have received...
Renan Koen is a Turkish-Jewish concert pianist, music therapist and public educator. Since the release of her 2015 album, “Holocaust Remembrance / Before Sleep”, she has toured the world lecturing on the Holocaust, specifically Theresienstadt and the composers interned there with youth groups, and recently to a global audience in January 2020 at the UN Headquarters in NYC for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Earlier in her career, she released, “Lost Traces, Hidden Memories” (2014), an album of Ladino music, inspired by her heritage, raised among the Sephardic communities of Istanbul. Her recent album, "March of the Music", was released in July, 2021, accompanied by her new book, "Positive Resistance".