Thursday, December 02, 2010

Going Beyond Fragmentation 11 - Towards the Healing of Wholeness

The Soul's Song

Young woman takes a photograph: Santry Wood, Thurs 2/12/2010
Expressive Arts Therapy is just that - it does what it says on the tin.  It's all about enabling the self or the individual soul to express itself as creatively as possible.  Hence, these types of therapy comprise the whole spectrum of the human soul's creative abilities - music (including human song and poetry), painting of all types, sculpture, design, drama, creative writing and many more besides.  In all of these, the human soul seeks to put to flight, to take off, to soar, to sing itself whole in the beauty of its very being.  Hence, my title to this short paragraph - the soul's song.  The aim of Expressive Arts Therapy to my mind is simply this - to enable the soul to sing itself whole in the beauty of its very being.

Rainer Maria Rilke
He I am reminded that the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) who said that "song is existence."  Lovers of his poetry and other writings will know that he was a Bohemian–Austrian poet and art critic. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety: themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.  To this extent, reading his poems for this present writer has been therapeutic and both "soul-healing" and "soul-making."  "Song is Existence" or "Gesang ist Dasein."  Levine tells us that he would literally put words in Heidegger's mouth by interpreting his insights into the human soul as being "Dasine ist Gesang," that is that Existence is Song, namely that existence is essentially poetic.

In Winnicott's understanding of humanity, to be alive is to be capable of being creative - and the essential nature of children is to assert themselves through creative living.  Both Heidegger and Winnicott, and of course, many others after them, see all forms of creativity which spring from the unique power of the individual imagination as beinfg essentially healing of the human soul.  Now let me repeat one of my better sentences ever writter in these posts from the opening paragraph here:  In all varieties of creativity, the human soul seeks to put to flight, to take off, to soar, to sing itself whole in the beauty of its very being. 

The Inner Mystery of the Person

In Winnicott's thinking, as in that of a lot of other psychotherapists too, the presence of others or at least of an other is essential for the development of every individual's creativity.  In other words, it is almost universally accepted, and indeed somewhat obvious, that we can only become our individual self in relationship.  However, there are limits, indeed, to how far anyone of us can know another, and indeed, I believe, to how far I can really know myself also.  In this respect Winnicott speaks about "an unapproachable core of selfhood" in each person, a part of the self that can never be fully shared.  None of us can pour out the mystery that is uniquely us in any succinct expression.  All therapy, and in this case Expresssive Arts Therapy can only go so far, can only reveal so much.  As we interact with each other we share a common space as it were and are never objective "lookers-in" at the personality or personhood of another.  We asre too much involved in the "interaction" to be objective.  My words are almost tripping me up here in my attempts to explain what I mean.  Yet the attempt is certainly worth it.

To this extent, then, we may say that personal, interpersonal and mutual truth(s) is (are) never totally objective or even subjective.  They are, then, very much in an "in-between space."  It is an existential fact, then, that the kind of truth we are discussing here is neither subjective nor objective, but rather is a living expression of our being together in the world.  In this sense, we do the truth, we make the truth mutually in inter-relating.  In other words we are constantly creating and re-creating it.  Once again apologies for the struggles of my efforts to express myself here!

Therefore, in summary, we may say that thinkers like Heidegger and Winnicott, the latter who, of course was a practitioner-psychoanalyst, have released us from the binds of the subject-object split or, in more traditional philosophical terms from the binds of the Cartesian dualistic split.  They also allow us to understand the essential role of the imagination in healthy personal intercommunication and in good balanced mental health.  Also we have learnt that imagination is never, so to speak, disembodied thinking - it is always very much embodied thinking, or to put it in other terms incarnated thinking, a thinking incarnated in images.

In all of the above we are talking about the healing power of the imagination through the expressive arts.  We are not talking about fancy or fantasy which are lesser powers and totally un-real as it were - all those creatures of Science Fiction and indeed the world of Computer Games etc.  The imaginative powers we are discussing in this post are the "really" real (excuse the redundancy of the adjective here - the sheer inability of language to express what I mean hinders me) healing powers of imagination in communicating with others; in the case of the therapist and client/patient the shared (and consequently real) healing of the imagination, and in the case of individuals in ordinary everyday life, the shared (and consequently real) communication of information, ideas, thoughts and beliefs, encouragement and healin, too, of course!. 

The above thoughts are this author's words.  Therefore, I will finish with those of Professor Levine with his take on the above:


To be alive means to be in  the world as embodied beings, capable of imagining ourselves more deeply, i.e.,  seeing our authentic possibilities in the course of our lives.  This distinguishes imagination from fantasy, which ignores actuality in constructing images of pleasure or pain.  Imagination can be said to be the "bridge" between self and world; but we must remember that we are always "on" the bridge.  When we try to pass to one side or the other, we "fall into the chasm of fantasy....

Poiesis makes healing possible.  Psychotherapy must hold fast to this insight if it wishes to be authentic.  We do not aim at helping someone adapt to reality; rather we seek to help him or her live more creatively.  Only the restoration of the imagination can achieve this goal.  The possibilty of expressive therapy lies in the play of imagination.  This is a truth which can only be thought by being lived.  (Poiesis, pp.  41-42)

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