Artful Self Help

Painting Mandalas

Artful self help = my blend of art + journal therapy and the psychology of self, undertaken by an individual for personal growth and transformation.

Making art and journaling are two of the most powerful tools I know to effect personal change. Individually, each of them can bring great reward. Combined, they are super charged – that’s why I practice and teach both in combination as artful self help.

Art can be said to be – and can be used as – the externalised map of our interior self. ~ Peter London

Art is a language that is unique to humans – we have been making art since the dawn of time and have come to understand that artistic expression is a very real and compelling human need.

Art therapy in its professional capacity is a twentieth century phenomenon, and is mainly practiced by patients who have experienced some type of trauma, under the supervision of a specially trained therapist. To practice art therapy in this respect, you need to undertake a certified level of training by an approved body.

But art is a therapeutic mode of communication that is available to everyone – no matter your skill level, and you certainly don’t need to have experienced significant trauma in your life to benefit.

Making art means many different things to those who practice it. As an artful self help process it is;

  • a means of discovering what you believe
  • a method of developing your imagination
  • a way to directly participate in your life
  • a route to dealing with problems larger than your own
  • a way to see more options in the world
  • a route to understanding (and telling) your own story

journal therapy

An inner life, cultivated, nourished, is a well of water. It is the inner structure we need to resist outer catastrophes, errors and injustices. ~ Anaïs Nin

Journal therapy, too has an historical background. We know that as far back as the tenth century the Japanese royal courtiers were recording their thoughts and feelings in writing, but journal therapy in its professional capacity is also a twentieth century phenomenon, driven by the growth of modern psychology.

As with art, there are many forms of journaling practiced today. Julia Cameron famously advocates a particular form of journal therapy she calls Morning Pages, (from her seminal book The Artist’s Way.) Designed to remove our logic driven narrative out of the way to make room for our creative self, Cameron maintains that “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power… Morning pages map our own interior.”

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. ~ Lao Tzu

What makes art and journal therapy extra effective is when they are practiced within the framework of the psychology of self, particularly those theories closely associated with the Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung.

What’s Jung got to do with it?

Carl Jung developed many of the foundations for modern psychological practice. Jungian psychological theories including the concept of individuation (the process of reaching one’s full potential) are central to the practice of artful self help.

In fact, Jung was also one of the first practitioners to use art therapy in his psychological practice with people who were not receiving psychiatric treatment for mental illness – but crucially, Jung also practiced the technique himself.

In the period he called his confrontation with the unconscious, Jung used art to allow him to “probe the depths of [his] own psyche… As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind emotions.”   

It is the compelling combination of Jungian psychological constructs with art and journal therapy (especially through the medium of mandala) that make artful self help such a useful process for personal growth.

Art Journal Collage

The benefits of Artful Self Help

The beauty of artful self help is that it can be undertaken by any individual, anywhere – and doesn’t rely on the technical abilities of the practitioner to reap benefits, including;

  • healing through emotional release, free from inhibition.
  • increased self-acceptance through greater understanding and a revelation of personal mythology.
  • discovery of unconscious secrets or patterns (the clues needed to change self-defeating habits.)
  • the development of creative expression as a communication technique, employing the symbolic language.
  • a sense of wholeness and coherence by understanding the past, discovering joy and harmony in the present and creating a desired future.
  • stress relief and relaxation by way of physiological changes, including increased serotonin levels.
  • establishing meaning and realising dharma (life purpose.)
  • increased intuitive abilities with less reliance on the rational mind.

It’s a personal development tool which can also be developed outwith the confines of a therapist/client relationship and used in individual practice to help with the ongoing work of raising consciousness and the navigation through our everyday lives.

Artful Self Help is for Heroes

You can use artful self help to help you answer your important life questions. It’s a process that will continue to serve you throughout each stage of your life, whether you are a stay at home mother, find yourself freshly divorced, are an empty-nester or are looking for a career change.

It’s the method I use to investigate my three most important concerns;

  • Who Am I?
  • What Do I Want?
  • How Can I Serve?

artsy hand

“Who am I?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ are the two questions common to most people. As soon as we begin to develop a sense of self, we seek answers to these questions in our clumsy attempt to establish our unique personal identity.

Left unanswered (as they most often are) as we go about our business of getting on with our lives, these questions usually resurface at middle age. This is the time of life when many people set about undertaking an inner journey – what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey.

What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else. ~ Joseph Campbell

It was as I approached my fortieth birthday that I began my own (s)hero’s journey. Artful self help has been my compass and my vessel – and it turns out is the answer to the biggest question of all – How can I serve?

Find out how you can practice Artful Self Help with me.

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