An important part of our life experience that makes an appearance in both art and therapy is meaning making. It is a human need to understand what experiences mean to us, to our lives, to our relationships, sense of self, and more. In fact, we find resolution, healing and purpose through making meaning and there are approaches to both art and therapy dedicated to this work.
Meaning making can be hard, intensive, long term work. It can also be accomplished in smaller, more natural ways. Biologically, when we are making meaning we are creating new pathways in the brain, connecting information in new ways. Psychologically, we are developing our consciousness and worldview based on our life experiences.
There has been a lot of work in art therapy, for example, on making artwork to help heal pain. You may have heard of adages of “doing something with the pain” in art therapy approaches. In a way, to artists, pain and hardship are romantic in a Shakespearean, tragic but beautiful sense. Logically, pain needs to exist in order for us to experience healing and happiness- one of the basic meaning-making steps used in therapy.
The cognitive behavioral therapy paradigm focuses on the relationship between our thoughts, feelings and actions and how changing one impacts the other. Cognitive behavioral therapy would suggest that making meaning of experiences can change the way we think about them, and, in turn, positively impact our emotions about them and subsequent behaviors.
What does this mean to you? We are all programmed to absorb the world in a certain way based on our life stories and genetic material. However, making meaning gives us power and freedom to choose what our life stories will mean to us and how we will use them in the future to predict outcomes, grow relationships, and choose our behavior. The idea of meaning making both in art and psychology allows you to create your future from your past and present. It empowers you to take healthy perspective and strength from your pain to more fully experience joy. Gain insight into your life and turn it into action. Come sit on my couch and make meaning of your life experiences.
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is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.