Art Heals says the bumper sticker on the car in the parking lot. I am tempted to wait for the driver to return, so I can hug him or her. What is it about the arts that heal? No matter the medium, art tells a story. The soil of creativity becomes richest when we honor the particularities of our lives. Art heals because the act of creating helps us honor the particularities of our lives, and in the telling of our stories, we become connected to others.
Any art form works, but I have the most experience with this in writing. The creative and courageous act of recall, organizing our thoughts, drawing from a pool of words, lining them into meaningful sentences, paragraphs, pages often surprises with accompanying tears, relief, and a shift towards equanimity.
This shift results because our telling moves our memories from the subconscious to the page. Unexamined memories can drone repetitive messages beneath the surface of our consciousness often trapping us in identities as victims. When we bring our attention and artistry to our good hard life, we bring our memories to the light and hold them with the wisdom of our present maturity. Writing alone is powerful, but sharing what we write intensifies the healing even more.
This past Memorial Day, I thought of a profound lecture I heard from author and psychoanalyst, Dr. Edward Tick. He specializes in caring for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and advises friends and families to support veterans' healing by encouraging them to tell their storeis. New York University now offers a creative writing program for veterans assisting them with a community of support and a place to hone their craft. In talking to compassionate listeners, soldiers have a better chance of transforming their imprisoning nightmares to spiritual strength. And so it is for spirited women in need of healing.
I tell writers in my groups that though we are not a therapy group, telling our stories is therapeutic. We do not listen to each others' work as invitation to discuss people's lives; rather we respond by helping the writer see where and how others resonate. This done with confidentiality emboldens the creators to consider all aspects of life as worthy material for creative exploration. The deepest human fear is to be alone, so our hearts soar when we share our stories and find we are safe.
Healing of course is not unique to biographical writing. We can explore our stories in many art forms, and yet it may also be true that the kind of connection we need is through sharing the process even more than the product. Healing can occur with our friends as we glaze ceramics, stitch quilts, or garden together. Creating in community provides an easy context for gentle conversation. May you spirited women, let the wisdom of your art, lead you to enjoy the nurture of healing creativity.
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