Guest Post By Deborah Byrne
While in a domestic violent relationship we lose ourselves. The other person takes over our minds to such an extent we no longer know who we are or what we want. We find it increasingly difficult to articulate our emotions, thoughts and behavioural responses. We question everything we say, do and think. But we now know that recovery is possible. We have taken the first few steps and we are regaining who we once were. But how can we support our mental and physical well-being in recovery?
How can creativity help us regain more of what we have lost?
Some emotions are hard to express. Some thoughts are even harder to say out loud. Some we can’t admit even to ourselves yet. We still fear the repercussions of what could happen if we do, say or act in any way. We are only all too familiar with that and what could be the negative consequences for us. Yes we do still continue to live in fear, on edge, overwhelmed at times and still unsure of ourselves. But we can take back and regain control over our minds and bodies now.
As a process, creativity can help us regain a lot of what we have lost. We can use it to express those emotions and thoughts we are finding too difficult to do so now. We can use it to help us express impulsive or intrusive thoughts and teach us to challenge them. It can also help us manage the overwhelming feelings and emotions as they rise by giving us a means of expressing them. For instance being able to express our anger can be one of the last hurdles we cross, as we have only known anger as a destructive force. We therefore avoid or withdraw from expressing it ourselves. Getting creative can allow us to do so in a safer environment.
We can also gain a lot of insight into ourselves and who we want to be now and into the future. I know that some of you may be sceptical about self-expression but the creative arts can be an amazing tool for our recovery. It allows us to transfer our thoughts and emotional energy into another form. This not only allows us to feel better, it can also allow us to be heard for the first time too.
What creative tools can we use?
This will be up to you. It is important to our sense of control that we actual decide for ourselves in this regard. There are many forms of creativity to choose from. But I know you might feel even making that choice as daunting at first and a therapeutic art coach can help you decide in a safe and empowering environment.
We can move into move expressive forms but some that can feel more daunting, such as dance, music, photography and painting, when we are ready. But we can start simply by using journals, art workbooks or art journals, simply doodles or drawings, creating some small crafts with our children or by ourselves. As I said the choice is yours to make, there is no right or wrong choice here as being creative is purely personal one for all of us.
Remember this is about using self-expression to help us feel better. To aid us in expressing our feelings, and our thoughts, honestly with ourselves so we are better equipped to deal with them. To step out of denial we need to acknowledge and then accept how we feel and think, these two steps bring us a long way in our recovery journey. Self-expression through a creative means allows us to do just that.
Using creativity to help our mental and physical health even further.
Studies have shown that even naming an emotion can help reduce the impact of that emotion on us. Further studies suggest that when we try to suppress how we are feeling, or thinking, it only increases our stress and anxiety. Creativity can help us avoid such a situation by gently easing us into the creative activities that allow us to express our thoughts and emotions.
Creative activities help our minds to switch off, or dissociate, in a healthy manner. Many of us may have picked up unhealthy strategies to help us cope in the past. Creativity will allow the mind to enter what we call a state of flow. This is similar to a day-dreaming or meditative state but it is also the state in which we feel and perform our best.
This state of flow will enable our prefrontal cortex to take a break, that’s the part of our brain that seems to be always on, where we are constantly seeking our solutions and answers. But it isn’t always in our best interest when it does this. If we can slow it down by losing our self and our sense of time with creative activities our best solutions and answers can become more apparent to us. It can help, in effect, bridge the gap between our conscious and subconscious states. Thus allowing us to be more self-aware and clearer in our decision making processes.
As I’ve said getting our brain into this state of flow is one that is akin to meditation. So the more we use creativity the more our anxiety and stresses decrease also. Decreasing our stress and anxiety as we know can have huge benefits for our mental and physical health. It enables us to sleep better, have more energy, we think more clearly, it reduces our negative thinking, and increases our self-esteem to name but a few benefits.
When we get creative we can bring our mental process into physical form which allows us to feel more in control. It brings our thoughts and emotions into the physical realm, which enables us to reflect and acknowledge them. It allows us to consider what and why we feel and think that way. It allows us to reconnect, and check in, when we need to with our mental and physical well-being. Thus helping us to regain control over our lives and this is at the heart of what we are trying to achieve in recovery. It will enable us to move from survivor into thriver mode.
Deborah Byrne is a psychologist who works with mums facing a variety of challenges in their lives. She creates a safe, supportive environment in which each mum can explore their concerns, beliefs, and hopes for the future. Her passion is to empower mums by helping them to recognize their inner strengths and support them to face challenges and fears head-on so that they can create the kind of life they deeply desire. You can find our more from https://deborahbyrnepsychologyservices.com/
To get a complimentary 1:1 session with Me please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org