Art Therapy and Anger; Can Art be Used to Discharge Agression? Yes!

Inspired by a session I had today, I write this. I spent the whole day at SVA at a conference on trauma, and I even saw a presentation of a former marine who is managing her PTSD through oil painting, but what really inspired me was a session I had later with an adult who never engages with my art materials, much less, makes art.

We were talking about anger in the workplace and I started modelling ripping paper from a National Geographic. I had told this person about this app on the iphone called iShatter, which we both agreed is quite limited and not great. It does let you choose what to “shatter” and then you can “break” things on the screen with your finger, glasses, mirrors, windows, etc. Somehow after the first time you try it, it loses its fun. 

So as we were ripping the paper, I got the idea to get out oil pastels and show how to use them heavy handedly to scribble on a piece of paper and discharge excess anger. We were discussing how nothing takes the place of breaking plates, especially throwing them against the wall. I had hear from another patient that there is some place in Brooklyn you can go and actually break a lot of plates or glass. Anyway I modelled scribbling hard on the paper, I happened ironically to have a paper plate I scribbled on, so I invited my patient to try it. We did more rough scribbling, the kind that breaks the craypa, then I accidentally cut into the craypa thick marks with the edge of the paper wrapper so i got out pencils and showed how you can scratch into the craypa, then I remembered you can poke the paper hard with the pencil which we did as well. I was explaining that  it helps to pick yucky “ugly” colors and fill up the paper with them on top of each other, creating a big mess of brownish color, although we noticed with just the red that it very satisfyingly looked like blood. My patient noticed it was hard still to try not to make the picture look nice. I was using uglyer colors and encouraging more ugliness.

The main thing was the kinesthetic discharge of using the crapas and the pencil served as a knife like tool to poke with and atually attack the paper. Meanwhile I wondered aloud if I could get some cheap plates, bottles and cups and some area of the studio to actually break real plates, so we discussed that.

This week I will look for cheap china and some face or eye masks so we can actually destroy some real plates, cups and other vessels!

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