From what I have learned, found, experienced and used as a tool for recovery is one vitally important quality of the self: creativity. I think that this can be one of the more challenging aspects of recovery. I believe every person, no matter their lifestyle or culture, has an urge and potential that can only be fulfilled through creative self-expression.
“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” – Picasso
In recovery one must shed their old patterns of living and thinking. There can be an immense amount of fear giving up what seemed to be everything that defined one’s way of living. It is like the caterpillar that must enter the cocoon to shed its caterpillarness to become a butterfly. This can be awfully frightening. The process of redefining, reconstructing, and renarrating one’s life is not something that can be done overnight. This can also be one of the most joyful and humbling experiences of recovery: it is the opportunity to reclaim one’s identity. Creativity is vital when one must start over with what seems like a blank slate.
I always feel a certain amount of anxiety when faced with a blank canvas. I’m not sure what is going to happen, I’m not sure if I’m going to like it, and I can’t say how it will look in the end. Sometimes I jump in impulsively with paint, only to pull the reigns back later to make refinements. Sometimes I begin with a careful sketch and work timidly and slowly until I reach the full develop of a picture.
”I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them.” - Picasso.
I think many individuals in recovery would agree that they are not sure what they like to do. When one wipes away old behaviors and thoughts, it can feel like there is a void lingering. The void seems like it is begging to be filled. The good thing about creativity is that it can help us fill the void, lead us to the self, and little by little, help us discover who we really are. Creativity is an ancient coping mechanism used by many cultures since the beginning of human history. It releases what has built up in us. It allows us to examine objectively what has been circulating in our minds. It helps us define our selves. This is a hard task to start when one feels as though they don’t know who they are.
”I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” - Picasso.
One of the hardest parts to deal with on the journey to self-discovery and creativity is the inner critic. Sometimes this part can be so overbearing: fighting to maintain control over our lives while we try to become a butterfly. This can really slow our progress and leave us disheartened. The caterpillar, in its cocoon, does not berate itself for the color of wings it is trying to develop. It does not criticize the length of time it stays in its cocoon. The process occurs fluidly and naturally, in its own time. This lesson tells us that we cannot be self-destructive while trying to self-construct.
”The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.” - Picasso.
Picasso painted how he felt. Many people say that the nature of his paintings reflected a child’s perspective. From this we can tell that Picasso’s artwork was an outlet for releasing his inner child. Another important step in recovery is learning how to nurture and care for our own inner child(ren). What better and more natural way could there be for nurturing the inner child than creativity? Whether it be painting, coloring, sewing, sculpting, writing, poetry, cooking, building, designing, altering, changing, dancing, or singing, it all leads to self-discovery.
By: Danielle Meyer
Danielle is the Art Therapy Intern at the Awakening Center. She is Masters student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology and will be starting her Doctorate in Psychology there this fall. Danielle facilitates the Art Therapy (5:30pm-7pm) and the Eating Disorder (7-8:30pm) Drop-In Support Groups on Tuesday Evenings.