How do you greet a new year? Most of us set out to do better, do different, in a pursuit of change and growth. Experiencing this work of art from the Sound Series by Nick Cave screamed "Happy New Year" to me. Thank you Nick Cave and the Katonah Art Museum for inspiration and help with organizing some of my swirling thoughts about walking through this new year with more awareness and intentions.
Creativity has been on my mind a lot these days. Emotional Intelligence Quotients have also been on my mind these days. I'm fairly well convinced that we need to refine our abilities in both areas to achieve success (doing better and doing different). How do creativity and emotional intelligence interact when confronting problems? Problems can be global like nuclear threats and climate change. Problems can be intimate like career change, parenting less than perfect kids and marital unrest. Navigating our paths through problems is a process of creatively seeking solutions while managing strong, often unpleasant emotions. Approaching a problem with emotional intelligence requires 4 distinct realms: emotional self awareness, sensitivity to the social cues of others, feeling empathy and the ability to regulate our emotional responses.
I make art and experience the art of others often, I also use creative expression in therapy sessions with people of all ages and issues. My first efforts at using art as part of treatment was during an internship at an inpatient unit for adults suffering from treatment-refractory schizophrenia and the results were stunning. Working with an older male client who suffered serious and persistent delusions, we created a 5 foot pictorial timeline of his life on what he consistently believed to be his 660,000th birthday. Within one hour after unrolling an entire roll of paper down a long hospital hallway, the client was able to organize the events of his life and permanently integrate the knowledge that we were celebrating his 68th birthday. This was a dramatic experience for us both! His schizophrenia was not cured, however he was able to develop a far more realistic self awareness through the process of creative expression. The act of interacting with me in mapping out his life on paper in a safe space allowed for this client to benefit from a warm relationship and begin the foundation of trusting others. Empathy was developed as my client recognized that I was genuinely curious about his life experience and he was able to satisfy my curiosity through narrating a rich, trauma-infused, difficult history. Emotional regulation was not a usual strength in the client. However in this act of creating, the client was able to remain calm and thoughtful while revealing enormously frightening, violent and confusing events. I am forever grateful to this client in teaching me the power of art early on in my professional training.
Restructuring our experience of the world, our relationships to others and forging a pathway based on mindful decision making that incorporates our emotional responses with rational thoughts is strengthened by both experiencing the art of others and creating art ourselves. Whether it be visual art, music, literature, dance or film, our ability to deeply observe, pay attention to our emotional responses and recognize the artistic language of others alters the way we approach problems and find solutions. A quote on the museum signage introducing the exhibit set the tone for me, "Sound doesn't always have to be heard. Sound can also be created by how a pattern is set up on a surface...how it moves across the surface, how light reflects the surface...Sound can also be through feeling, through color, through texture". - Nick Cave
So, Happy and Creative New Year to You!