With the current global pandemic situation and lockdown, all kinds of painful feelings can come up and it may even generate physical and emotional symptoms. Of course, such reactions relate to the current situation, which generates fear, concerns, dismay, feelings of losing control over one’s life, panic and even fear of not surviving, accompanied by physical sensations like accelerated or stronger heart beats, cold sweat, chest tightness, etc. Such feelings and physical symptoms are exacerbated by past painful situations or traumas where we actually experienced similar feelings, whether consciously or not. Becoming aware that such feelings are partly associated with some irrational aspect from the past might decrease your fear. So how do you deal with that? Just let yourself feel the emotions and sensations that arise instead of trying to flee from them, and become aware of the past situations that are reactivated by these emotions, and putting them back into the past, i.e. realizing that such emotions partly belong to the past.
For those of you who will not find peace and calm enough through becoming aware of that, I am suggesting simple art therapy exercises to heal emotions associated with past traumas: drawing or painting will help you become aware of your physical emotions and sensations. No need to be an artist or to know how to draw to benefit from these exercises. Use paper sheets that are as large as possible, and simple art media like felt pens, oil pastels or gouache, whatever supplies you have at hand. If you are an artist or an art-therapist, make sure you have various art supplies and large paper sheets (18 x2 4 in / 45 x 60 cm) at your disposal. The larger the paper is, the more chances there are to release the felt emotions and sensations through movement. It’s our motor brain that allow for the releasing, through activation on paper sheets, and the simple body movement to draw. However, if large sheets raise anxiety, just take smaller ones.
You can use lines, shapes, colors and movements to represent the felt emotion by doing a quick sketch. For example, if you experience fear, which kind of lines would be traced on paper through your fear? Amplify and repeat these lines on many paper sheets, till you actually feel the fear or any other emotions that are present. While the process is not pleasant, this is how the fear will be released and decreased, instead of being retained within the body. Painful emotions may be soothed by the mere act of putting them on paper.
If you wish, the exercise can end with applying a healing color over the painful emotion or sensation, using a liquid medium so as to have the drawing entirely covered. Applying gouache, finger paint or acrylic over oil pastels will be efficient. A healing color is one that raises a soothing feeling when applied. Just trust your feelings, since healing colors are different from one person to another and can vary from one exercise to another.
The exercise may also be concluded with positive drawings. As an example, in Figure #1, I end up with freeing my inner child from the shutdown in the secret places of my heart where she had been hiding for a long time in order to protect herself from adverse conditions from her childhood. She now embarks on a starry path, and that completes a one-week journey involving a series of drawings about painful emotions and sensations.
Figure 1, 18 x 24 po. ( 60 cm),
oil pastels and chalk pastels.
If you found peace and calm, you might want to end the process at this point. Otherwise, you may proceed with the following instructions.
Just welcome any images associated with painful past memories. Be aware of the emotions or sensations that feel similar to the ones you experienced during such past events, and that are now reactivated by the pandemic events and/or the shutdown. Make simple drawings about these painful events and welcome the emotions associated with the ones that remain unresolved. Whether such emotions w
ere worked on through therapy or other approaches or not, if they keep coming up, the fact is that your psyche uses the opportunity for further healing. Every time relationships or painful/traumatic situations are worked on, we find more peace and calm, and they are easier to face.
Once you become aware of emotions and fully experience them, you feel a sense of soothing. Moreover, the emotions associated with the current coronavirus situation will decrease in intensity. Otherwise, if you feel distressed, try to talk to family or friends. You might want to ask for help from Help/Support services (see references below).
Crisis Services Canada : https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/covid-19-resources
Suicide prevention and support: 1-833-456-4566.
Online services are offered by many psychotherapy clinics. Please type Help / Support online Services to find out about the services available in your area.
Reference books and articles on my Website:
There will be more information on these methods in my book Somatic Art Therapy: Alleviating Pain and Trauma through the Arts, which will be available by the end of 2020 at Routledge. It will be a revised and augmented English version of my book: L’art-thérapie somatique. Pour aider à guérir la douleur chronique (2014). Montréal: Québec-Livres. To get this French book, please send a written request.
You can also find the following references in French in the “Articles” section on this Website:
Hamel, J. (2009). L’art-thérapie somatique: rationnel d’intervention et méthodes pour aider à guérir la douleur chronique liée aux états de stress post-traumatique. Revue québécoise de psychologie, Vol. 30 (3), 29-42.
Hamel, J. (2000). La psychothérapie par l’art : la transformation intérieure par la voie de l’imaginaire. Revue Québécoise de psychologie, 22, 33-48.