Expression through creativity is many things: colorful, raw, poignant, a statement. Creativity is also something else: Exploratory surgery for the soul.
Feeling angry? CREATE
Feeling depressed? CREATE
Feeling betrayed? CREATE
Feeling pain? CREATE
Reach inside that wound, pull out the blood, the guts, the tumors. Examine them. Turn them over in your hands, feel their texture, their roughness, their smooth interior that hides the malignancy. Allow it to bleed. Notice how it makes you feel. Write, paint or draw that. In exploratory surgery, the doctor does not always know what he or she will find. The doctor begins with symptoms and works to find the cause during surgery. Exploratory surgery finds what lies beneath the surface. So it is with creativity.
Once you have held your pain or discomfort, grab your knives and scalpels and start cutting. Remember, art is a two-way dialogue. The surface both listens AND speaks. Pour your tears, anger, feelings of not being enough and pain onto your surface. Don’t worry if it is “ugly” or scary or will offend others. This is your exploratory surgery, no one else’s. You do not exist for the comfort of others, nor do you create for the comfort of others. Even “ugly” art has its purpose as an expression of a moment in time. Cut away what insults your soul. Ask yourself if there is a lesson to take away from what happened. Use angry colors, scribbles, write your pain or anger and cover it up if you don’t want anyone to see it. Only you need to know what lies beneath.
Once you have processed your discomfort, stitch up the wound. The stitches and the resulting scar may not be pretty, but they symbolize resilience. Wear it proudly. You may want to write about the process of creating your exploratory surgery piece. Did you experience a change in your psyche as you created? What did you learn as you explored?
I recently used this process to channel some intense anger following an assault. I felt betrayed, unsafe and angry that my boundaries – which were clearly stated – were violated in such a brutal fashion. I needed a way to show the pain in a way that those who heard but did not fully understand my words could comprehend.
I decided to make “Warrior of Love, Betrayed” because I have long been an empath. I advocate for those society would rather not acknowledge: The disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill, the trauma survivor. Yet my helper’s heart was broken and I had no compassion toward the demographic that hurt me. I didn’t want to linger in that bitter place. I sketched a warrior, then translated her to canvas. Her face shows shock and betrayal, but also a fierce survival instinct and though her heart is broken, time will forge strength if only she faces the pain.
I wanted her edges to be sharp, her hearts melting and her sword sharp but molten as she lays it down for awhile. While she was created from a place of deep despair, discomfort and anger, her creation was very calming. She called me to her side for two weeks, begging me to give her voice. I let her speak, went through exploratory surgery and stitched my soul back together. The wound will heal in time and the scar will become beautiful as life with its golden threads cover it, the scab falls off and only humanity remains. The Warrior will return to being the Warrior of Love and my Spirit will rejoice.