Meryl Streep

Art Can Transform, Heal and Nurture Self-discovery

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.

The photo is Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016), the movie based on the true story of a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite her “awful” singing voice.

Streep has said acting “has to do with working out private passions that are almost inscrutable to me.

“I just get to work out all my murderous thoughts and my weaknesses and my failures and things I don’t want to do as a parent or work out on the family.”

She adds, “I need [acting] as an outlet. I love it. It feeds my imagination. It connects me to understanding.”

Some think art needs to have that kind of impact to be worthwhile. Franz Kafka wrote, “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us.. that affect us like a disaster… A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

Clinical and forensic psychologist Stephen Diamond says creativity “is one of humankind’s healthiest inclinations, one of our greatest attributes.”

He explains in his book, “Anger, Madness and the Daimonic: The Paradoxical Power of Rage in Violence, Evil and Creativity” that our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict… for meeting and redeeming one’s devils and demons.”

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Social attitudes about creative people can be dismissive

Kelly BroganPsychiatrist Kelly Brogan comments that art and creative people tend to be discounted as less important than “real” professionals.

She writes that we live in “A world for doctors and lawyers, not artists and poets.

“As a second generation child of parents who devoted their lives to my academic opportunities, I was taught a reflection of the modern story – that art is a hobby at best.

“Many of us more productivity-oriented families regard ‘the arts’ as a largely vestigial appendage on the more central body of real life with real jobs.”

Creative expression as a potent force for transformation

Brogan asks, “What if what we are calling art is just a whisper of the creative force that has been neatly contained by the fancy canvas and the ticketed rock concert.

“What if there is a force so powerful behind and beneath these conventionalized art forms that we can barely look at it out of the corner of our eyes.”

But, she adds, “Much like religion has become a dogmatic version of what it once was – a celebration of the experience of ecstatic merging, art has been neutered of its true power.

“It’s power lies in transformation and shedding of blinders, lies, tales, and false identities.”

She thinks an artist can “have direct experiences that shatter the frameworks that bind us into submission.

“They come back to tell us about them, and in the sharing, the possibility that we too might have these experiences, increases.”

Read much more in her wide-ranging article Find Your Art to Awaken Self Healing.

Kelly Brogan, MD is a “holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the NY Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, and co-editor of the textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression.

Get free first chapter of A Mind of Your Own.

Another free resource is her ebook “Change Your Food, Heal Your Mood” – “3 simple steps to a healthier body and a healthier brain — without psychiatric drugs.”

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