Every year there is a big 3 or 4 day “Expressive Therapies Summit” held some time in the early November. Here is the website for the 2012 Summit:
The great thing about this Summit is the diversity of kinds of modalities, some even mixed together…Proposals for panels, lectures, talks, workshops etc. are due soon, and I was thinking of doing a workshop. I have a little time as the deadline got extended to Sunday, April 21. I had several ideas and then hit on something that has been percolating in me for a while now, mixing creative blocks which I have been working on with patients and others and writing and thinking about since even before I was in grad school. Then a newish topic I’ve been meaning to post about on this blog, my thoughts about a certain kind of depression I have been encountering and trying to elaborate on, that I have thought of as “existential depression”, trauma induced depression and finally kind of put it all together by thinking of it as (this will sound clunky because it is not a nice neat package of words): adult depression induced by multiple childhood and/or current “traumas” that causes a feeling of emptiness that is best addressed through the healing of the creative arts. It’s a kind of depression that can be very “light” and hardly noticeable to the person suffering or the people who know him/her, a vague feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction with one’s day to day life, a flatness and difficulty feeling engaged, excited, “turned on” by any aspect of life. This depression can also be quite different and accompany other challenges/disorders or seem like a regular kind of depression but it is characterized by not only the sadness, hopelessness and darkness of all depression but also a yearning for something to switch “on” and awaken the playful spirit or inner child to the excitement of the here and now. It can also be that the individual is depressed about other life events, relationships, family and career issues or addictions, obsessions, compulsions but coupled with it is a very conscious awareness of being blocked creatively. The person who loved writing has stopped writing and cannot get back to it after torturous months or years, or can’t paint or sing anymore. In this case there is an obvious feeling of hitting a wall and being “stuck” and wanting to get out but feeling hopeless and powerless.
The last mentioned experience I have been writing about in some posts recently such as the last post about establishing a “daily habit”.
What I want to address most of all though I’d like to have my approach be helpful for any of these types of depression, is the person who is not even aware that their depression stems from a lack of creative expression in his/her life. What amazes me about all the creative arts therapies is that by their very nature, they can heal this kind of depression in a way that traditional psychotherapy simply cannot, because the therapist and the modality of creative expression form the bridge for the person to awaken to his or her creativity. Adults who work at jobs that have nothing to do with any of the creative arts but who at one time or other may have enjoyed doing something creative, adults who never really explored their creativity since they gave it up in childhood, and adults who are engaged in some creative art form that can be visual art, writing, acting, making music etc.
I know this is meandering but the main point will be to explore experientially how the process of “Altered Book” making can uniquely heal this kind of depression. I have read quite a few articles and viewpoints on altered books and therapy and taken a few online classes about the altered book and seen how it can be healing for all kinds of people with all kinds of challenges. It is also very popular as an art therapy project for adolescents as it involves to begin with, ripping a book up or destroying and remaking a book, a real physical book that might have been on a bookshelf, nothing to do with computers or tablets! The beginning of the project as I’ve written here before, requires a sort of leap into one’s creative destructiveness, an animation of any tiny bit of rebellion inside yourself that can now come out through totally destroying and remaking a book.
So my workshop will address working with adults on altered books and how it can be a transformative experience for the complex kinds of creative block depression I just described.
To some extent this workshop will be hard to do as one of the benefits of an altered book is that you work on it regularly over time. The other difficult part is how to articulate why being given a choice of books to alter and then altering it in the company of the therapist does anything to help people who are creatively blocked. At the moment the metaphor that comes to mind is that the book is kind of the personification of the block and the block needs to get kicked around, ripped destroyed remade to awaken the inner creative spirit alive in all of us…
To be continued…