Art Scars

Tunnelling through old hurts

Are you one of the many people who stopped making art or thinking of yourself as a creative person back in elementary, middle, or high school?

Did someone you looked up to (usually a teacher or parent) tell you that you were not an artist or not creative?

If so, you are tragically one of many. According to researcher and storyteller Brené Brown, when she started her research on shame:

"85% of the men and women I interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming it changed how they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives. 50% of that 85% - half of those people - those shame wounds were around creativity."

They were likely told seemingly innocent things like "the grass is green NOT purple - that's WRONG, what are you doing?!" or "Your friend is an artist - you're not. You're good at baseball." or worse "this drawing is not very good" or THE worst "you CAN'T draw/paint/colour/create. YOU'RE NOT CREATIVE!" These comments are deeply wounding to our psyches, and leave what I call ART SCARS.

Because our identities around who we are get shaped when we are children, we often believe these statements! We think: an adult or authority said it, and they know more than me, so they must be right!

So we join the masses in thinking we have nothing unique to contribute and that we might as well just toe the line and vie for a comfortable life as a "non-creative" consumer (oh isn't that convenient for un-checked, rampant capitalism!). Because if we believe we can't offer the world something new or unique, we certainly aren't likely to take risks, stick our necks out, go after that crazy new business idea, or follow our dreams! (you know, going BEYOND art class, I challenge you to tell me one subject in school that doesn't require some form of creativity: math, science, cooking, shop, music, gym, computers - I'd argue they all require some thinking outside the box, ingenuity, or vitality IF you are to stand out from the crowd!)

Brené also argues that "There is no such thing as non-creative people! There are people who use their creativity and those who don't!" As an art therapist, I agree 100%. I've lead workshops on creativity, and once people manage to push past those inner critics and voices from high school and pick up a brush, go for the colour that grabs them, and just let it flow onto the paper, they are often surprised and moved at what comes out. In my art therapy studio I also regularly sit across the table from a parent telling their child "oh I can't draw. You go ahead - I'm not creative. I'm terrible!" The child just blinks at their mom or dad and passes them a marker: "Colour with me, mommy!" The child has no idea what is holding the parent back!

Also, 95% of my art therapy clients are children, when I advertise my services FOR EVERYONE! I absolutely LOVE doing art therapy with adults - but sadly many see the word "art" and decide it must only be for kids. Where does this come from?! Art scars. Adults believing they are not creative. If you've been to talk therapy and it didn't work for you, I can pretty much guarantee you that what you would discover about yourself through creating art with me would SURPRISE and even ENLIGHTEN you.

And check out this stunning quote from Brené:


What does this mean? It means when we deny our creative side - ideas, visions, plans, dreams - this in fact can harm us and even cause us to get sick. Think of all the mental illness in our society! For example, no one I know is completely untouched by the pain of depression. How many people do you know that complain of being unsatisfied with their lives, or feel unfulfilled? If somewhere along the line we were shut down in our pursuit of our passions, chances are we were SHAMED and deeply damaged, and it's hard to recover from that. BUT it doesn't mean you are not creative, because you are.

Essentially any time you make up a joke, cook a new meal, put together a funky outfit, come up with a solution to a problem at work, write down your dreams, or sketch a vision, YOU ARE BEING CREATIVE! You are also BEING BRAVE because you are putting something out into the world (no matter how "small") that never existed before!!

Working with an art therapist is one way to tunnel through those old critics that still exist in your brain, ESPECIALLY when you pick up a pencil, pen, marker, or paintbrush!! (funny how they seem to just be WAITING for you to try something new - they immediately start screaming in your ear)!

Uncovering those past shaming experiences that have been blocking you can be very releasing. In fact, just by DARING to make art after you've clung so long to the idea that "You can't!" is like saying "screw you!" to your inner critics - and man, is that liberating!!

So why bother? It's been years, and sure you have some art scars, but you've gotten through life this far with some high points here and there. Have you pursued that dream you've had since high school but keep putting on the back burner? Nope, not yet. Are you regularly doing what you really love? Not really, but you're "happy enough". Ummmm, what now?? Nuh-uh. You deserve more. The world needs what you have to offer because the world needs your ideas and vision. Without using your creativity you are not ok. Without using your creativity I AM NOT OK. Until we all start using our creativity and pushing past our art scars, WE are not ok as a human race, because

"The only UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION we will make in THIS WORLD will be born of CREATIVITY."

(thanks again, Brené!)That's my mission at Art Therapy in Action: to help you unleash your creativity.

***The quotes from Brené Brown in this blogpost come from an inspiring and powerful talk between Brené and Liz Gilbert , Seaon 1 episode 12 "Big Strong Magic" on Liz Gilbert's podcast "BIG MAGIC".