Discover the power of art to help you on your own healing journey.
Emotions like grief, anxiety, anger, fear, and sadness are natural responses to many life-stressors.
Problem is, if you don't find a way to healthfully express these emotions, they can stay bottled up inside, often coming out in ways that aren't so helpful. Often when we feel "stuck" in emotional or mental turmoil, it's because we've hit a wall. That chaos might be adversely affecting relationships, jobs, or day-to-day life. Or it might be taking over your thoughts, coloring your emotions, and infiltrating your identity.
When life takes us beyond words, it makes sense that we need to go beyond words in order to heal.
ART helps us go beyond words - to express deep, painful, overwhelming, and abstract thoughts and feelings surrounding our losses and pain.
Let's dive into this a little deeper. I'm no expert, but from my own personal experience, here are just a few reasons why I think that art is so helpful for those on the journey to mental and emotional wellness.
I'm using the example of grief and loss here, but the same principles apply to many other forms of mental turmoil and emotional pain.
1.) Grief and art are are both abstract.
This is the reason why we can go to art (beyond words!) in order to express our deep emotional pain.
Try describing "grief" in words and you’ll end up describing a collection of symptoms that you’re currently experiencing. Try drawing or painting what grief looks or feels like, and you’ll end up with something that’s likely abstract and ugly, but that’s also undoubtably true.
2.) Art helps you externalize and evaluate your thoughts and feelings.
If you dare to let yourself draw or paint how you feel, your artwork can then act as a mirror for seeing what’s going on inside.
You can then ask questions of yourself, like: Why does my grief look like that right now? Is that actually true? What about this is beyond my control? What is within my power to change?
3.) Grief and Art are both processes.
There’s no set step 1, step 2, step 3, when working through a difficult drawing, or painting a masterpiece. The artist (child, amateur or professional) moves all over the paper or canvas, adding a little paint here and there, correcting one place, emphasizing another.
Grief is also a process that unfolds over time. There’s no set steps on your way to healing.
Often, the grief process runs parallel to the creative process. For example, you might have trouble "facing a blank canvas" in your creative process, and also be facing similar issues with starting life over again following a difficult loss. In the same way, though, finding breakthrough in one of these process (whether it starts with art or grief, doesn't matter!), can often lead to breakthrough in the other process. Pretty cool, huh?
4.) Art can help us being to imagine and reconstruct our lives post-loss.
The “painting” of our lives before loss was beautiful and familiar. We liked it! When loss happened, it totally destroyed that image we had of how our lives would look.
While it is good to mourn that old life, after a while we begin to recognize that in order to keep on living, we must make a new painting on top of the old one. Art helps us imagine into the destruction and begin making something different, as well as new and beautiful.
Yes, but... what if I'm not an artist?
Isn’t it cool how art can help us do all those things? I can hear you saying, yes, I believe that art could be a great tool for processing my grief, but I can’t use it. I like art, but I’m not an artist.
Let me reassure you, that’s the most common and exciting objection I get!
When someone says, “I’m not an artist,” what they mean is “I’m not a fine artist.” They don’t paint in oils, have pictures in galleries, or wear a beret (does any artist actually wear a beret?). The thing is, you don’t have to be a fine artist in order to experience the benefits of art as a tool in your grief recovery.
"Fine Art" is about the quality of the final PRODUCT, but Grief Art is all about the PROCESS. That’s why anyone can learn to use art to express their grief.
Comment below: How has art helped YOU through a difficult time?
Healing from grief, destructive thinking and/or emotional pain can be scary and messy. Through Creative Life Coaching, I help my clients learn to understand and externalize "the mess" inside- and find beauty in the midst of it.
Life coaches start with the belief that YOU are the expert, and you just might need a little outside help to train, equip, and motivate you to do what you do best: live your one precious life. Creative Life Coaching combines the art making process with the skills of life coaching.
If you'd like some guidance in navigating your own healing process AND you're interested in maybe doing it through art, you can learn more about Creative Life Coaching here. I'll be accepting new clients starting October 2021. If you'd like to be notified when I have an opening, you can fill out an interest form right now.