Art as Therapy: Creativity as Part of the Therapeutic Process 1
When people think about therapy, they generally imagine that it entails lots and lots of talk; yet /a-midlife-transition often makes powerful use of art as therapy.
Jungian analysts have considerable training in the ways that the deep self of the individual can be expressed through art, and so it can often be an incredibly helpful part of the process.
Why Be Creative?
Creativity is fundamentally an expression of the self, including the deeper parts of the psyche. If the individual is genuinely letting themselves be free, and engaging in creation, as opposed to copying others, he or she is letting an important aspect of her or his identity come to the surface.
Art as therapy is fundamentally about a kind of self acceptance. Can I accept what comes from me, that which I create? It can be a key turning point in a client’s work if the therapist can create an environment where what is created and springs up from the depths of the self is accepted and welcomed.
Not Everything is Verbal — or Nor Can It Be
If we reflect, we all know that there are fundamental truths about human life — about our lives — that simply can’t be expressed in spoken language, or in prose — what psychoanalyst Christopher Bollis calls the “unthought known”. This can be true of the full measure of love, the intensity of religious experience or the experience of the ground of our being, or sometimes of the extent of loneliness, or of yearning… or of the pain that is deepest in the soul.
Yet, even though we can’t just verbally describe these things, often we need to express them. These potent things fill the human heart — and they need to find a way to be “put out there”… to live and breathe.
Certainly the community of artists exist to express such things. We non-artists could just leave such expression in the hands of “the professionals”. We may feel that a Group of Seven painting or a Mozart sonata, or lines from Shakespeare express something ineffable, something that we could never express. And perhaps that’s right. But what about our own unique truth, the truth that is unique to our own lives — that no one can ever express but us? Yes, this truth exists: trust it to express itself, and it will.
Some Things Want to Become Conscious
They just do! There are things within each of us that long — that need — to be expressed and made conscious.
It takes a measure of security with one’s ego, and with one’s deeper self to let this emerge. We can all find it very easy, consciously, or unconsciously, to put on the brakes. Yet, if we wrestle to let this inner voice come forth, we may just find ourselves in contact with the voice of the deep self.
The Experience of Creation
I can recall many moments in therapy work, when individuals were prepared to disengage their inner censor, and bring forth something from within themselves that really wanted to exist — a drawing, a painting, a piece of music.
This can be extremely powerful — almost more so in the work of the individual who, without special training, is just giving room for expression to something in her or his inmost self. Perhaps not expressed in a perfect form, or through the most elegant of means, and yet I cannot describe to you the incredible privilege of seeing the way life incarnates itself in these individuals’ creative works.
Individuals should be encouraged to draw, paint, be creative as they explore themselves. In doing so, they are speaking the language of the deep self and of the unconscious.. A Jungian or /a-midlife-transition approach embodies much that can enrich and enliven the process of art as therapy.
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst