Art therapy can be ugly and unhinged. Whenever I infect art with emotion, I become frustrated at clumsy lines and childish colours that don’t harmonize with the criteria determining what I consider good work of mine. I’m untrained in emotion therefore what practice I’ve had in art can’t outweigh the weakness of faith in my psyche.
Despite some confidence in my creative skills, I cower. I lose out on satisfaction because I don’t appreciate the process for what it is, heavily evaluating rather than healing. For me, being hypercritical of emotion based pieces means losing touch with the reason for making this art. Learning through emotions, learning emotion through art, vice versa, and beyond, these goals aren’t achieved and their results received through basing value solely on technical skill. How effective an artwork has been in its making and perceiving isn’t determined by if I enjoy the colour harmony or if the line work is bold and assured. A piece isn’t bad if I perceive it as juvenile and clumsy, disorganized, unrefined. If I can make an effort to unlock myself, that’s worthy. That’s value. I have tried.
Historically, I struggled to make use of clinical therapy. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists of myriad specialties, they couldn’t help me because I wasn’t putting in the effort or being accepting of my capabilities. I was in denial of disability and ability. My capacity for change remained the same. I wasn’t trying. I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted or how to actualize it. These downfalls apply to all kinds of progress and are acutely related to my struggle with emotional artwork. Locked up and releasing control, I sabotage myself. There is a balance of command— being willing to submit to reality but not lose authority over myself. I want to do better and be better, so I will. As soon as I started toeing the balance and trusting myself, I began achieving goals in therapy.
Once upon a time I had a quote from a writer on software development, “only dead fish go with the flow” written on my childhood bedroom wall. When I was young this was a proclamation of rebellion, but now that I’ve found my flow I wish to change the course of the river. The defiance is there, but slightly more grown I feel I better understand the powerful flow of reality and its effects. Interestingly, I hadn’t read the author’s book the quote had originated from. Now looking back and skimming ‘Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware‘ by Andy Hunt, the concepts are more aligned with my life than I expected. From the view of a programmer, the book looks at the mind like a computer. Due to autism and trauma I’ve often felt a both dehumanizing and empowering connection to this idea. Detached from neurological issues or mental illness, the book approaches learning, how to better understand yourself, how your mind absorbs knowledge.
My wetware is my brain. There’s no shame in admitting it behaves more similarly to a computer than most. There are constant streams of data that I can’t turn off, cross comparisons and data retrieval often overriding emotions. Casual social interactions are conversations with an AI regurgitating successful phrases backed up on my hard drive. If there’s too much input, I overload and crash. I found comfort and shame in my empathy for robots and electronics.
I’m under repair. I’m making art. Through colour, line, form, light, I connect back to my emotions and humanity. Here writing these words, making terrible art and prose, is not a dead fish or a broken computer. There’s a fleshy body housing new hopes and dreams. Skills, sorrows, strangeness, there’s no end to the learning.
The other day I finished a watercolour I hated. Representationally, it was about concepts I hated. Capitalism and pedophilia, under the weight of the trauma these have caused I regressed as I painted. A building structure reads as painfully two dimensional and unrefined in its rendering, colours clash and blend where they shouldn’t, I struggle and fight and hate myself and I finish the piece and I wonder if it was worth it.
Of course it was. I tried. I reached into place where the surreal wormhole of a child lives inside me and brought something out. I let a part of myself speak that has been silenced and beaten down by its jail keepers.
Effort in therapy is worth it.