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Creative Expression and EMDR to Deal With Trauma, PTSD and Abuse

“I think I’ve spent my adult life dealing with the sense of low self-esteem that sort of implanted in me. Somehow I felt not worthy.”

Halle Berry was commenting in an interview about what motivates her to support and work with an organization that helps women who escape violent homes.

She recalls being terrified that her violent father, who physically abused her mother, would turn on her.

One of the consequences for many people who suffer abuse and trauma is a corrosion of their self esteem. Recovering can be a long, even ongoing process.

Berry explained, “Before I’m ‘Halle Berry,’ I’m little Halle…a little girl growing in this environment that damaged me…I’ve spent my adult life trying to really heal from that.”

She commented about acting in her intense movie “Gothika” (2003): “Although physically I would feel exhausted and tired, my back would hurt, my arms would hurt and my feet would be raw from running through all the stuff, there was still something about it that felt good, like I had a cathartic experience. I got a lot of stuff out of me that was pent up in little corners of myself, so I felt good at the same time.”

From my article The Alchemy of Art: Creative Expression and Healing, which includes comments by a number of artists including Charlize Theron, Charles Dutton, Director Allison Anders, Native American painter Roxanne Chinook, Rosanne Cash and others.

In her Psych Central post Transforming Trauma: From No Words To Your Words, Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP writes, “Trauma defies language; it resists being communicated… Central to healing in the aftermath of a traumatic event is the transformation of trauma’s unspeakable imprint to a story that can be told without reliving it.”

Maybe that is one way that creative expression helps heal.

As a child, Andrea Ashworth and her sisters suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse from two stepfathers. Her memoir, Once in a House on Fire, recounts her experiences. She went on to become one of the youngest research Fellows at Oxford University, where she earned her doctorate.

In our interview, she talked about how writing the memoir was “a real sanity-saving exercise” and a way to deal with her past, and then be able to move on to writing fiction. See my post Writer Andrea Ashworth on Developing Creativity.

Another post on this topic: Art Saved My Life – Creative expression can transform our painful reactions to traumatic situations, providing renewed strength of our identity and a way to give voice to difficult feelings.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Many therapists are using EMDR to help people. Clinical psychologist Cheryl Arutt says it is one of the most powerful ways to reprocess trauma, and explains more about it in my post Dealing with trauma and abuse to live a bigger, more creative life.

Also in the post, I write briefly about my own very positive experience with her counseling and this form of therapy.

Photo from post: Empowering yourself: Halle Berry on depression, esteem, change and growth.


Creative Expression and EMDR to Deal With Trauma, PTSD and Abuse

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Creative Expression and EMDR to Deal With Trauma, PTSD and Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Oct 2012
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