The Creative Process of Healing


As this crisis continues to unfold, we’ve all had to sit with the fear that arises in the face of uncertainty. We each have our completely valid ways of coping, but to sustain living, we need to engage more deeply with the creative process of healing; to find ways to not just survive, but thrive. While this journey varies depending on life’s circumstances and privileges — for some, this moment is a generative pause; to others, another endurance test — I have found there’s a lot to learn from finding balance on these shifting grounds. As the pandemic exposes every way our systems do not meet our needs, so too can it bring us in relationship with what is ready to shift in ourselves. Our response will depend on our creative process.

To bring us back to the very first newsletter, creativity is relational and responsive. Only when we are in relationship with an idea, can we respond appropriately. This is also true of ourselves. Only once we develop a relationship with our inner landscape, can we begin to see the pathways. In research of the creative process, this is the stage of insight, exploration, questioning, gathering, problem-finding (1). The key to all of these steps is a lack of judgement; you are simply gathering data to generate new ideas. If you rush through this phase or limit the input, your output will also be restricted and likely ineffective. For healing, this means we must be able to be with our emotions to find new ways of being. As somatics practitioner Prentis Hemphill (2) recently said during the Explore More Summit: “We need to know what liberation feels like to know what we are working towards.” They continued:

“When we apply so much judgement to our behaviors, it’s hard to make a different choice. It’s hard to make a choice at all.” 

(3) Prentis Hemphill, Explore More Summit

Prentis is pointing towards creative agencyto make creative choices, we need to feel safe enough to be curious (4). This is no easy task, especially in relationship to trauma; just as we start to build up enough resilience to investigate our trauma, we unearth frightening layers of pain held in the body (5). It is a continually unfolding process of finding the courage to be with our pain and feeling into its many manifestations; but as we build up our tolerance, we begin to change our relationship to pain itself and expand around it. I have been experiencing a taste of this liberation: 


While there are big questions to face as I transition out of teaching and into an economic recession, I have felt a greater capacity to be with fear. At this moment, I can feel anxiety vibrating through my chest and tightening around my lungs as I worry about finishing this newsletter on time. It took me many years to notice how my anxiety is held in my body, but once I did, it was all I could feel. And then it became all about calming my anxiety, breathing through it and around it, each “breakthrough” another way to quell the tightness in my chest. Over and over I would become aggravated by the same patterns arising after a moment of respite. Surprisingly, thanks to community response to the pandemic calming my social anxieties, I’ve had greater capacity during shelter-in-place to feel into the reverberations of my anxiety without recoiling. Instead of asking myself the question “What’s wrong?”, I’m asking “What’s here?” I can now notice how aversion makes my anxiety worse; it is exactly the ability to stay and witness that allows a new relationship to my emotions not based on needing them to change.


As my meditation teacher Will Kabat-Zinn (6) often says about anxiety: tightening is tightening; it is not the story of who you are. Or to put it my way, your life is a creative process, not a product; you can always respond differently. 

Living is a creative act,
Evelyn Thorne


Everyday Creativity Tip

While this newsletter is focused on creativity beyond the arts, an artistic practice can be a great way to be in relationship with healing. I often find that writing can hold the complexity of my experience when I can’t speak it out loud. When I was working at a trauma healing center as a digital storytelling facilitator, participants would speak to the power of getting to reshape their narratives; this taught me that the creative process can be healing in itself. Recently I got to write a cento poem (a poem made up of lines of another poet); using the words of Rupi Kaur helped me process my own trauma and discover a healing journey. I offer it as inspiration to find your voice through whatever creative practice feels accessible to youRead left column of poem first. 

Healing is everyday work
a cento for rupi kaur
By Evelyn Thorne

the first hour
i reduced my body to aesthetics
as if your hands 
on my body
magnify you
and reduce me to nothing
a beauty so insecure
it can’t commit to itself
how do i turn around and
choose myself

the second hour i wept

i think my body knew 
you would not stay
why
did you leave a door
hanging
open between my legs
parts i didn’t know how to wear
didn’t know how to carry
become more bone and less skin

during the third hour

i bite down on my lip
my wound became your wound
you cannot
walk in and out of me
i have survived far too much
to go quietly

the fourth hour i prayed

my whole life has been an uprising
and all i dream is to soften
how do i teach myself
to accept a healthy love
i am trying to teach myself

the truth comes like sunlight

get to the root
of the wound
and kiss it all the way up
healing is everyday work
never feel guilty for starting again

there is a god in you
can you feel her dancing


Footnotes

1. Keith Sawyer, Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, Oxford University Press
2. https://prentishemphill.com/
3. A free online conference dedicated to exploring your pleasure, healing, connection, and body:
https://www.exploremoresummit.com/
4. Talk with Aida Mundulay, LCSW at Explore More Summit, http://aidamanduley.com/
5Maria Popova, “The Science of How Our Minds and Our Bodies Converge in the Healing of Trauma”, https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/06/20/the-body-keeps-the-score-van-der-kolk/
6https://sundaysangha.net/


Originally published April 27, 2020 on the Creativity in Context Newsletter by Evelyn Thorne.


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Living is creative act

Published by Evelyn Thorne

Evelyn is a writer, educator, and facilitator who helps people unlearn misconceptions and limiting beliefs about their creative identities.

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