Art Wounds and the Sensitive Person
In my last post, I wrote about the stories we live by, that stop us feeling empowered to be artists (You can read it here). Underneath our ‘Why I can’t become an artist’ stories, art wounds are usually to be found, especially if we are sensitive by nature.
Art wounds – Brene Brown calls them ‘creativity scars’ – are painful, shame-soaked memories of times when our budding creativity was dismissed or stamped upon. Usually these memories involve a parent, sibling, friend or teacher who was unable to value and make a positive emotional space for our youthful art-making.
In order for our art wounds to be processed, transformed and healed, we need to gently and carefully open up and share them with someone understanding and empathic.
If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) you will take things in very deeply, in a way that a non-HSP might struggle to understand. We HSP’s may feel ashamed about our sensitive nature, but in fact we simply possess a set of characteristics that have their up-sides and their downsides, and don’t need to be judged or evaluated.
You can read more about the HSP trait here.Sensitive people often carry 'art wounds'. Here's how to heal them Click To Tweet
Examples of art wounds/ creativity scars include:
- Being told not to enter for an art exhibition/ choir/ school play because ‘you’re not the type they’ll be looking for’
- Your Dad barely glancing up when you proudly presented the hand-made card you had spent hours making
- Your teacher ripping up your artwork because it was ‘wrong’
- Your sister being ‘the artistic one’ while you were labelled ‘the sporty one’ / ‘the brainy one’/ ‘the pretty one’ etc
- Your friend laughing at the horse you had drawn, saying it looked ridiculous
How Can You Process and Heal Your Art Wounds?
1. Find Someone Who Can Be Alongside You
Because the original wound happened in the context of a relationship, it’s usually necessary to heal in the context of a relationship – although it doesn’t have to be the same person who inflicted the original wound.
Choose the person carefully. They may be a friend or loved one, or alternatively a psychotherapist, counsellor or spiritual leader.
The important thing is that whoever you open up your art wounds with, is able to be a caring, empathic witness. They need to be able to listen to you without judgement, and not try to fix or dismiss your feelings. It may help if they are an HSP themselves, although that isn’t essential.
2. Use Self-Compassion
It’s crucial to use large doses of self-compassion as you do this work on yourself. The art wound itself is painful, and we don’t want to be adding to the pain by shooting a ‘second arrow’ at ourselves (the ‘second arrow’ is where we judge and condemn ourselves for having the pain).
3. Bring Awareness to the Feelings
As you recall the original interaction, notice the sensations you feel in your body (memories associated with art wounds are largely held in the body).
Gently enquire into what the feelings are. There’s likely to be shame, and you will probably notice sadness and anger in there too.
Shame sensations differ from person to person, but often include a sense of wanting to curl in on yourself, along with heat in your face, tightening in your throat, and restricted breathing.
Anger may come with an associated urge to hit out, or to crush something or someone.
Stay with the feelings, but remember you don’t have to act them out. Just see if you can allow the waves of sensations to flow through your body until they subside. (This sounds easy, but for many people it really isn’t, so do be kind to yourself and don’t try and force your way through in one session).
4. Find the Words
See if you can attach any other words to the feelings. For example, you might elaborate on a feeling of sadness using words like these: blue, empty, weighed-down, burdened, heavy, unmoored, bleak, or down. Check which words fit, and which aren’t exactly right.
5. Humour May Arise – When the Time is Right
Humour used prematurely and non-empathically can be shaming and retraumatising, so timing and the quality of the relationship are all-important. But when art wounds have been processed, sometimes humour will naturally bubble up. This can feel very healing and connecting.Heal your art wounds and creativity scars in these 5 steps Click To Tweet
Some Final Thoughts
I hope this has been helpful, and that you can find a way to process, heal and transform your art wounds.
You might like to research the Japanese art of Kintsugi, in which broken and cracked pots get repaired, strengthened and made more beautiful through the addition of gold seams. This can be a good metaphor for the transformation of art wounds.
Finally: a therapist or Art Therapist may be a good person to help you heal your art wounds, especially if they are soaked-through with difficult feelings like shame. I work with Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) online and also face-to-face in Essex, UK.
What are your art wounds, and how have you helped yourself heal from them? I’d love to read your experience – leave a comment below!