Expression through an art form creates a pathway to the authentic self. As members of this human family, each of us share a common journey in getting to know this self because intimately knowing and expressing the self means we are living in harmony with its authentic, divinely given purpose. When we live truly and harmoniously in this way, we can flow and thrive as individuals and nourish our collective community. The challenge is that our quickly advancing and expanding world does not seem to like just to be. This pausing to look in on the self is very important in getting to know the self. For example, as I have started to show when we leave traumatic experiences or difficult emotions unprocessed, it can create dis-ease. That unprocessed and buried anger or fear follows us into our daily lives, presenting itself as depression, physical pain, and even illness. Through my introduction of healing modalities, I hope to show you ways to slow down and just be in this world that keeps going and going. It is okay to need a specific time to pay attention to your pain, to get to know it. So that you can transform it, this time, we will explore how creating and expressing oneself through art or creative medium helps heal deep wounds and allows the soul to see and be itself.
Molly Pace, Art Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, helps shed light on just how important it is to tap into this creative nature as human beings with brains. Remember that thing we always hear about the left and right side of the brain? The left side of the brain is known as the logical and analytical center. This inner critic calculates and deciphers threats and how to survive (This is also associated with the natural stress dominant state known as the “fight-or-flight” response). The left side of the brain also helps us produce language and use communicable words for the people around us to hear and understand. For example, when asked, how are you feeling? You might respond with “I’m good” or “I’m feeling okay.” The logical left brain is helping you form those words to respond. But what happens when we need to express things that are hard to put into words?
If I asked you, “How are you feeling?” and you could with a different form of expression besides words (Whatever your medium, be it painting, dancing, singing, making toothpick sculptures, or writing magazine articles). We might get a more authentic answer from the right brain, which is known as our creative center, the side of the brain we use primarily when creating art or experiencing emotions.
By no coincidence, it seems this is also the side of the brain in which we store traumatic experiences and emotions that can be difficult for us and our brains to process or express fully.
These days, it is also important to acknowledge the conditioning associated with expressing difficult things like a traumatic experience or a painful emotion. We learn to keep these things hidden and left unheard so that we can “suck it up” and be the professional businessperson, the strong mother, or the helpful teacher. These are all valuable aspects of ourselves we have learned, yet with unacknowledged emotions and experiences locked inside, they can feel like masks covering the truth within. Our hidden emotions will manifest as a dis-ease like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, making it challenging to beam our true selves through our different aspects as the businessperson, mother, or student.
Molly teaches us that authentic expression of our inner world begs for more than the words of our critical right brain. Thus, art is the hero of the story, the bridge to our healing. Drawing, dancing, painting, writing, and creating can help us transform our depression and anxiety authentically to express what has been locked away or banished as unacceptable: our anger, our pain, and our trauma. So, when we make art, we access the creative right side of the brain and begin to express the emotions and experiences to which we cling by representing them sensorily outside ourselves. This is why you can see or feel an artist’s anger upon seeing her painting or a musician’s love when hearing his song.
Rather than using primarily the right brain to say “I’m angry!” Or “I’m in love!”, the creator of the art can more fully and authentically express an answer to the question “How are you feeling?” Anger becomes bold, sweeping brush strokes and bright red paint. The experience and duality of being in love becomes somber melodies that pull on the heart. Painful memories become the embodied movements of dancing.
It only takes a moment’s reflection to realize it is hard to put into words how it actually feels to hear love in a song or create an angry painting. This is because the left analytical and language-producing brain has to take a back seat so we can access the wordless yet creative world of the right brain. This true expression of our inner world is simultaneously an act of true expression of our authentic selves.Thus, creative expression through art, any form of art, is yet another way we can heal our wounds and fully live our true purpose as a professional businessperson, a strong mother, and a helpful teacher.
True and creative expression can not only help us free the burden of hidden emotions and painful experiences, but it also helps us become the most authentic and evolved version of ourselves. When we live from our truth in this way, it naturally serves a grand purpose in the greater community. For example, Molly sees and expresses herself by creating cosmic, intuitive, and soul-driven artwork that can also, at times, resemble the inside of an enchanted geode. Creating these paintings and drawings allows Molly to express the complexity of her unique self which is nearly impossible to cover with words alone. She practices Art Therapy, teaches astrology classes, makes beautiful artwork, and has a family. I could continue to say different ways to identify and describe Molly and her artwork, but only witnessing it will offer a window to her soul.
Creating paintings naturally becomes Molly’s gift as she then offers her artwork into the community and also utilizes this discovered purpose to help her clients heal and see themselves by creating their own artwork. Thus, the true expression of self through the art mediums of her choosing allows Molly to live in harmony by nourishing both herself and her community.
As a massage therapist, I have learned to deeply appreciate the complexity of the human body. Molly helps grow this appreciation as she highlights our ability to reach out into the world and express the true self through any creative medium we choose. Even if we have to dig through layers of trauma and fear to find the self, we can channel these experiences and emotions through the artwork we make and begin to heal those wounds. In our healing, we contribute to the evolution of both our individual selves and the collective human community.
Emily Larson, Licensed Massage Therapist, Private Yoga Instructor, Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Human Performance, Co-Teacher of Anatomy for massage therapists at the Bio-Chi Institute, Mother to Noah.