The imagination gets a great press. As that little-known thinker Albert Einstein put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world.” All you have to do, surely, is use it and voila! Creative genius is a short hop away.
But if we’re talking about your ability to literally visualise alternative and potentially creative ideas, your imagination is actually hindered by a pesky thing called reality. In a 1987 article entitled “Imagined spatial transformations of one’s hands and feet” published in the journal Cognitive Psychology, Lawrence Parsons demonstrated that mental transformations – that is, physical movements visualised in the mind’s eye – incorporate the many natural, biomechanical constraints that apply to real-life physical motions. Apparently, “it is easier to imagine turning your hand in a natural direction than to imagine a physically impossible hand motion. Such constraints may limit the extent to which creative possibilities can be explored that violate natural directions of motion.”
Thanks, real world.
But there is hope, grim-reality-bound earthling! For there is a place such constraints are much less … constrainy. It’s called dreaming. There, things can be literally seen which violate real-life physical motions. Dream space is much more than a shadow of your regular imagination; it’s actually a more powerful version of it.
There are ways to leverage dream thinking to enhance your everyday, waking imagination – more of which another time. For now, why not try to recall a dream in which you saw something that’s literally impossible. Just processing that imagery and cogitating on its significance could boost your day with a bit of creativity fuel.