Art-Making as a Therapeutic Way towards Freedom
TRANSPERSONAL ART THERAPY
Customised to Fit Your Needs
We live in a world where we may look to external sources for meaning and happiness. Yet within each of us, lies the key to feeling stronger, happier and more capable. The answer is as simple as taking a few moments to ourselves, picking up a pen, pencil or paintbrush, or a lump of clay, and seeing what comes out.
Transpersonal Art therapy is a creative approach that can be used to tap into our inner landscapes to explore our own personal imagery. You do not need to be an artist to try art therapy either; you simply need to put pencil, crayon or paint to paper and let the creativity flow.
Transpersonal Art Therapy allows you to travel within yourself in search of healing and strength. ‘Transpersonal’ refers to ‘travelling within, by means of meditation’ or ‘denoting or relating to states or areas of consciousness beyond the limits of personal identity’. The processes can take us on a journey beyond our conditioned thinking and into a deeper state of relaxation where we can access a higher state of consciousness. Doing this, allows us to release what is hidden in our subconscious by bringing it to a conscious level - by way of the Arts.
Art and Therapy are both associated with healing. To create art from within has an inherent healing power. The images you see can be deepened into and parts amplified, to help facilitate new understandings and intuitive insights. Mark-making as art-making can be particularly useful to help verbalise overwhelming emotions from the past traumas and unresolved issues and to meet present crises.
Our work can help with life transitions, stress, loss, grief, anger, body image and eating disorders. The imagery created is all about the meaning it has to you, not anyone else, as Transpersonal Art Therapy is person-centred and relationship-centred; not diagnostic. It can help us to formulate new perceptions that in turn can lead to positive growth and healing.
ART THERAPY AND HISTORY
Art therapy is not new. It has its origins way back in history. Since ancient times, art has played a role in health, and symbolic expression has been an important part of healing rituals. The need to make art is a basic human desire, a trait of our species as natural as our language in life. Early writings in a variety of civilisations used pictures of objects such as animals and birds. This can be seen in Egyptian hieroglyphics and in the paintings of the Aboriginal culture, which demonstrates the use of symbols to convey meaning.
In contemporary cultures as well as preliterate societies, art has been used symbolically to cure illness and bring about both physical and psychological relief. The Navajo from North America, for example, combine song, dance and sand painting in which specific patterns are used for specific illnesses. The Tibetans also use sand painting in the form of mandalas as a focus for prayer and an intention for healing. Both these forms of art are visually symbolic and intended for transformation and healing.
In many cultures, creating and wearing masks was considered the key to not only self-preservation but used to express and control powerful emotions, such as fear. In some African and South American societies, masks were believed to ward off evil forces and help the wearer assume the identity of powerful animals and spirits. The work of the shaman is strongly connected to Transpersonal Art Therapy, as an altered state of consciousness. It is used along with imagery to achieve a state of healing. The belief that art can effect change and transform people may be one reason why art has been, and still is, viewed as therapeutic.
HEALING THROUGH ART
Many artists have used art to express their own suffering.
Frida Kahlo, a Mexican surrealist, painted many self-portraits exploring and expressing her physical and mental struggles. As a child, she suffered from polio and a congenital spinal problem and later in life had a horrific car accident, which further contributed to the already severe pain and health problems that constantly troubled her.
Vincent Van Gogh was also tormented throughout his life by a mood disorder. He painted prolifically, creating 800 pieces, and even wrote in a letter in the last year of his life, “I am painting immense expanses of wheat, beneath troubled skies, and I have not hesitated to express extreme sadness and solitude”.
During the creative process, people often forget their illness and become absorbed by the process of art-making, which may be one of the most potent therapeutic aspects of the process.
More recently, art therapy has been used to deal with trauma, loss and grief. The loss and grief caused by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia were incalculable. The trauma suffered by the children is unimaginable as they lost parents, brothers and sisters. The most common effect of trauma among the children was their inability to speak. The Islamic Relief Agency set up art therapy classes to allow the children to express themselves as words were unavailable to describe the depth and breadth of their anxieties and loss. Their paintings were subsequently displayed in a museum. As a way to gain symbolic control of a catastrophic event, the process of art-making provided the children with a sense of self-empowerment.
Loss is a universal experience. Loss of health, of a loved one, a job or even our homes will unearth deep emotions at some time in our lives. This can leave a void, making us ask, “Why me?” It is often in the darkness of despair, at moments of great loss that the jewels of wisdom can be found, and a powerful form of healing and personal growth reached.