Get Your Creative Expression to Work for You

“Art has a way of freeing the spirit and bringing peace and tranquility to the soul. It is a non-judgmental form of expression. It accesses the parts of our brain that feel but cannot use words." – Katie Tobias

“It is not about producing a masterpiece or winning a show. Art is expressing your feelings, communicating with shapes and color and light, and sharing your own unique perspective of the world around you.” – Janet Stone

It’s no coincidence that Apollo is the Greek god of art and medicine. The connection between creative expression and physical wellbeing has long been observed and has earned the attention of medical researchers and treating clinicians. One 1994 study showed that those who wrote about stressful experiences for 20 minutes a day, three days a week, fared better than those who didn’t, and better than those who wrote on neutral subjects. In the PH community, stories and artwork serve an important role: they help heal those who share them and those who witness them.

Here are two ways to get the most out of your creative expression – whatever form you choose.

1. Take Control of Your Story

"Another Year" by Sandy C"Another Year" by Sandy C

The way we think about, recall and describe our experiences to ourselves and to others influences how we perceive ourselves and those experiences. By writing and creating art about the PH experience, we gain perspective and understanding.

How it Works

Narrative therapy says that our identities and experiences are shaped by the accounts of our lives found in the stories we create. The therapeutic goal of this therapy is to help patients reframe those stories in more positive, empowering ways.

How Do I Get Started?

Try to address one of these prompts each day, in whatever way you can. Start a journal, write a script, draw a cartoon – there’s no wrong way to express yourself creatively!

  • When do you think your illness first took up occupancy inside you?
  • Who else is involved?
  • Does the illness remind you of (or is it similar to) anything that you’ve experienced in the past?
  • What are the worst things about it?
  • How is your life different since your illness?
  • Is there anything good you can say about your situation?
  • What have you learned? How have you changed?
  • Has your illness served any other purpose?

Or consider these…

  • Important moments in my life
  • Things I didn’t know I loved
  • Places in my life where poetry hides
  • What’s been given to me?
  • I’ve been noticing …
  • Five things too unimportant to write about

2. Start Sharing

"Yellow Light" by Mimi J"Yellow Light" by Mimi J

Letting others experience our writing, drawings, dances, paintings and plays is an important component of the expressive process. When patients and families share stories and information, the illness becomes destigmatized and treatment becomes easier to seek, and easier to handle. With this exchange of knowledge and open communication of emotions, patients fare better.

How it Works

The better a patient understands his or her illness, the better he or she can live with and cope with the illness. Therapeutically, the sharing of creativity aims to help patients understand and manage their illness; to reinforce their strengths, resources and coping skills; and to expose patients and their families to similar stories from others, encouraging strength and fostering hope.

Additional Resources

This article first appeared in the Fall 2008 Pathlight.


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