Stardate: 26th day, 4th month, 2020 Art Therapy & Staying Connected
A huge part of the social distancing restrictions which are part of staying safe during the Covid19 pandemic require us to physically stay apart. Now thanks to technology we are able to connect virtually using many different platforms. However, as a fellow human I ponder how the ongoing lack of physical touch with extended family and friends will contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness in the long haul. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Jim Coan, we are born with a built-in dependence baseline which helps us maintain hope through connection with others. When things get tough, we get by with a little help from a friend. An integral part of this regulation strategy resides in physical touch. Research has shown that even a simple touch on the forearm can bring comfort to someone who feels lonely or afraid. “Our ability to feel connected to others has important implications for our ability to act in the world (Coan, 2018).
I like to think of this valued human connection as spiritual guide Joyce Rupp defines: “kinship—a rich bond that calls forth to the deepest part of ourselves…a sense of belonging, a union of spirits, a loving appreciation, a deep communion with others, and a mutuality of understanding” (Rupp, 1966). Okay, what does all this have to do with art therapy, you might ask? Well, virtual connection has its obvious merits, but I am challenging you to consider a deeper form of connection, one which might touch someone in a kinesthetic way—both for the creator and the receiver.
The art directive for this week is a simple one: Design & color a postcard for a loved one who may be feeling particularly alone during this pandemic. It can be as simple or complex as you are comfortable with. Use whatever art materials give you pleasure and add a short heartfelt message. The benefits are threefold: a) you move away from focusing on your own feelings for a short time b) you give a loving gift of felt kinship to another and c) you create something tangible which can be shared by physical touch. Think of this gesture as a therapeutic flower for someone you love. “There is so much hope in a little flower and so many flowers in a little hope” (Mehmet Murat ilan, Contemporary Turkish Playwright, 2019).