Creativity, however expressed, has the capacity to save us and guide us to our truest selves
Like many (or perhaps most) of us, my childhood family expected me to conform to their idea of what was acceptable. It was a narrow point of view, while there was a much more expansive soul inside me demanding to be heard.
There’s no question in my mind. Creativity saved me.
Thankfully, something in me understood at an early age that I could stay in contact with my authenticity if I expressed myself creatively. So I did. I made up dances, songs, and poems. I painted, worked with clay, and found any other way I could to quietly express myself in a world that wanted to prevent the real me from emerging.
I’m convinced that staying in touch with my true self in this way allowed me to remain centered mentally and emotionally. Without it, I’m sure I would have come out of my chaotic childhood home with mental illness.
This is why I’m such an advocate for the healing power of creativity. It’s so much more important than we recognize. Our society gives educational funding to practical subjects, while deciding that the arts are secondary, or even expendable. We do this despite the scientific studies that show how arts education helps us develop the ability to focus, solve problems, and innovate — skills that allow us to excel in all of those practical areas, including the business world.
We forget that creativity isn’t just expressed in art.
Anything new is a result of it — from the automobile to the Internet to the artificial heart to psychological diagnoses to innovative processes in business. We also forget that we express our creativity every day in small ways that we don’t recognize as such — in the way we alter a recipe, negotiate a truce between our kids, or put together an outfit.
Creative expression is the doorway to your unconscious, where your true self waits for you with a welcoming hand.
Creativity is a muscle that, like a physical muscle, gets stronger when we take the time to stretch and strengthen it on a regular basis. It is not just for the artistically gifted. It isn’t even about the quality of the finished product. If what we make or innovate is worthy of sharing and praise, that’s simply a bonus. The real benefit is the process of creation itself. Through it, we become the person we were meant to be, and that alone is healing. But there’s so much more healing power available to us when we make a conscious effort to express ourselves.
Here are eight ways I’ve discovered that creative expression can heal your inner wounds and improve the quality of your life:
- Creativity can be a beacon during times of sadness, helping you release painful emotions. Often, you can make sense of difficult circumstances in your life through writing, painting, etc. I have frequently used poetry, choreography, and singing to help me navigate through periods of turmoil. One of the gifts of creativity is that it allows you to mine from your wounds as much as your joys and actually alchemize your pain into beauty.
- Your creative voice is actually the voice of your soul speaking to you and through you. That connection to your soul helps you discover who you truly are — the you without the limitations of societal fears. There’s a deep imaginative well inside you, and when you access it, you also connect to the divine. After all, your creative ability comes from the Creator with a capital C, and the spark of creation in you is the same spark that invented every wonder in the world.
- With that connection to the divine and to your soul, creativity allows you to surprise yourself. It expands the scope of who and what you can be, giving you access to untapped talents, abilities, and ideas.
- As it provides a more expansive viewpoint of who you are and what you’re capable of being and doing, creativity helps you see yourself differently. As a result, it can improve your sense of self-worth. When you open the door to this aspect of yourself, you find that you’re anything but boring. There’s so much more to you than you ever imagined!
- Creativity can be both playful and meditative, relaxing you and bringing you joy at the same time. This is why adult coloring books have become so popular. But I love to create with children because when we’re young, we innately know that we’re creative beings. It’s only when practicality takes over later in life that we abandon our inventive nature and put ourselves in a box.
- Speaking of putting yourself in a box, creativity helps you ‘think outside the box’ (to quote the cliché) so that you can go beyond the limitations of the logical mind, which is stuck in the ideas of the past. Creativity forces you to think differently, which helps you innovate solutions in all areas of your life. That’s practical in many respects, but it’s also healing because it helps you reach your full potential.
- When you open to the new and different, you enter the unknown, so creativity is an act of courage. As you become more comfortable with the unknown and unfamiliar, you not only become even more creative, but you also become braver in all parts of your life.
- Creativity keeps life from becoming boring and contributes to your vitality. It’s an adventure that doesn’t require a passport. Like an ‘inner Indiana Jones’, the ‘trip’ you take is within, where you’ll find a wondrous world in your unconscious that will never run out of ideas or imaginings.
Everyone is capable of creative expression and reaping the benefits of it, especially if we let go of the demand that the product of our creation is ‘good’. One of my favorite quotes is by poet Henry Van Dyke: “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
So remember: When you access the creative spark within, you access the spark that made you one of a kind — like no other in the history of the universe. Find a way to express that uniqueness without judgment, and you’ll open yourself up to a whole new world. It might even save you.
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Melanie Votaw shares her thoughts on the healing power of creativity
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