Angels of healing
“A relationship with our imagination, is a relationship with our deepest self.” (1995)
Pat B. Allen, PhD
The power of our imagination and our creativity to heal and transform our consciousness, is an ever-growing alchemical process that develops deep connections with our soul, our essential sense of ‘becoming’ in a world that is fraught with difficulties. At a time of ‘social distancing’ and quarantine, the need to grasp the zeal of both our imagination and creativity has never been more necessary to propel our human consciousness forward, and enable us to cope with isolation: the opportunity to connect with our creativity and our imagination invites us to liberate the soul from outmoded ‘life patterns’, easing us forward to greater emancipation, imagining a vision for ourselves and our world. Art and Art(s) Therapy cultivates our responses to the world in which we live and dynamically supports our ability to understand experiences, and the vision we may embrace for our future.
The creative process can be considered a ‘solitary’ occupation, but can be enhanced by the attentive knowing of a trusted other. Trusting one’s processes in thought, feeling, and actions can at first seem quite daunting. Developing a relationship with ourselves in order to promote our creativity, can be aided and supported by a relationship with a trusted other; the more this develops over time, the more one becomes able to trust oneself to explore, be curious, and develop a relationship with our imaginations and creativity. I can relate this to my own experiences.
When I first encountered art therapy, I was at my most vulnerable. Incarcerated in an acute mental health ward, the art therapist that I was encouraged to seek, became a lifeline for me, and our therapeutic relationship enabled me to foster a relationship with another human being that for the first time seemed interested and attentive to get to know me and support me to get to know myself. This two-year therapeutic relationship were tender years in my bourgeoning to become the person I am today. But, more importantly, that relationship was paramount in my developing a sacred and essential relationship to both my creativity and my imagination, that was to birth new insights and a new way of being in the world that was much more empowered and decisive. However, confronting demons from my past was not an easy road to travel, and the support I have received from art therapists has been sacrosanct in developing a ‘secure base’ from which to grow. Those relationships were vital to my development and could not have been possible with any other person. Now a practicing art therapist myself, I am greatly humbled by how young people offer their trust and hope in order to find a way forward; together we forge a way aided by their imagination and creativity, to help heal, so that they, in turn, may support their empowered relationship with their imagination and creativity, galvanising hope.
Hope in reaching out in getting to know ourselves, is a hugely creative act and takes great courage. The images we create along the way indeed become ‘angels of healing’, and as McNiff (2004) acknowledges how the image develops a persona, as a separate entity, and ‘talks’ to us, potentially revealing dialogues and insights that help heal old wounds, and enable us to ‘see’ new possibilities for ourselves. The essential value in our creativity and imagination stimulates wonder, curiosity and ‘truths’ about ourselves and others. The relationship we develop with these images helps us to develop more caring and compassionate relationships with ourselves and others, in ways that transform pain into bliss. The curious creative act in line, colour, tone, and texture in mediums that demand our attention, facilitates our own sense of new possibilities, hopes, and dreams, and unearth the muddy waters of our unconscious in ways that bring awareness and understanding to wounds that go deep. Holding the intention to be sensitive to what the image may ‘speak’ to us, purports to deep listening to ourselves as we struggle with ambiguity, chaos, and destruction. Then, with fresh insight, one can move to incorporate that insight into our awareness and grow with new ‘truths’ and understandings.
In a world, that has hitherto fully ‘seen’, valued and embraced the true potential of our creativity and imagination, it would seem that the time is rife; humanity needs to gravitate toward these essential internal resources, individually and collectively, to give birth to new potentialities of systems and growth, to seize the awareness that is to emerge from a time of world-wide reflection and incubation. Ways of connection with ourselves and with the other can be surmounted and bridged through and in the creative act of our imagination.
Allen, P. B, (1994), Art as a Way of Knowing, Shambhala, London
McNiff, S. (20004), Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul, Shambhala, London
HCPC Registered Art Therapist
School-Based Counsellor, Scotland