COVID-19: Confronting destruction with creativity, a trainee art therapist's perspective
When I was a kid, I always felt most happy when I was drawing. Felt tips and a colouring book provided what felt like a different realm – a place of deep concentration, imagination, and play. This has stayed with me into my adult life, now working as an Artist and trainee Art Psychotherapist, I take a lot of time giving my ‘right brain’ a good workout by getting my craft on. I love painting, drawing, collaging, photography…all these activities have proved massively enriching and containing for me through these seemingly never-ending, strange times.
The multiple benefits of the arts on health is becoming more recognised across the UK, through the introduction of schemes such as Arts on Prescription. Creativity is the opposite of destruction, and I think it’s safe to say that mass destructive events are occurring globally, during this pandemic. Will I lose my job? Will I lose my home? Can my relationship survive the distance or the constant proximity? What will happen to the economy? Is the world finally ending? Will we all die? – daily life is dominated by thoughts like these, at an individual and collective level.
With all this destruction around us, you might have missed a silent scandal. The end of the whole toilet roll crisis marked the beginning of a new crisis: The Great Sketchbook Scandal of 2020. For weeks, not a single sketchbook in sight (although I did only try Sainsbury’s and Wilko due to being limited with shop closures, and only being allowed one essential shop per day) The scandal suggests many people have taken up a new artistic practice – are people subconsciously attempting to combat destruction through creativity?
When we create something; we give tangible form to feeling, we can externalise our internal responses by doing a drawing, singing a song, or making a tune. Becoming absorbed in creative activity allows us to express ourselves while promoting deeper thinking. This absorbed state can serve as a distraction or as a meditative space, reducing anxiety. Completion of a project offers a sense of achievement. Creativity can offer a sense of purpose... basically there’s LOADS of reasons why creativity is just soooo good for your wellbeing, I could go on but I realise I’m starting to sound slightly biased.
Covid-19 will be perceived and experienced differently by all of us. However, we cannot escape the fact that the destructive nature of this virus has traumatised us, on a societal level. Death is all around us, making us hyper aware of our own mortality. Sadly, I can count on two hands the number of people I know who have recently lost a parent. Events within my own family led to a very traumatic week; I was confronted with the fragility of life, and the concept of losing somebody so important suddenly felt overwhelmingly plausible given the current situation.
Sometimes words are not enough to express our internal experiences. This is particularly true when we talk about trauma, it can be hard to find the words to articulate the situation, therefore understand our feelings towards it.
What does it all mean?
It feels as though somebody pressed pause on normal life. I doubt there will be another period during our lives where we can devote so much time to creative expression and really reflect on the things that are important to us. I feel so grateful to have this time and mental space to be able to channel my creativity. We are about to be presented with a golden ticket to our future: a precious opportunity to start a fresh by continuing with healthy habits and leaving the not-so-healthy ones in the past. What will you choose to carry with you, once Boz presses play?
Written by Sally Might
Check out her artsy musings and even purchase her beautiful art here!