As Inside so Outside

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As Inside so Outside

I’ll never forget the moment – after my second accident 8 years ago – when I was laying on my bed in a center for physical rehabilitation feeling like the world had come to a complete halt. I had broken my left elbow 7 weeks before and had since developed a serious condition of a circulatory disorder. A week before I have had surgery performed on a ruptured Achilles tendon in my right heel. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t use a wheelchair by myself, I couldn’t even use normal crutches. Everything was too tiring. All I could do was lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling, aware of the beautiful sunny spring day outside, and wait for all of this to be over.

My doctor – a very wise woman – recognized that I had gone through the mill. She suggested I try art therapy to process some of my trauma. I used to paint many moons ago. However, I was doubtful but desperate and willing to try.

During my first session, my art therapist suggested a technique called “wet on wet” which requires taking a very thick aquarelle paper, completely soaking it in water and then working on it with watercolors. The colors will immediately spread and go anywhere – except where you want them to go. I couldn’t control anything and it was driving me crazy! I already felt like I had lost control over my circumstances and this technique hit too close to home. I was feeling angry, frustrated, helpless and eventually broke down crying. My art therapist used this moment of vulnerability to help me recognize the connection between what was happening on paper with what was happening in my life. Being aware of the source of my frustration I now greeted this technique as a chance to practice. The paper in front of me became my training camp for releasing the need to control and going with the flow. It became my rock to roll up the hill of patience, surrender and acceptance. More often than not I ended up with an indistinguishable mess of brown on my paper, which was infuriating. But gradually I was learning and as the acquiescence and detachment grew on paper so it grew within me.

That’s when I started to appreciate the impact the technique and the materials had on my psychological healing process. It was humbling and inspiring at the same time. In one of our discussions about what I really wanted in life my art therapist asked me: Why don’t you become an art therapist yourself? My first reaction was: What? Me? I am not an artist. But then of course, art therapy is not about creating art but using creativity as a therapeutic tool for expression and processing life experiences.

The seed was planted and 7 months later I started my four-year education to become a certified art therapist. For me creative reflection is still one of the greatest tools to turn lead into gold.

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