So our site is getting ready for our Christmas craft show and sale (coming this weekend!). It’s an annual event for us. It doesn’t necessarily raise us much money but it allows us to support our local artisan community while they also show some support for us. Win-win as they say.
But supporting our local art community is more than just being civic-minded or a friendly neighbour. For us, it is about trauma and healing and the role art related activities can often play in that.
Pieces of a traumatic event can be stuck in your brain for a long time and unfortunately, it is often really hard to talk about. Fragments of sensory inputs are captured in our brains and can cause us a lot of stress, confusion and can trigger flashbacks, nightmares and a bunch of other related issues. These can all pile up together to create a bit of a domino effect in that one thing can lead to another and many of these things can get in the way of healing or make it difficult to just talk to someone until we’re good to move forward again.
Until recently, healing has often meant one thing – counseling. And talk based counseling at that. Now I’m a big supporter of counseling and that is in fact where I started in this career; it is a valuable and many times necessary component of healing. But it’s not the only one.
As we learn more about trauma and healing, we also learn how talking is not always accessible after someone’s been traumatized. Sometimes you have to start somewhere else to allow a person to get in touch with and work through their thoughts and fears and memories and sorrow in a different way. Sometimes people need to re-connect with other parts of themselves internally before they are able to work out verbally what they need or want to say. And oftentimes, those re-connections are non-verbal. We now know that healing can often be a journey more than a single destination and that the journey can be full of non-traditional approaches or activities. Sometimes we need to do a better job of supporting this and allowing people the freedom to work through it on their own terms.
Which brings us back to our local art community. Art based and creative activities are commonly used as a means to assist a person in processing and / or dealing with a traumatic experience. It’s a predominant tool for children and some youth since they often don’t have the language to express themselves. Now that we know that a trauma victim may not be able to access the language needed to discuss their experiences, we should consider providing more opportunities for art based activities as a means to process the experience. It can be extremely effective in assisting a person to put forward a visual of their thoughts and fears and experiences; to express things that at first elude language, to make sense of the jumble in a person’s body, heart and head. Art can help a person express themselves in a unique way that can mirror the individual circumstances of their thoughts and experiences and taps into the parts of our brains where our senses hold our trauma memories.
When I talk to local artists, and I talk about trauma and healing, they often tell me stories of their lives that have led them to pursue a career in expressive arts. These are not easy careers nor are they necessarily lucrative but they are sometimes the piece that allows the healing to happen and that is huge.