Support Activities Developed by:
Michael C. Irving, Ph.D., Sculptor/Coach and Counselor*
ART FOR YOUR HEALING ||
| ||Gather Common
| Focusing and Grounding|
| Just Let it Happen|
| Respect the Emotions in the Art |
the Self |
List for Art as Healing|
USING ART FOR YOUR HEALING
A wide variety of painting and drawing
materials are available from paint to pastels, colored pencils, markers and crayons.
Sculpting for healing can be explored with self-drying clays, plasticine or sculpting
wax. Before beginning your healing art exercise, gather together all the art materials
and supplies you will need. It is helpful to store your art materials in a few
small containers that are easily accessible when emotional material surfaces.
Can I peel
away the pain
on this piece?
And can I slice
through time like
and find a form
that echoes more
could be sculpture...
we can re-invent our souls
BROKEN BY ABUSE, HEALED BY LOVE
full of pain and suffering
from crushing words and violent beatings
brief escape under a starlight sky.
For her, the night sky looks as though
God has asked everyone in heaven to
turn the lights on in their rooms
to let her know she is loved and not alone,
even though what happens to her
makes her feel very unloved and very alone.
people and places have come into her life
bringing love and healing,
just as the stars brought comfort
with the Love that had created both
the girl and the stars years ago.
To this day,
the night sky appears to her
like a giant blanket of stars placed over her
by the love of God.
BLANKET OF LOVE
I looked and looked and prayed to the Lord;
What I wanted was unreachable, all I needed was impossible.
hands over my shoulders with blanket heavy of love, job, wisdom, that’s
all I wanted.
When I looked up among thousands of sparkling stars, I saw one
that gave me hope.
I looked and looked and prayed to the Lord, to give me
what I wanted, all that I needed.
April 22, 1996 after many, many dark nights
of prayer, I was lifted up;
I had mother’s hands over my shoulders,
with a blanket heavy of love, care and wisdom.
I was flying among thousands
of sparkling stars;
Tears and laughter were all my emotions;
the stars were all my senses.
The Lord was no longer subdued,
was loud and clear.
I realized what I wanted was no longer unreachable,
All I needed was no longer impossible.
Among many, many stars, sitting on
a magic horse and mother’s hands over my shoulders with a blanket full of
love, care and wisdom was the Lord’s way of saying,
Opening the window
over my child soul.
Shadows of burden
The wall has been broken.
I am a wild flower
in the rain.
My anger and tears
Part of my past
Getting on with
in the past
Focusing and Grounding
An art as healing exercise starts by taking time to relax and ground. Being aware
of your breath, feet on the floor and legs resting on the chair helps with becoming
centred and connected with inner resources. If a person knows other relaxation,
grounding or centering techniques, these are OK to use. While centering, the artist
can be aware of body sensation and think about key messages that the body is using
to help oneself or others to understand.
Much of the inspiration for
healing art takes place when a person is responding to felt sensations, peripheral
thoughts and intuition. The wisdom of the body can communicate in powerful felt
expressions. The voice of the inner mind will show itself in symbols, impressions
Just Let it Happen
Art activities for healing should be spontaneous. You do not have to worry about
the finished work. One survivor said, "You just draw ... and let it flow."
There is no right or wrong way, everyone's healing art is individual. A sculpting
workshop participant offered support to other survivors with, "You really
do not need to be an artist to do it!
Let go of expectations of
what will fill the space of a work of healing art. The survivor can begin the
journey with a simple trust that what will need to be there will come out. Stephen
wrote in his journal,
idea has changed totally. My crumpled rose about to be reborn is no more. The
broken heart represents the broken trust. The phoenix is my rebirth!"
worry about finding immediate meaning in the figures you choose. They will take
on more meaning as you shape and change them."
