“Art transforms the sense-perceptual world in a ‘speaking’ manner, creating new meaning. In this sense, it is an epilogue to ancient sacred life, where everything is meaningful. And thus art is perhaps a prelude to a new epoch of mankind, where the human being is giving meaning to existence.” Georg Kuhlewind
In the art making process, for me, I have to enter into a different space than the everyday, get it done space. Sometimes i have to force myself to sit down and give myself permission to make art. Every time I do, I am aware that I am activating healing forces within me. I walk away feeling different, even if I only spent 5 minutes painting a single color, or cutting out one image from a magazine.
As alluded to in the opening caption, art was embedded int he culture of ancient societies. Ritual dancing, image making, re-enactments of individual or collective pathology and their healing involved the entire tribe/community. The inner soul struggle that was the affliction was danced, painted, sung, burned, or isolated until the healing affect came about. Often the intention was to get help from spiritual forces. The rituals were a way of connecting with these higher beings.
Today, neuroscience helps us to understand one dimension of why these rituals were so powerful. Through these rituals, there was an alteration in brain states and neural chemicals. In other words, when engaging in art making, our physiology shifts into a healing state and new possibilities become possible. Through trance, intensification of feeling, and enactments, the unconscious element was made conscious for ancient cultures. Through the ritual and healing, new stories were created, new narratives, and finally changes in the way the culture lived. When we focus our energies on the artistic process, we are taping into powerful healing forces in our brains.
Additionally, when we engage in art making, we are engaging in meaning making. By choosing colors, images, subjects, landscapes, we are communicating something about ourselves and our relationship to the world. Consciously or unconsciously we project our inner struggles and feelings into our art work. By beginning to dialogue with our art in a way that we questions what it is trying to tell us, teach us, we can bring significant questions into that healing space. If we stay open and mindful we can find that answers will come from the world around us in unexpected moments.
Today, so many of us are desiring healing, more meaning and substance in our lives. When we can dramatize our inner and outer struggles through art, we find new forces and new ways of meeting the life tasks that face us. We can find new support, as we open to guidance and answers from a source greater than ourselves.
Marie O. Davis, MA, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Asheville, NC. She had been working with adolescents (11-17) and adults for 10 years facilitating expressive arts therapy in hospitals, schools and groups. She uses expressive arts therapy and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to support new insights and meaning to be revealed about clients and their lives. For more information: www.bodysoulspiritasheville.com