By Pamela Mueggenberg LMHP, MA
Art Therapy Counseling
“Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always.” -S.C. Lourie
The act of creative expression is a strong tool for psychological healing from trauma. Music, movement, art, poetry, writing, drama are all vital to our work as mortals navigating difficult times. Unfortunately, creativity is often rife with judgement - from ourselves, mainly, but also others who attempt to signal their own virtue through self-righteous proclamations: “if you aren’t learning a new language/lifting weights/making original art in quarantine you never wanted to!”
That statement, from a clinical perspective, is utter hogwash. Sometimes we can make time for ourselves and our creative needs. Other times we have succeeded in our day by just getting out of bed in the morning. Take inventory of yourself, with compassion, and if you find a desire to do something a little more reflective that particular day, here are some ideas.
Utilize your Visual Voice. To name an experience is to claim some solace. We could use our spoken language to make sense of some of the feelings we have, but that can be too immediate, glib, or accidentally hyperbolic.
If we instead use creative expression to safely contain and create separation from our pain, we have a moment in our work to view the sensation as a discernible object that we can name, describe or contextualize.
Create a bit of safety. Using our imagination to describe moments of peace can be an oasis of safety during stressful times. Gretchen Miller calls this process “an essential foundation to start stabilizing terror into manageable states of contentment and security.”
Empower your own resilience. You may not be able to control when your boss will give you your hours back, but you can choose what color you’re going to paint that wall, damn it. Miller reminds us, creating art gives you chances to “make choices, problem solve, make meaning,” and safely navigate options for success in a low-risk setting.
Remember, you can do things to help you feel better but you are not obligated to do them all the time. Be gentle with yourself and those around you, and we’ll get through this.