"Just follow your
instincts and insight and the art will unfold. It did for me. It is a rewarding
Art in progress, and in particular healing art, should not
be judged. It is something that is fermenting and unfolding. The normal creative
process is fraught with excitement and frustration, when one adds the issues of
working with traumatic childhood material to the creative process, the sense of
challenges can be even more dramatic.
The creative process is fluid
and often takes on a life of its own. The artistic design may happen quickly or
may take a long period of time. Either way is OK. Healing art, like therapy, seems
to abruptly come together -- often just after a period that is "sheer chaos" and
the survivor wonders if anything will ever happen. A quilt square sculptor shares
lessons from her confrontation with the creative struggle,
"Although there may be times when you just want to
quit -Don't! This experience will bring a lot of release and expression that you
may not even be aware of. Don't fight it. Work with it! Let it flow."
Healing art is an organic
process. An image may not be ready to generate felt sense responses until another
form or colour is started. The artist keeps connected to the creative flow. The
felt sense urge to create, pause, change impulses or return to earlier impulses
needs to be followed. When impulses for new images, forms or colours are no longer
occurring, the art work is done.
Respect the Emotions
in the Art Process
Reflecting on her creative work
one "Reaching Out" participant expressed,
experienced all the emotions as strongly as I did in therapy."
people will cry in creating healing art. It is OK to cry and it is just as OK
not to cry. If the survivor has dealt with concerns of abuse, emotions as a process
in healing may be familiar and feel safe. It is always important to maintain a
feeling of safety while expressing the release of painful feelings whether that
is in therapy or while journal writing or making art. If the survivor has not
explored abuse issues then they may want to become comfortable with emotions and
processing trauma before delving into painful issues through artistic expression.
To manage the intensity that can occur while making art it can be valuable
to look at what you have used in the past with strong feelings, such as: techniques
for being in the present like looking around the room or reminding oneself of
this moment's time, year and location. You might also use breathing and grounding,
relaxation, visualization or supportive thoughts or messages to focus or reflect
on, nurturing, self care or playful activities before or after the creative immersion.
Ashley said that after each Monument Project sculpting and writing
"I found that
I was very quiet and withdrawn on the following day."
"Be cognizant of
the feelings that could be aroused and how this will impact you on the next day
or two and plan accordingly."
issues that come up in art making may be trying, but can also be rewarding. Sylvia
"Through creating my
quilt square I gained a deeper understanding of myself and how my survivor experience
affected me. I learned art is a deeply rewarding way for me to continue my journey."
Connecting with the
Many people find art returns one to the "self".
One quilt square artist commented,
"In touching my own cast wax hand I felt empathy for my vulnerable self."
The sculpted hand assisted the
survivor/artist in making a significant leap in self-compassion and understanding.
She had responded to the original abuse with feelings of self blame and had never
been able to sympathize with her adolescent-self as a victim. Another survivor/artist
"Seeing my wax hand made
me feel more real, that I exist."
said of her quilt square,
felt supportive when I touched the art work. It was like a friend. I felt kind
of alone when I was not touching it."
a similar experience another participant shared,
I finished it was hard to leave my square. It's become a part of me, of who I
am. It's truly the tangible piece of a dream I had so long ago that I truly am
beautiful and have much to offer no matter what my father said or did."
work of art can be an expression of the inner self and the soul,
"It was a great experience for me because it was "the
icing on my cake. I took back my life with this final step that I was given. My
handprint all in one piece shows that there is life after Horrific
Abuse. I conquered!",
to create from the inner self is to conquer.
One "Reaching Out" participant
"Making our sculptures
reaffirmed the power of every survivor in the forms of courage, creativity, compassion
and friendship found in our quilt squares. It is a substance that the abuse did
art gave me a precious gift to cherish, it gave me... myself",
for other survivors art making in its many forms offers a similar gift.
A Resource List
for Art as Healing
The hand of a child
who will not be abused.
can have this
dream come true.
Child abuse affects
us all, if one hurts,
There is no excuse
for child abuse!