Art invasion – Art in therapy

Art in therapy is currently a big topic, often written about in blogs and psychotherapy books. There is an Institute for Arts in Therapy in London where this subject can be studied. The University of Roehampton hosts The Centre for Arts Therapies Research, which promotes integrated and complex understanding of the intersections between art, science, psychological and psychotherapeutic processes. While all this and much more is happening around me, I never expected that I would create any art anytime soon. Or ever. Last time I did something arty was….. I cannot actually remember when it was! However, it has recently transpired that not only I will but I will turn arty out of the blue, but I will do it on a large scale too. Large scale for me personally.

The best way to explain my artiness is ‘arty-not-arty. As a child, I would draw and paint quite happily without any major barriers. Creativity in my family home was not hugely encouraged, but it wasn’t discouraged either. I inherited some colour pencils and painting set from my older brother, and this fact was exciting enough to make some use of these resources. I also remember making a song up and making my mum write the words down for me. I don’t remember the look on her face as she did that but maybe it’s a good thing. I then remember writing some kind of poems taking Mickey out of my classmates and teachers in the secondary school. Those would rhyme quite well, and they were pretty funny too. I was quite proud indeed, but I could never share them with anyone else apart from my best friend perhaps. There’s a big gap after that.

Poem writing as a way of processing difficult emotions
The most recent artwork I can recall is an unpublished poem, which I wrote in March 2016 during our trip to Vietnam, while on the train trip from Saigon to Hanoi. I was so moved by the horrific damage created by Americans in Vietnam and after visiting the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City that I poured my emotions into the poem. It is 14 verse long and it’s length indicates how moved I was. Writing a poem was my way of processing difficult emotions, I would assume.

The art invasion
In July 2017, I commenced by CBT (cognitive-behavioural) therapy. As all talking therapies, CBT is a slow process. However, by October I was in an arty mode already. I felt a need to create something. I ended up creating a few interesting pieces, which surprised myself one after another. I would like to share one of them in this blog article. It is the tree, which can be seen in the picture on the top of this page.

The collection process
The idea just came to me out of nowhere and I soon found myself searching for all the right pieces while walking my dog. It was autumn and there were so many colourful leaves everywhere. One day I started picking them up. They all had different colours, shapes and sizes. Finding the right set of pieces was a task in itself. It was a creative process, which was quite absorbing and very pleasant in itself. I remember walking around and being fully focussed on my growing collection. I was imagining more and more detail of the tree as I was collecting leaves. I was careful with the right choice of colours and sizes. I spotted that leaves are not always one colour: they may have two or three or even four colours at once! By then, I had a combination of all colours and sizes in stock. I then picked up some mountain ash, acorns and petals. Everything was picked up from the ground, no plants were damaged as part of this process, and it was important for me too. The only thing, which was missing, was the tree trunk. The next time I walked the dog, I spotted a piece on my way which was the exact size that I needed. It felt like I’m in the right place somehow since everything I need was magically appearing on my way.

The tree from the arty me
You can see the result of my arty moment on the picture. It looked very pretty indeed. The tree trunk represents the core of me. The sticker on it says ‘CoolChick’ which is my nickname. All the various leaves represent all the various parts of me: different colours, different sizes, different emotions attached, facing various directions of the world and looking for various outcomes. The middle leaf has all the possible colours on it, it is the part which unites all parts of me so they can co-exist inside of me. You might also spot some of the stickers on the top part and they state ‘trust, pride and respect’.

Emotions attached to an art piece
I wasn’t sure what drove me to create the tree. However, I loved both the outcome and the emotions, which I experienced while looking at it. It hasn’t changed until today. It reminds me of all the personal work, which I have done, in order to feel the stability within me, which must be how trees feel. It also reminds me about the self-trust, respect to self and others and well as the pride of being who I am and who I am not.

See what is born
The tree was just the beginning of my arty journey through the therapeutic process. It is not always possible to understand what I create but I like just going with the flow to see what is born from my creativity. It is about allowing myself to go with the flow and trusting my intuition. It is not always easy in difficult times and perhaps that is one of the benefits, which art has on offer. Another benefit would be an ability to fully focus on the process and arrive at something beautiful as a result. Something that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t take a risk, follow my intuition and let my creativity loose. Perhaps these learnings reflect what I might need to implement into my life as well.

Trust yourself, free the creativity breaks and go for it!
If you ever feel a need to create something; If you ever find that an idea or a symbol follows you everywhere you go; If you see a vision in your head, which doesn’t want to go away – just trust yourself, free the creativity breaks and go for it. You might be positively surprised with what is born and it might be a beginning of a whole new journey for you, just as it has been for me.

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