Today I ran a workshop with some lovely business owners and we touched base with the whole why we do what we do. Got me thinking about the fact that its no mistake that I ended up where I am now. When I look back on my life, I think I was destined to be an art therapist as there were lots of indicators but there was certain life experience that sticks out in my mind.
My life changed in an instant when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and as a nine year old this absolutely crushed me and found it difficult to navigate everyone’s awkwardness, the separation, the fact that there were so many changes that I didn’t really understand. So the way that I dealt with that is to go inward, isolated myself and put massive barrier up so that no one could get in. It was like I had turned to stone with nothing being able to be talked about or expressed. I remember after he died (I had only been at boarding school for three weeks) I got sent to the school counsellor and later on a psychologist and all they wanted to do is talk and it was probably like trying to get blood from a stone!. It was helpful but there was something missing and I couldn’t put words to the big sludge of grief sitting within me, or the massive hole that was left behind that couldn’t be filled by saying something. It was deep deep stuff that needed to be expressed but had no way out. Instead the stone got harder and harder so much so that nothing could get in not even the good things.
Why am I telling you this? Not for sympathy, I have enough of that in my life and I hate it. I am telling you this because if I was my own client now I know things would have been different. I would have been a hard nut to crack but the walls would have been broken down brick by brick through the art therapy process. I needed to be able to get this thick gunky muck out of me, I needed to wash it filter it express it so that it no longer choked me. This doesn’t happen with words alone, I needed to express the inexpressible with colour, lines, shapes, insight, experimentation and curiosity.
I needed a space to express the stuff that I was too embarrassed to admit or didn’t want to burdon anyone with. The art can take it, all of it. It’s a lot safer chatting about something that represents the guilt, the sadness, the burden, the invisibility, the withdrawal, the struggle, the darkness, distrust, the detachment, the hard slog of living life in a big blackhole rather than talking about the actual events or feelings. It would also highlight, provide insight and transform things like happiness, light, joy, laughter, life, love, power, strength, connection and authenticity.
The metaphor, symbolism, process, doing, expressing without having to find the words to describe it would have been the way to walk the path that needed to be walked. I needed to gradually weather the stone so that it was no longer a massive boulder but some small pebbles that are easier to handle.
Anyway, this is a roundabout way that was a way of describing why I do what I do.
We all have baggage and I see so many people carrying big massive metaphoric bags around that are huge, heavy and the load needs to be lightened.
Or maybe it’s the fact that the mask is on so tightly that people only see the face that they want to see and behind it there is a totally different scenario that feels like the real you that others don’t understand.
Its people standing at the door to the rest of their life and to turn that handle and step through is bloody scary and fear filled, its about finding a way of stepping through with confidence
It might be standing at the crossroads and having no idea what direction to take but need some guidance to have a look at which road to drive down.
Its being frozen in fear – not being able to move and all you need to do is let it go (see what I did there!) and melting the ice away
It finding the light in amongst the darkness, climbing the mountain one step at a time, wearing glasses to see the vision ahead and letting the sun shine light on all the ambitions, wishes and dreams.
Art therapy is powerful, so much so that it is hard to put into words. The very reason why its so good.