Art as Healing Transformation
-by Rosemary Schram (Certified Expressive Arts Facilitator)
“If you hear a voice within you saying…’You are not a painter’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
~ Vincent Van Gogh
We may not all be Van Gogh’s, but we can all paint, and in doing so release emotions that have built up in us over many years. It is often easier to do this work together in a group. We can motivate each other and revel in our successes and learn from our seeming failures while knowing that there is never anything done that we cannot learn from.
My desire is to share and learn with others. I have found that when I connect my writing with my art it seems to make me feel more whole. It brings the left and right sides of my brain together in a wonderful exchange. If you are looking for balance in your life, try finding it in this way.
“There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence transform a yellow spot into the sun.”
~ Pablo Picasso
That’s what art is all about…..transformation!
When you combine art with emotional awareness you allow for a transformative experience that can bring about health and wholeness in a new dimension.
“A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that: 70-80% of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related and stress-induced illnesses. Stress contributes to 50% of all illness in the United States.” 1
I see the use of Expressive Arts as an investigative journey, learning the ways that we can bring balance to our lives by employing the art of emotional expression as a concrete method to reduce stress. Since feelings are simply energy, they are neither good nor bad, but if left unexpressed they can cause serious problems.
Every experience we have, positive or negative, is recorded in the cells of our body, in our individual DNA. Whether we know it or not it, this trapped energy affects us in many ways. Unless we employ a plan for resolving these unexpressed feelings, they will literally eat away at us, causing not only stress but many different illnesses.
One method is by doing simple writing and expressive art processes. They can liberate negative energies within us, leaving us happier, feeling lighter and more fulfilled. We simply need a way to communicate our hidden, unexpressed feelings. Once they have been revealed, they are released and no longer hide in our bodies affecting us in untold ways. These exercises also aid us in being able to express ourselves artistically and the art projects help us create new structures within and without.
“Emotions move through us when they are accepted and expressed. When this happens, feelings enliven us and fuel our creativity.” 2 This is all a part of the healing process.
It has been documented that ART can heal. “The field of art therapy is discovering that artistic expression can be a powerful means of personal transformation and emotional and spiritual healing. In this book, Shaun McNiff, a leader in expressive arts therapy for more than three decades, reflects on a wide spectrum of activities aimed at reviving art’s traditional healing function.” 3
There is a strong connection between Emotions and Body-Mind Medicine.
Many illnesses are triggered by our emotional cries for help. Dr. Bernie Siegel is an internationally recognized expert in the field of cancer treatment and complementary, holistic medicine. As an Oncologist and author of Love, Medicine and Miracles, “Dr. Siegel worked with young cancer patients in the 1980′s who imagined that the video game icon “Pacman” would eat their cancer cells and eradicate the disease. Siegel’s work was verified when many children went into remission in their disease from this mind over matter idea.” 4
I have always found a healing quality present when writing about my art. It helps me to allow my inner awareness to come into alignment with my outer awareness and it brings with it a certain harmony.
Read the research of Dr. James Pennebaker to find proof of the healing quality of writing. He is a Professor and Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and has done powerful research into the healing power of writing showing that writing about your illness actually boosts your immunity.
Dr. Pennebaker and his students continue to explore the links between emotional experiences, natural language, and physical and mental health.
Norman Cousins, famous writer and editor, is known for laugh therapy and he actually laughed himself well. He was stricken with a crippling and life-threatening collagen disease in the 1960’s. After following a system of high doses of vitamin C and positive emotions (including daily doses of belly laughter), he recovered fully. His healing experience is described in his book, Anatomy of an Illness. Fifteen years later he again healed himself after suffering a life threatening heart attack. You can read about his healing journey in his book, The Healing Heart: Antidotes to Panic and Helplessness.
Deepak Chopra, who popularized ancient Indian art of Ayurvedic medicine, recently announced on a TV interview that we can change our genes by our thoughts. You may also have heard of the The Mozart Effect. “The term was first coined by Alfred A.Tomatis who used Mozart’s music as the listening stimulus in his work attempting to cure a variety of disorders.” 5
Yes, emotional expression is healing. Using art as a means of expressing hidden emotions can lead to a transformative healing experience.
This thought is also echoed in the research of Candace Pert, PhD, in her book, Molecules of Emotion. “My research has shown me that when emotions are expressed—which is to say that the biochemicals that are substrate of emotion are flowing freely—all systems are united and whole. When emotions are repressed, denied, not allowed to be whatever they may be, our network pathways get blocked, stopping the flow of the vital feel-good, unifying chemicals that run both our biology and our behavior.“6
Expressing emotions can be done easily through art processes. You can use them to create an art project but more significant than the end product is the journey you take to get there. That is what is most important because that is where you learn to embrace your feelings and release them.
Welcome art into your life and be transformed!
About the Author….Rosemary Schram, Author, Poet, Artist, Trainer, Educator and Certified Expressive Arts Practitioner (CEAP) was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and currently resides in Plano, Texas. She combined her education degree from the University of Michigan with her lifelong passion for art when she became a CEAP in 2006. Before that she taught elementary school in Michigan, Indiana, and California, gave many educational workshops and presentations throughout the U.S. and spoke for children in the juvenile legal system as a CASA advocate. She currently organizes and facilitates an expressive arts group in Plano. For more information, she can be contacted at; email@example.com Her art can be viewed at; http://www.meetup.com/Express-Yourself-Artistically/.
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