PTSD Spirituality: Art and Craft Can Heal PTSD Soul Wounds

Artwork enables the healing of PTSD soul wounds.  The process of craft allows for the continued polishing of our souls.  PTSD inflicts blemishes and fractures upon our soul.  Those wounds to our soul are meant to force us into isolation and then kill us.  Those soul wounds are meant to make us sever healthy relationships and seek out porn, drugs, reckless sex, booze, and oblivion.  Artwork, in any of its manifestations, helps to heal these wounds.  The artist engages life on both the physical and spiritual levels and endeavors to translate that experience into an expression others can comprehend. 

Artwork and PTSD healing are wonderfully expressed in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s column by Jim Stingl entitled “Vietnam Veteran Puts Pain on Canvas.”  It is worth your time to read it about how Jim Finnerty, a Vietnam veteran,  utilizes artwork to help heal his PTSD.

Artwork as Conception and Midwifing

When an artist begins to conceive a work of art, it is a birthing process.  There can be joyous sensuality mixed with anticipation and also pain and fear.  The artist thinks through, conceptualizes, and then executes a work of art.  It is a process that affirms life and is a form of prayer all at the same time.  It is also a process that heals us.

 The working of art can be painful.  Remembering an experience, or the effects of that experience, propels us into a sublime reality that is more than merely physical and scientific.  It is spiritual as well.  When we engage in a work of art we give something of ourselves, we identify and let loose some of our pain and some of our joys.  We midwife with God a new creation that can translate the Truth of our experience to others.  

As we identify our pains, we pry them out and new life grows in that soul space.  As we identify our joys, that soul space is invigorated and adds to our healing.  Such is the work of an artist, to express truth and heal the soul.

PTSD Does Not Want You to be Creative

This aspect of giving birth, of co-creation, is why we are so hard on ourselves as we create (artists sometimes call this the “Internal Censor”).  PTSD and material culture do not want you to be creative. 

If you are creative, you will heal more, you will recognize there is more to life than material things. 

You will know that life, your life, matters.

Many is the time when an artist trashes a work in progress or won’t even begin an artwork for fear it is not good enough.  In the money-oriented culture of America we often ask ourselves (and others are quick to reinforce this) what is it worth?  Will it sell?  We are trained to ask, Will it be accepted and paid for? We are not trained to ask, Is this artwork honest, is it authentic, does it bring about in some small way, what I have experienced and felt?  Does this art help me heal?

We often fear to show our artwork to others for fear of ridicule or being asked, Yes, but will someone buy it for money? 

Most people miss the fact we need to compose, paint, sing, play music, write and recite poems, because only in those ways do we understand reality – and ourselves – better. 

 The better we understand ourselves, the less PTSD can grip us.

 The More We Try to Create, the More We Will Heal

Not every artwork fulfills the promise of its conceptualization.  That is why we must practice and continue to risk ourselves in committing more and more works of art.  In each case, we heal a little more, we discover a little more about the truth.  We need to allow ourselves to make multiple attempts and drafts as we walk down the dark tunnel of creation.  Eventually, if we stick to it, we find the light, that truth we were trying to convey.

If we find that truth, and convey it even marginally,

 then we have healed more from the very PTSD that seeks to isolate and kill us.

Artwork is Prayer

When we release ourselves to the co-creation of a piece of art, as we struggle with and shy away from painful memories; as we then grapple with those memories; as we ponder the joy of some other experience, people we love; in all of this we are in communication with God.  We are in prayer.

We know that not all prayer is recitation or verbal.  Those forms of prayer are important, but other forms of communication with the Ultimate Reality that is God, are also important.  In artwork, even of painful subjects and memories, we can discover and experience love.  That love is part of our prayer.  That love is part of our healing from the trauma which damaged us.

Taking the Long Healing Journey

The soul wounds of PTSD are the natural byproduct of trauma. These soul wounds can take a lifetime to heal.  Paradoxically the initiating trauma can be exceedingly brief in its occurrence, yet the results are long lasting.

 When people tell us to “Get Over It!” they express more about their own wounds than our own.  That is simply someone who has disqualified themselves from hearing my story.  They are afflicted with Compassion deficit Disorder.  If they eventually mature and become compassionate then I may share my pearls, my joys and pains, with them. 

But we know that PTSD soul wounds are part of the long haul.  They are like having an amputation.  The loss of an arm may have been sudden, but the living with the loss of an arm is the rest of my life.

In art we often revise or redraft a work in progress.  In terms of our PTSD, this allows us to revisit the traumas and continue our healing. 

Each time we revisit through the artistic process, co-creating with God,

we own the trauma more than the trauma owns us. 

Each time we grapple with our experience through drawing or writing or painting – any form of expression – we then derive more meaning from our suffering and become less isolated and thus more open to life and relationships.

Someone who tells me to “Just Get Over It!” is telling me to quit healing.  Many people are too ignorant to realize this.

Art and Sanctification

Healing from our PTSD soul wounds is a form of sanctification, becoming more authentic, more of the person God created each of us to become.  Artwork is a form of sanctification. 

Regardless of if our art “sells,” or society finds it “valuable,” as long as it conveys some sliver of truth as we experience it, then it is truly valuable.  Part of the healing of our soul lies in the creation process, that cosmic struggle with the divine to translate unutterable truth in a way we can understand. 

Our souls are cleansed through artwork the same way dialysis cleanses our body of toxins.

Never Give Up. 

Your PTSD does not have to isolate you and kill you.  You have value.  God made you, so you are inherently “very good.”  Learning to express the pain is difficult and it can be a challenge to find people who will truly listen non-judgmentally.  Yet, in expressing your experience, then some of your pain will diminish and more life and light will fill you.  If it is too soon to say it verbally, then express it in art.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. “Given that much of the traumatic damage we have all experienced is beyond words…”

    That is so true…

    There is so much here I wish I could comment on…but I think it would take me a long time. Let’s just suffice it to say I have been crying. Before today, I didn’t even know you, now I feel overwhelmed (in a good way) because you understand what this experience is like, you know how LONG the healing process can be and you are so helpful.

