The “couch” or the studio?
I choose ART for my THERAPY!
Having experienced counseling a few different times in my adult life, I see the benefit when it comes to wading through periods of distress. I’ve gained insight and would never discourage anyone from going to counseling if they felt the need. However, it’s expensive, and it can feel as if you are paying someone a whole lot of money to tell you all the things you’re doing wrong. Don’t misunderstand, I think there is a place for self assessment and hearing hard truths. There’s a place for being held accountable. But I’m not one to dwell on the negative. If I hear it, and I experience that “aha!” moment, I don’t need to keep talking about it for months and months in order to get it. That’s what extended therapy would be for me.
However, one of the things I have learned about myself as a woman, is that I’m not all that special or unique. I’m not being self deprecating when I say this, I’m just observing that much of what I feel is very typical of other women. My experience in being an art instructor allows me to interact with lots of women. I do have some really wonderful male students, but for the most part, the majority of those who seek art classes are female. I love women and find that the things which motivate them and make their hearts sing are usually the very things that animate and delight me.
I’ve come to see our classes as a shared safe space. A place where confidences are shared, spirits are nurtured, and talents are celebrated. It’s a time to tune out the demands we all are subject to, and carve out a time to nurture ourselves. It’s the ultimate encounter group! I would liken it to ART THERAPY. It’s my pleasure to be a participant in the process. I feel honored to have the gift of my students’ time…probably everyone’s most precious commodity these days. I try to honor that time by spending time to prepare and bring my best to each class. I do this because I recognize that my students are essentially trusting me enough to pay for the privilege of dwelling in the space I create as a teacher.
In a good therapist’s session I would expect to learn something about myself. I would also develop a relationship based on trust, experience, and insight. I would expect to be nurtured and challenged at times. I would expect to be pushed a little…especially if it might help me overcome a predisposition that held me back. I would hope that the process would instill habits of behavior that were healthy and perhaps find ways of operating which were more effective. I would also expect to pay a lot of money for the experience.
I would argue that art class can accomplish all of the above…without the tremendous expense. I would also argue that you might make real friends and develop real relationships, rather than having a therapeutic relationship, where you may or may not even acknowledge one another at a party. The shared opportunity to encounter one another in class was described by one of my students recently as “exposing yourself”. We all laughed, but that’s not so far from the truth! When we create something, take a risk, or to try something that we may not be successful with…it can really feel risky and produce anxiety. We might not be great! We might not be perfect! What we make might not be beautiful! We might ruin that piece of paper. We might have to try it again. OOOohhhhh noooooo!
AS WE SAY DOWN SOUTH ; ” DON’T BE SKERD”! EXPOSE YOURSELF!
When I encounter things in life that are anxiety producing, sometimes I like to look at it this way: What’s the worst that can happen? If I can find a way to deal with that prospect, then somehow the fear factor gets lessened and I can move ahead less anxiously. I’m a positive thinker, but fear is a reality for all of us. I believe fear is what shuts down the creativity which might reside in most of us.
Fear of failure is the reason we don’t even try
The beauty of failing in an art class, is that the worst thing that can happen is that you might have spent time on something you will want to try again, and if you do, you will be smarter for the experience. I would also predict that the next time you tried it, you would improve. Who would expect to play a concerto on the piano without having to practice and perfect that performance? Why should we be able to draw or paint without practice and instruction? Art is a craft that can be taught. Practice is necessary and poor results can be improved upon with practice. Mistakes can be redeemed. That piece of paper can be washed clean, or you can use it as a collage element or apply gesso over it and use it again. No failures, just opportunities to learn and grow.
If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at art, then I encourage you to do so. We have all kinds of great teachers at the gallery. Find someone you feel safe with, and who can help you to explore your area of interest. I predict you will come away joyful and on your way to a pursuit that will bring you happiness for years and years to come. How many other activities can you pursue into your 80’s and continue to excel?
My mom volunteers at a hospice facility and had an inspiring encounter the other day with a 95 year old woman who is a resident there. This lovely old lady sat at the piano and played song after song, entertaining the staff and fellow patients alike. She turned to my mom and had these words of wisdom which I will leave you with…