Are creativity & empathy connected?


Research based on 14 years of Peace through Art and Healing Arts programs, has shown measurable development of empathy in all those connected with these creative efforts (Lancet medical journal, December 2006). People who ‘own’ their creativity are possibility thinkers. To them obstacles are opportunities. They have the courage it takes to act on ideas and think differently. High creatives are sensitive to feelings (their own and others) and can easily come to tears, but they also bravely stand up for what is right and refuse to be silent witnesses to suffering or inequity.  We all have the creative ability to look at situations through another person’s eyes or imagine life walking in another’s shoes.  Radical creativity is about joining hands and hearts with creators worldwide and fashioning a sustainable world where both creativity and empathy are seen as keys to a peaceful and flourishing planet. Are you ready to get involved? 

Creativity & Empathy Collage

“Creativity challenges the status quo.”
Ruth Richards

One of my greatest discoveries as a student at Buffalo State, was the work of Ruth Richards, M.D., PhD.  Earlier blogs sang the praises of  Everyday Creativity: Psychological, Social, and Spiritual Perspectives.  Now, I’m excited to share a link which lets you to see, hear and learn from my mentor.  Click here for your front row seat:  Age of Empathy? New Views of Health, Human Nature, and Relational Creativity is an informative talk by Dr. Ruth Richards, Harvard researcher, eminent creativity scholar, and professor of psychology at Saybrook University, which offers insights into the connections between creativity and empathy.  I invite you to view the video and share it with others who have an interest in both creativity and empathy’s roles in the survival of our species!  After viewing the video, the slide show and reference list can also be printed out.  I found the information about Darwin’s later works very illuminating. I encourage you to explore Edwin Rutsch’s site: . It’s a rich source of empathy quotes, projects, experts, empathy curriculum suggestions, and much more. You are also invited to be part of:

 If you are a parent or educator interested in building empathy in children, Ruth Richards recommends Growing up Global: Raising Children to be at Home with the World by Homa Sabet Tavanger (2009).  How do you encourage empathy in your family?  I’d love your feedback in the form of a comment on this blog or via e-mail:

“The encouragement of creativity from an early age is one of the best guarantees of growth in a healthy environment self-esteem and mutual respect – critical ingredients for building a culture of peace.”

Empathy-building creativity in action can be witnessed June 17-19, 2011, from 4th Street to 7th Street of the National Mall in Washington DC (across from the U.S. Capital), the site of the 4th World Children’s Festival. If you live in the area – consider come see me. The event is free and the public is invited.  I will be presenting Saturday at 2pm during “Creativity + Imagination Day.”  A group of ten students and graduates of Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity led by Dr. Cynthia Burnett, will be stimulating children’s inherent creativity and potential in playful, experiencial ways. We’ll be there Sunday (at 2pm again) to present creative workshops focused on building creative and healthy communities during “Peace + Leadership Day.” The festival is held in honor of nearly 1,000 Arts Olympiad winners from around the world, along with their teachers and parents. More than 200 artists, educators, engineers, entrepreneurs, Olympians, scientists, and technologists will host free workshops and creative activities.  This event is designed to, “…nurture children’s creativity and develop their empathy in a global setting…The festival is a transformative experience where creativity and co-creation become building blocks for innovation and positive social change which empowers the children to shape the future and change the world” (ICAF program).  I am so excited to be part of this amazing event.  Creativity, playfulness, joy and connections will be fully present…GUARANTEED!

“It’s a joy discovering so many creative spirits sharing their gifts with a hungry world.”
Marta Davidovich Ockuly

 As a very recent graduate with a Master’s of Science degree in Creativity, I’m thrilled to be discovering so many amazing applications of creativity by agents for positive change in our world.  Shortly after returning home to Sarasota, I noticed this inspiring sculpture in front of a home on the way to the beach.  I love the message (and the fact the person who put it up cares so much about inspiring others!)  Giving ourselves permission to make mistakes is powerful. What fear is blocking you?  Pretend it’s a dragon you’ve banished from your kingdom. You are a creative free spirit with a destiny. Imagine me waving a magical wand over your head and declaring: “The world is waiting for what you long to create. The sooner you start making mistakes JOYFULLY, the sooner you’ll make the discovery which leads to a life-changing discovery.”  Make this a time of creative action. Consider re-creating yourself as a compasionate activist.

Creativity Prompt:  What ’cause’ do you care about?  How might you begin playing with this possibility? Create a ’cause’ collage (better yet – host a ’cause collage’ party)!

10 New Quotes About Empathy

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.”
Meryl Streep

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
Daniel Goleman

 “Only by examining our personal biases can we truly grow as artists; only by cultivating empathy can we truly grow as people.”
Jen Knox

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not – and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation – in its’ arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”
J.K. Rowling

“To embrace suffering culminates in greater empathy, the capacity to feel what it is like for the other to suffer, which is the ground for unsentimental compassion and love.”  
Stephen Batchelor (Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist)

 “I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”
Roger Ebert

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
Frederick Buechner

“Help someone, you earn a friend. Help someone too much, you make an enemy.”
Erol Ozan

“We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained.”
Barack Obama

 “Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.  Instead of offering empathy, we often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling.  Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.”
Marshall Rosenberg

Ann Paquin, creator of 'Gratitude Dancing'

This is a photo of my amazing friend Ann. She is the inspiration and creative spirit behind ‘Gratitude Dancing’ on Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, FL.  I joyfully participated in her last session and it was a truly beautiful experience seeing friends and strangers dancing with joy.  Ann sets the scene by bringing a boom box (her own or borrowed), CD’s, a variety of colorful silk veils in adult and child-friendly sizes, and a small sign which invites everyone to take part in the fun.  It’s all about appreciation for the gift of  ‘this moment’ and the healing benefits of moving our bodies to music in nature.  Veils are offered to people passing by. At first some people seem shy, but with a bit of encouragement they use the scarf to give their dancing spirit wings!  Men and women, boys and girls, elders and newlyweds, tourists and locals, jocks and self-professed ‘non-dancers’ connect with the primal urge to move with the music in a form of moving prayer to the angel of the present moment. Ann’s newest idea is to somehow help people make time in their busy days for a ‘dance break’ which can relieve stress while adding a dose of joy ‘in the moment’.  I told her my personal ‘dance break’ song is Waka Waka by Shakira. I simply cannot hear that song without getting up and dancing. What’s YOUR happy dance song?  Play it. To explore Ann’s creative ventures visit and .  How can you use YOUR passion to bless the world?  It’s time to share our stories, build our creative tribes, and use our creativity to fuel empathy for a better world…gratefully.

“I want us to organize, to tell the personal stories that create empathy, which is the most revolutionary emotion.”
Gloria Steinem

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”
Oprah Winfrey

June is a month of very special celebrations. My website: will be 2 years old  June 18th!  Now we’re very close to hitting the “100,000 monthly visits” milestone thanks to positive, empowering quote lovers from around the world who choose this site for daily inspiration!  A big blessing goes out to every single person who has ever visited Joy of Quotes and recommended it to someone in need of encouragement, as well as my son who set up the site as a loving gift to his mom.  Thank you all for ‘getting inspired and passing it on!” 

June “Happy Birthday” wishes go out to Hanif, Miley, Ronni, Chepe, Stephan and Juliana.  May you all enjoy a year of great joy and amazing miracles.  Each of you are special blessings in my life!

With much love,

Marta Davidovich Ockuly, M. Sc.
(next step…PhD)


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