This week I had the opportunity to do an in-service for the Dempsey Center staff about Expressive Arts Therapy. It gave me the opportunity to share again the healing power of art through the example of the breast casts that I used to process my cancer experience, which was powerful.
However, it was what happened after the presentation, when we moved into the experiential exercise that really spoke volumes. I asked everyone to get in touch with either something personal or an experience related to their work of being in service to cancer patients and their loved ones. I asked them to go inside and figure out how they felt about what they chose, the impact it has had on their body, mind, spirit, and self. When they were in touch with what they wanted to explore, I asked them to represent it through color, shape and form.
What came forth was a reminder of how powerful it is to take the risk and share your story. The exercise of putting it out onto paper made the stories more tangible to tell, and when the story and images were shared, it added depth and richness to the experience. In that moment of witnessing, we became more intimately connected to one another, seeing our different roles from a new lens. For a moment, we embodied the experience of another, which in turn allowed us to connect more deeply to our own.
This form of art making, the visual journalling process, is a practice of being in silence with ourselves, in an active, curious way. Silence can be an intimidating prospect for many, especially in the world we live in. Yet silence allows us to create an attunement to our inner world and an attunement to the experience of others, strengthening our capacity for compassion. Since art making is a form of moving meditation, it can build a bridge to feeling greater ease with silence.
It takes courage and trust to share something personal. It takes time to build confidence and trust with the ability to share, so be gentle with yourself if you are not ready to share actively with others. The rewards we reap from sharing and witnessing help stoke the fire of resiliency and decrease our sense of isolation. As one of my favorite quotes reminds me:
If you ask me what I came in this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud ~ Emile Zola
So tell me, what is the story you wish to share?
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, who works as an oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Individual Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.