I am learning about the necessity for self-expression, especially during trauma recovery, in my Expressive Arts Trauma Therapy course. Cathy Malchiodi described, “Language, a function of declarative memory, is generally not readily accessible to trauma survivors of any age after a traumatic event. In particular, Broca’s area, a section of the brain that controls language is affected, making it difficult to relate the trauma narrative. In fact, when a trauma survivor attempts to speak, PET scans actually show that Broca’s area tends to shut down. Meanwhile, other parts of the brain, including the limbic system, are in overdrive, particularly in individuals with posttraumatic stress symptoms…We all encode psychological trauma in a sensory way and we all have the possibility to use our senses in the recovery process.”
She explained how trauma burrows within and, when it isn’t processed, its impact will show up in negative behavior most of the time without the individual who has suffered the trauma even realizing it is happening.
In distress, when biologically verbal language isn’t available, art expression gifts an unspoken language to survivors; it enables you to put action to the disruptive feelings. If you know someone suffering, who isn’t able to put this pain into words, encourage creativity. It helps them start to process the distress and it gives those in the sidelines a glimpse into this person's psyche. In a sense, it’s like looking through a viewfinder and seeing snapshots of the trauma that is layered within.
It is important not to under estimate the power of healing arts. It is an area that is undervalued in our society. We are born with the tool of creativity. I believe this therapeutic channel taps into a celestial offering that enables a person to unblock pain and cross a philosophical bridge to recovery. If you’re suffering, take on a creative project; give it a shot, what can it hurt?