“Art making is a way of dwelling in whatever is before us that needs our attention. There is a universal tendency to turn away from difficulty. Image making allows for staying with something while making that staying bearable through the pleasure available in the use of the materials.”
—Art Therapist, Pat Allen, in Art is a Way of Knowing
Something that adds to the distress of experiencing painful emotions is the inability to externalize, communicate, or verbalize the feeling. When we take what we feel and put it out into the world, we create opportunity for connection. Why is this important? Because connection helps us heal. Feeling seen, heard, understood, and connected to others can remove subsequent shame and isolation that develops as a result of keeping emotions bottled up. In moments when verbalizing emotion is not an option (whether it’s because that part of our brain functioning is offline due to the neurobiological impact of trauma, or because the shame we feel keeps us hiding) art can be a vehicle for not only expression but also connection. When we are in connection with others during periods of psychological pain, we receive the message that we matter, that we are worthy, and this is so, so healing!
Art Therapist, Pat Allen wrote, “Art making is a way of dwelling in whatever is before us that needs our attention. There is a universal tendency to turn away from difficulty. Image making allows for staying with something while making that staying bearable through the pleasure available in the use of the materials.” —Art is a Way of Knowing
As much as we all tend to turn away from our own pain, it is also common for people who care about us to turn away from us in moments of pain. Psychological pain is something that many of us don’t know how to tolerate or support. Much of the disconnection we feel when we are in pain comes from a place of fear or avoidance. When we see a loved one who is suffering, we might suddenly have the urge to turn away or avoid talking to them. After all, our brains come equipped with mirror neurons whose job is literally to mimic emotion/sensation that we witness in others, which makes it feel like it’s happening to us…that can be quite scary! Art can be a bridge or a buffer either between ourselves and our pain or between our pain and someone who loves us. As an artist, I have purposefully used soft and playful colors and forms to illustrate dark and painful experiences in order to disarm the viewer and allow them to enter the artist’s internal world with less fear. In this way, art can facilitate connection rather than disconnection in moments of great difficulty.
To think on: