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“The Healing Language of Art” – by Christy Denne

The Healing Language of Art

There are roughly 6,700 languages spoken in the world today. Each of these languages are comprised of thousands upon thousands words organized together to form sentences, paragraphs, exclamations, and conversations. But who can relate to that moment when the dark night of the soul envelops you, grief begins to take hold, and there are no words? There are no words to describe the pit in your stomach, the ache in your chest, or the zombie state in which you move through the day. It doesn’t matter that there are 6,700 languages comprised of thousands, millions of words because in those moments, there are no words.

I found myself sitting across from a professional counselor. Her compassionate eyes landed on me as she leaned back against the sandy, tan love-seat. She was waiting for an answer to her question. I understood the definition of all the words she used to formulate her inquiry, but I could not respond. There were no words, only fear, grief, and a sense of numb. For years, I was told…

“We don’t talk about those kinds of things.”

“If you tell anyone, you will only get in trouble.”

“No one will believe you anyways.”

So, I stuffed and hid the words, and I locked them deep inside myself.

There were no words.

The only response I could muster to her questions was “I don’t know,” followed by intense nausea. My counselor would talk of getting “it” out, not keeping secrets, catharsis, and bringing the lies into the light. Logically, my brain could comprehend these arguments, but my heart in my throat prevented the words.

Until I found art.

A French artist by the name of George Rouault from the late 1800’s wrote, “For me, painting is a way to forget life. It is a cry in the night, a strangled laugh.” George Rouault used art to escape life; I began to use art to live life, to express pain, and to find words.

When there were no words, there were deep reds, blacks, and blues to reflect my grief. The blank canvas allowed me to rip, burn, smash, and cover its surface without prejudice, judgment, or criticism. I would sit with the art supplies chaotically scattered around me, an almost reflection of my life. There was no “method to my madness” only years of anger, hurt, sadness, and fear thrown onto the empty canvas. Hours, sometimes days were spent pouring out my tears into the art, into the picture of my soul until an image began to form. This became my catharsis. This became my spoken language, number 6,701.

There were no words, but there was an image, a catalyst to the healing, to freedom.

– Written by Christy Denne, PLMHP

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