Healing Through Art: Exploring Pain


When you make art for a long time, you develop an understanding about your process and work to make the things in your studio support your practice.

You’ll consider: what you need to get started on a new piece, what you need to complete a piece, and what you’ll need to stay focused. You’ll know what kind of music will keep you going when you are ready to quit, when to take breaks before you overwork a piece, and even when it’s time to give up on a body of work and try something new.

Ultimately, you’ll gain the wisdom to know that pain is a natural part of creativity, an essential part of the growth process.

So why is it a surprise that physical and emotional healing would be any different? At one point in my healing, it felt like I would never be leaving the hospital, with my pain ever increasing and my ability to concentrate decreasing. I was deeply afraid and impatient. Making myself pick up a pencil helped influence my resolve to incorporate this experience into my artwork and finish the mural drawings I had proposed to make for Art Sphere Inc’s project partners. Making art teaches us that we have to be very patient, start small, and start without delay when you have something to interpret.

With art, having a drive to be as conscious of your process as possible also helped me quit painkillers. It also helped that I became more curious about how to symbolize the sensations so I could describe them rather than just not wanting to feel pain.

A sense of learning my own process allowed me the space to breathe and take breaks from concentrating on the pain. Truly thinking about the healing experience as something to interpret gave me the space to be clearheaded, and gave me something not entirely futile to focus my attention on. If I couldn’t make the pain better, at least I could engage it on my own terms. Art gives meaning and the artist’s desire to share meaning served to help me heal quickly. It also gave me time to be reflective and draw from past enlightening and healing events.

Many years ago while living in Arizona, I volunteered to work at a series of art and movement workshops given by Marion Woodman so I could attend her teachings at a time when I was reading many of the works of Jung and other healers. She was a powerful healer and I think what she had to say applies here:

“I do believe that we all have a destiny. We either live it or we escape it because we are afraid to live our own reality. I feel blessed I didn’t really have choices; I have been forced through dreams, through my body responses, through illness to surrender. The surrender feels like death, but if you’re going to live your full soul’s journey and find the spiritual dimension, you are going to go this way and surrender the old life to the new. I do not see surrender as failure at all; I would have simply died if I hadn’t seen in that, that death was the birth of a whole new consciousness.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELL_5hStC_k&feature=player_embedded

I wonder, does art during the healing process make you more conscious of your values?

Does illness or injury help us to better understand our life’s journey towards finding joy?

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