Note: by using the term ‘art,’ we’re not referring to the entertainment industry or any other form of artistic commercialization. Rather, we discuss art as a tangible bridge between reality and the world of ideas and dreams.
Art is a window into our inner worlds. It’s the only way to tell the story of the human heart, to communicate to others how things look from our points of view, and to share the hopes and dreams we have for the future.
And art has the power to help trauma victims emotionally heal.
Where trauma invades with the intent to diminish a person’s world, art invades with the intent to develop it.
Art can help us see anything from a new point of view and can be used as a canvas for our future selves.
This means art can uniquely help trauma survivor rebuild their inner world.
Art’s Healing Powers
All art conveys a journey of some kind and has been done since the beginning. Cave paintings were a journey through the wilderness. As society developed, art began to represent religious journeys. Today’s art tends to express either inner journeys of the self or external ones through our societies.
Over the past few decades, the therapeutic benefits of art have received increased interest from the scientific community.
Soldiers who have PTSD have shown significant cognitive improvements and reduced anxiety after painting and sharing it with others.
Art provides a safe passage through emotional turmoil. Trauma victims can embark on a mental journey from a horrible piece of the past to a better time in the future. All they have to do is participate.
On a physical level, creating art engages motor skills and helps people feel like they are in control of their actions. On a cognitive level, new connections within the brain are formed, which helps a trauma victim tune into a greater sense of the world, which helps lessen the pain’s impact.
Trauma survivors who need to form new connections within themselves to make sense of a broken world can find a lifeline in art.
Poetry can express a short burst of emotion. Anyone can pick up a musical instrument or sing to express a sound that mimics how they feel. A doodle can give new insight into a problem that has been ruminated over a hundred times. So can a photograph, a painting, or even a joke.
The experience can happen alone or be shared with others. Either way, new connections are formed that enrich our worlds.
Art only exists through connections, and as far as we know, it is the only thing we have that can take turn a catastrophe into something beautiful.
Through art, we can transmit pain from the depths of the subconscious to the page, canvas, or recorder, where it is made conquerable. Furthermore, through art, we can transmit love from the depths of the soul, where it can be shared with anyone in the world who cares.
Art is Essential
While art may have a reputation in society as a novelty, the truth is, it’s anything but.
In fact, art is needed now more than ever.
Society at large must begin to address the emotional turmoil people find themselves in, particularly in the wake of a global pandemic, social injustice, and a devastating rise in mass victim incidents.
Grief is becoming an epidemic. Depression is a public health crisis. Drug addiction is on the rise. Let’s not get started on the political lay of the lunatic asylum.
Ignoring the emotional world, thinking problems with this part of our lives can be ‘shrugged off,’ or that people should just accept that life’s unfair and ‘get over it’, isn’t going to make it go away and bottling it up, as society has done, means it will only keep getting worse.
Art is a powerful intervention tool. It’s something that’s free, can be drawn on whenever needed, and is available to absolutely everyone.
Art is Collective
Ultimately, every artistic experience is a conversation between two people. You may never meet the other person. They may not even live at the same time as you. But a conversation takes place nonetheless. And fundamentally, it’s one that, in one way or another, conveys, ‘We may have had different experiences, but we both know what this pain feels like, and I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be ok.’
Every single emotion can be safely explored through art. It can be an emotional training ground to work out underlying fear, panic, anger, frustration, even hatred, and contempt.
Yet, at the same time, art can help bring out the best in us. It can help us see hidden strength, beauty, courage, love, dreams, and even hope. Art can remind us that the only reason there’s so much pain is that there was so much love in the first place; it can be a way to keep that love alive.
When creating, remember that the point is to express, not impress, and never forget that art can offer everyone one of the most wonderful gifts we can ever receive – the ability to surprise ourselves.
So start creating today! And if you need an idea to get started, why not create healing art for trauma survivors? Stars of HOPE is a non-profit organization that uses art therapy and community resources to help survivors of mass tragedies hold onto hope during difficult times.
Visit our website to find out more.