A recent suggestion from a friend (thanks, Elizabeth) prompted me to open my eyes to the world of art therapy. I love research more than the average Joe, so I didn't mind a bit diving right into some fun books on art therapy over the last few weeks and soaking in as much as I could ... and after learning more about the many modalities of art therapy, I'm excited about it. Not that I want to go out and get my art therapy degree... I just want to incorporate some of it into my life and see what it might teach me.
I mean, I've been "doing" art therapy just by creating art. Creating art holds a healing power. It can carry us away to a place where we lose track of time. Making art allows us to open our minds and imaginations in a way that we can't always do in a "realistic world" of limits, rules, and parameters.
Creating art gives us permission to do whatever we want and know that anything we choose to do is o.k. And it gives us permission to imagine new possibilities and to experience them in new ways. I find it just plain fun and grounding to work with my hands... tearing paper, smearing pastels with my fingers, and dripping glue and paint on my hands and jeans. I feel like a kid again!
Now, you know what a big word lover I am... I've touted the power of our words in many of my past blogs, but I love this new understanding about how important images are in our lives too! It makes perfect sense really, doesn't it? We were drawing pictures on cave walls long before we were speaking and writing.
Images are the universal connection... the collective unconscious so to speak... "a picture is worth a thousand words." And because art images don't work in a linear kind of way, they don't have to obey any rules like language does - no structure or organization. What might take paragraphs of words to describe can be expressed much more easily in a single image. Very cool stuff!!!
Art therapists don't ask their patients to create images that they see from the outside world, but instead ask them to pull images that reside deep within them... our inner world of thoughts, feelings, ideas and images that are vital to our experience. Then, with their expertise, they interpret those images and patient's experience into a process of healing. THAT'S the stuff that an art therapist would ask us to pull from within... but not with words... with images and our imagination and our creativity!!! THAT's where the healing power lies!!
How beautiful that by creating artwork we not only get lost in time, have child-like abandon, and open our imaginations to possibilities, we also can heal some pretty heavy-duty "stuff" by giving it permission to surface from within us - stuff that doesn't always want to get worked out through words. Not everyone feels comfortable talk-talk-talking out our problems... well, men for one aren't usually chatty Cathy's, and also children who don't necessarily have the words to communicate... it's sometimes much easier to just draw it or collage it or smear paint to express ourselves.
And now I understand that there are so many levels of art therapy and avenues for incorporating it into our lives that I am tickled to get started. No, I don't know how to interpret it... yet, but I bet you by patiently playing with artistic creation and drawing from within myself, I will eventually start figuring myself out a little bit more than the day before.
So every once in a while, I'm going to sprinkle this blog with "non-professional art therapy posts" so that you can keep abreast of my attempts at possibly healing my family and myself. (if I can get my hubby to sit down and "do art.") I'm going to check this out just for fun to see if and what "comes up for any of us." I'd love for you to try the exercises out alongside me if you feel moved to, and I'd love to hear how it goes!
So, without further ado... my first attempt at a new aspect of art therapy... drawing from within. I based my idea off of an exercise in the book The Art Therapy Sourcebook, and added my own spin on it using some good old spiritual healing as well.
I pulled some "Sculpt It" out of my art cabinet. It's a little softer than clay which I find easier to work with. And if you don't have any clay or Sculpt It, good old Play Doh will work too! I lit a candle, called my son down - who will always partake in a good adventure - and off we went.
As I was rolling out the clay, working my fingers through it to soften it and shape it, kneading it with each finger and rolling my hands along it, I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths, getting comfortable and relaxed - clearing my mind of all the clutter.
As I became aware of my breath, in - out - inhale - exhale, I pushed my thumbs into the clay in sync with the rhythm of my breath for a few moments. Just enjoying the process of feeling and meshing with the formless mass.
Then I thought about what clay comes from (even though this wasn't real clay - stay with me on this one...) the earth... Clay comes from the earth! The earth is a wonderful sponge that draws out our toxins.
So I imagined that with each push and pinch of the clay, I was releasing negative energy, thoughts, and feelings from my body through my fingertips ... I asked the clay to absorb anything from my body that was not serving my highest good. And I imagined that the clay was happily sucking up the toxins of my body, emotions, thoughts and the day's stress... just taking it away from me.
My son and I relaxed into the process as the clay softened to our touch. We rolled it, flattened it, ran objects through it to make different indentations, made it into several forms - no preconceived notions about what it should be - no rules or objectives - just thinking and forming, releasing and creating...
|I liked squeezing it into thin wispy strands for some reason|
|Ryan liked using tools to mark his clay|
|What the? I don't know, but I wanted to make bridge-like links connecting everything.... hmmm.|
|I don't know... I reached into the candle holder and pulled out a pebble to brighten it|
|got a little pebble happy|