Creative expression can transform our painful reactions to traumatic or difficult experiences, providing a way to give voice to painful feelings.
Charlize Theron is an example. As a teen, she saw her mother shoot and kill her abusive and violently threatening father in self defense.
She said in a 2004 interview that her work has helped her deal with it:
“I think acting has healed me. I get to let it out. I get to say it and feel it in my work and I think that’s why I don’t go through my life walking with this thing, and suffering.”
In a later British newspaper interview she added: “People want to think that I am this tortured soul, that my work is drawn only from this one well.
“And though I would never sit here and say that it didn’t mark me, or mould me into the person that I am, my life has had many painful journeys and heartbreaks since my father died, many of which I draw on for my work.”
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Meryl Streep has said of acting:
“It has to do with working out private passions that are almost inscrutable to me…
“I just get to work out all my murderous thoughts and my weaknesses and my failures and things I don’t want to do as a parent or work out on the family.
“I need [acting] as an outlet. I love it. It feeds my imagination. It connects me to understanding.”
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Artist Marlene Azoulai writes, “I was first introduced to Art Therapy while in a psychiatric institution. There, I learned that when there are no words, there can be pictures.
“I learned that an artist is not necessarily someone who has studied art, but one who has something to say, and the courage to say it. I learned that an artist is someone who makes art to save her life.”
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In her article Giving Life to Carl Rogers Theory of Creativity, therapist Natalie Rogers says that “using the expressive arts gives people a safe place to explore their shadow side…
“The shadow is the part we have repressed in our lives. Some people have denied their anger and rage for a lifetime.”
See more quotes by psychologists and artists in my much longer article The Alchemy of Art: Creative Expression and Healing.
Also see collection of Psychology Today articles: When Art Heals.
Do you use art for healing?
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Image from book: Art Saves: Stories, Inspiration and Prompts Sharing the Power of Art by Jenny Doh.
See more titles on the page: Books To Fuel Your Creative Mind.
Emotional Health Resources: Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional balance and wellbeing for a better creative life.
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Trauma takes many forms, and has different sources and levels of impact on our mental health for each of us.
See quotes by and about many artists who have experienced rape, physical abuse and other experiences, and use creative expression to help heal – including Alice Sebold, Allison Anders, SARK, Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others.
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SARK said she knows that art is healing “because of how it heals me and how I see it healing other people every day. Through art, we come alive through the deep connections to our souls and spirits.”