As I think about the many ways we are able to express ourselves in this digital age, I realize that the options for communication are so vast. Email, social media, letter writing, and the good old telephone are just a few of the ways that we can express our needs, wants, and desires with those around us. Often, a simple look is enough to communicate with others. We can also communicate with our body language. But what about those moments when words, gestures, or expressions fail? When life seems so complicated, and situations so unexplainable that there are no words to express what we are feeling or thinking- no avenue to alleviate our emotional burdens? This leaves us not only unable to express our needs and wants to others, but it can also render us blind to our own feelings and desires.
Using the fine arts as an expressive tool is one of the most unique and limitless forms of communication. It has the potential to help express ideas, feelings, and thoughts that would otherwise be very difficult to reveal. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Using the fine arts as a therapeutic tool can be a cathartic and meaningful avenue of expression and communication with the self, and if you choose- with those around you. Instead of facial expressions, movements, or words, we have the opportunity to open our psyche using colors, textures, shapes, and concepts.
You might be thinking, “I am not an artist, this doesn’t apply to me.” If you are able to put pen or brush to paper, then this can certainly apply to you! You don’t have to have a great deal of skill or creativity to use this technique of expression- you only need a willingness to try, and to nurture a non-judgmental attitude toward your process and finished product. Even better, you don’t need a lot of art supplies to tap into your expressive self. You may have many useful materials lying around your house- items such as pencils, paper, crayons or markers, and even newspaper or magazine clippings to use in a collage. Using photographs and other meaningful images can be a great way to open the door to your heart’s voice, moving you to uncharted territory within. If this task feels daunting to you, start out simple. Create a self-portrait in the media of your choosing. Or, simply ask yourself, “What do I need?” Or, “What am I feeling?” This can be represented by simple lines and shapes- no Mona Lisa required! Writing can also be a helpful expressive tool. Beginning or ending your day with a “mind dump” can help alleviate stressors and thoughts that will not go quietly. Simply grab a piece of paper and pencil, and begin writing any random word, phrase, sensation, or sentence that comes to mind- “dump” it out!
Remember- the process is yours. Deciding what to do with your creation could be the most beneficial part of your experience. You might want to frame your work and hang it on a wall, or you could even find closure to an experience and opt to destroy your work depending on its significance to you and your process. This is possibly the greatest aspect of expression using the visual arts- there are no rules!
Expressing your inner voice using the visual arts has many benefits and can be used by virtually anyone. If you would like to explore more of your situation through therapy, we would love to serve you. The Refuge Center for Counseling can be reached at 615-591-5262.