Losing Connection with Authentic Expression
I was an expressive artist, like many of us were when we were children. I even sold my intuitive drawings at age five, door to door! By grade two, I was becoming outer-directed with my art, as so many of us do when we learn to draw cats with precise circles and triangles.
In my twenties I was fully outer-directed in my art, copying and learning from others. When I started painting as a gallery artist upon graduation from five years of art and design college, I was a self-doubting perfectionist, and I struggled to find self-esteem through my efforts to be like other popular artists.
You could say I was painting from my “mask” self. I was afraid to be authentic. I struggled with self-doubt and was often looking for outer feedback to tell me that I was good enough. I lived in ways that others expected me to live, rather than creating my own authentic life.
My pre-planned, paintings were technique based, aesthetically considered, and a long labor of hoping to get approval from the outside. I studied other artists intensively, tried different styles of painting, and I was fortunate to see my work hanging next to some notable Canadian artists.
A Spiritual Opening
Twenty years ago, during a period of family loss and crisis, when five close members of my family died suddenly, my spontaneous creativity greatly intensified. For a period of about three months, I was in a visionary state where my social mask fell away.
For a strangely blessed period, I did not care what anyone else thought of me. During that period I created many spontaneous drawings and paintings. I went on long intuitive walks and just followed my feet all over the city to see where they would take me.
My dreams were prophetic during that time. I began to dance spontaneously in my living room. I had so much energy. As my baby slept, I spontaneously painted all night long. And when she awoke, I took her out for radiant breakfasts.
I have pages and pages of poetry from that time. I wrote what I called “kitchen poetry” on a second-hand typewriter at the kitchen table while my baby girl sat watching me with wide eyes from her high chair.
During that creative period, I left my marriage, fell in love with my soul mate, and moved away from my home city to start a brand new life. It was during that time of change and emotional upheaval that I became a passionate keeper of private art and written journals.
For many years thereafter, I would buy a new journal and devote myself to one creative practice until the journal was filled. For years I filled many "dedicated journals" with paintings, drawings, collages, mandalas, and writings.
I remember distinctly when my three-month visionary state stopped. When the period of crisis that intensified my consciousness settled back into practical functioning, all of my emotional heaviness came back into my body with a big discouraging thud.
I remember saying to my partner with great sadness as it was happening, “I am closing down.” We went to an empty baseball field in the middle of the city, and with a mixture of resignation and desperation, I said "good-bye" to my visionary state as I danced under the stars.
While I briefly enjoyed a visionary creative state when I was 30 years old, the period of my thirties was about working with my shadow self through my expressive art and writing. Because I had a glimpse of how I felt on an essence level through my crisis-induced “upliftment” experience, my “default” of sadness, guilt, shame, fear, and self-doubt felt unbearable. I created many journals during that time that were very "dark," visually drawing myself clawing my way up out the dark hole of depression - looking for the light of self-love.
Ten years ago, I started to share my creative experiences of emotional healing with others. Over the past 10 years, my life was focused upon studying nights and weekends to earn my designation in counselling psychology, teaching creative healing practices to others around the world through my online school, and working full-time in Canada’s largest art studio for older adults with cognitive and physical challenges.
Working in the art studio with a team of ten other artists and art therapists for over 9 years was an inspiring process of creative cross-pollination. It took me far beyond my personal scope of practice to see how such different ways art-making can help people feel calmer, happier, more purposeful and alive. In my community art workshops, my online teachings, my art studio, and non-profit work, I have facilitated art-making processes for people from ages 2-100.
The Healing Power of Spontaneous Creativity
Spontaneous creativity has enlightened my life. Creating spontaneously provides a "symbolic emotional release." As spontaneous painting teacher Susan Bello explains, "Through the living symbol the Unconscious gradually reveals messages from a higher consciousness. Symbols are representations of our greatest selves in seed form. They hold our potential."
I am now a full-time counsellor and online expressive arts educator, and I am unabashed in my enthusiasm for the power of present moment, spontaneous creativity as a process that heals emotional pain, enlightens mental darkness and confusion, illuminates possibilities, and releases the very best of what we authentically are into the world.
When we are honest and deeply accountable, we can heal what feels dark and denied inside. When we express the hard stuff - we transform. Honest, spontaneous creativity takes us beyond the dark personal psychological patterning that we are so often stuck in, by opening us up to the gifts that we buried underneath our heartbreaks and traumas.
I love that life - when seen creatively - brings out what is hidden and unacknowledged inside into the present moment to be seen engaged with, accepted, understood, loved, and integrated. Spontaneous creativity kindly and colorfully offers up the next emotional layer to be healed in a way that can be safely and gently held.