Every individual has a monumental choice to make in the cancer journey: To work with their feelings or work against them.
When you work against your feelings, you ignore or suppress them, which can lead to negative effects, both mentally and physically. When you embrace and work with your feelings, you are much more apt to experience personal growth and an overall improved sense of peace and well-being.
Expressing your feelings
Finding a method to express these emotions in a safe and appropriate way is the key to unlocking and releasing these feelings. Edna Bacon, ATR, an expressive arts facilitator at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, believes there are many different forms of artistic expressions that can lead the inner soul to reveal itself in a healthy way.
“Art is a great form of expression,” says Bacon. “I encourage patients to explore a variety of mediums, from pencil and paper, finger paints, colored pencils, crayons, oil pastels, paint, and clay. Each medium has its own specific way of leading you.”
Establish your intention
To get started, Bacon recommends clearing your mind with a writing exercise called debunking. This is a stream of consciousness writing exercise where you jot down all the things running through your mind: complaints, plans, wishes, etc. From this writing, create an intention. This is done by expressing a wish, desire, or task as though it is already done. For example, you could write, "I playfully make art," rather than, "I want to playfully make art." This statement leads to a vision unfolding.
Your intention does not have to include your cancer. It can be about life in general. Everyone has hopes, dreams and obstacles.
Capture your intention
Place your art materials on a table. Start with just paper and pencil, and expand to colored pencils, paint, etc. Using the medium you have chosen, begin to make marks on the paper as you speak your intention. Let the colors choose you and keep adding marks until an image arises. It can be abstract or representational of an object in the world.
“There is no right or wrong way to work with the art materials,” says Bacon. “Set a timer for 30 minutes and keep adding to the image until the timer buzzes. And you do not have to stop then if you do not want to.”
Witness your intention
Once you have completed your artwork, Bacon recommends studying it. Again with paper and pencil, describe what you see. It may be as simple as, "There is red diagonal line in the upper right hand corner."
Continue to write describing the art and include anything that comes to mind while looking at the art. Include any meaning the image or parts of the image hold for you.
Then, read your writing aloud to yourself.
“This exercise often has a way of reaching parts of us that know answers to things that we didn’t know prior to exploring them on a deeper level,” says Bacon.
Lastly, hold onto this work. Look at it at a later date. You may see different things in it. As you create other pieces, you may see repetitions that add weight to the meaning in the art.
Get inspired by more creative ways to express yourself.