    I had a bit of a setback, and all because some stranger has been mean to me. I don’t know how it is that people that don’t even know you can be so cruel…but they can be.

    Thanks so much for your response.

    @ Sean –

    If you can take long walks in Nature…it may give you some respite.

    I think there is so much healing that can take place better on a subconscious level. The thing about Nature, or doing artwork, is that both are “bigger” than we are. Writing encourages conscious thought. Nature and artwork both have a way of muting conscious thought and gives us some breathing space.

    I’ve been writing for about 4 years, doing artwork for about 3 months. I can analyze every angle of a topic and still not feel very satisfied. Poetry takes a LOT out of me and it’s harder and not very satisfying or healing (but that’s just me). Art has reached places in me the writing can’t touch.

    Best Wishes. I hope you find the key(s) that works for you.

    Casey

    I love this quote from Veteran’s Children – http://www.veteranschildren.com/wordpress/can-art-heal-trauma-part-two/

    Color is medicine for those who have suffered trauma.

    • Hello again, One of the best parts of PTSD recovery on the spiritual level is the realization or discovery that we are not suffering alone. That does not make the pain go away, but it does make it easier to bear. We all will have setbacks, either at the hands of someone who chooses to be non-compassionate and outright hurtful, or we discover a sensitivity to a trigger that zaps us. But like Peter the Apostle, we can have setbacks and still recover and do great, meaningful things. I would write more, but I have to get an exam ready for my bunnies…ironically, on the topic of the spiritual dimensions of PTSD. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Thank you for explaining and I noticed for me that when I write it becomes a creative several days or maybe weeks of me writing from different aspects and it makes sense to me what I am writing and when others have read my stuff they assume it is about them.

    I have been weaving out the negative people I do not want anymore in my life through my art and these people are no longer in my life. They always seem guilty about something. The problem I have is that my writing has not loosened the grips of my PTSD. I am going to keep writing, however, I need to find something that is going to take me on a deeper level that writing does not touch. I just have not found it yet.

    Thank you again for helping out.

  3. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    I was in the process of writing a post on childhood PTSD wounds and came across your blog looking for a correlation between creating art and healing PTSD, and this article was one of the first ones and I quoted a part of your post on my blog, on this post:

    http://thesprightlywriter.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/understanding-and-healing-from-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

    I really appreciate your blog and will return to visit. Thank you so much for your writings.

    Casey

    • Hello and Thank You! I am grateful to know that you find some of the material useful and am honored you included part of it on your site. The opportunity to engage in art, writing, and music, allows us all to take back our identities from the PTSD soul wound. Given that much of the traumatic damage we have all experienced is beyond words, we sometimes go beyond words to start the cleaning and healing of our wounds from PTSD. I find art and craft to be a form of “antibiotic” against my PTSD in this regard. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  4. Thank you for looking into this for me and I hope whatever information you have will help me.

    • Hi Sean, Each of us who struggle with PTSD do so in our own unique ways because we unique individuals. Whenever we deal with our soul wounds, our uniqueness is in play, and what works for one person does not always work for another to the exact same degree. Yet, there are also broad similarities which seem to be true for most of us. In my own experience and in the experiences of others with PTSD, I have found that writing and artwork always seem to help to some degree when we make a concerted effort to stay at it. Sometimes we get discourgaed or even overwhelmed by the negativity of other people or our own doubts about what is really worthy. If we approach art and writing with an intent to be honest and open, it will help diminish PTSD’s grip upon us. Any artisitc endeavor that helps us heal is always worthy. The best, most healing art, is when we don’t really think about how others will evaluate it, we just give our best and it helps us to heal. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. What if the PTSD allowed your mind to think in esoteric form and heightened empathy to where the weight of the world is on your shoulders and everyone’s pain makes you feel guilty and hopeless all the time? What if because of the pain it allowed you to have premonitions? Could these changes too the mind and soul take on a physical aspect of lets say health issues?

    • Hi Sean, Thank you for popping into the website. I had started writing a reply to your questions and found that to do it right I would need more space than a comment allows for. So, I am several paragraphs into it and will probably finish in the couple of days. Then I will post it as an essay. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  6. This must be why the piano feels so good and helps so much too!

    • Hi Becky, You are right. Before my nerve damage got so bad I played classical guitar for five years. Never any lyrics, just the tones of the music. For me, it was prayer and gave me solace. Thanks for reading. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Trackbacks

  1. […] Creative: Find, or start fresh, some creative outlet.  Creation is life and it helps heal PTSD.  Drawing, singing, painting, writing, etc.  Some folks say they don’t know how so they never […]

  2. […] ~ Dr. Z,  PTSD Spirituality: Art and Craft Can Heal PTSD Soul Wounds […]

  3. […] There’s also a tremendous restorative benefit in creative endeavors like the arts as seen in PTSD Spirituality’s post, Art and Craft can heal Soul Wounds. […]

  4. […] love this post by PTSD Spirituality called Art and Craft Can Heal Soul Wounds: Artwork enables the healing of PTSD soul wounds.  The process of craft allows for the continued […]

  5. […] Creative: Find, or start fresh, some creative outlet.  Creation is life and it helps heal PTSD.  Drawing, singing, painting, writing, etc.  Some folks say they don’t know how so they never […]

  6. […] PTSD Spirituality: Art and Craft Can Heal PTSD Soul Wounds […]

  7. […] PTSD Spirituality: Art and Craft Can Heal PTSD Soul Wounds […]

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