Several weeks ago, I was invited to attend an event where several young artists took the stage and presented their artistic work to a room full of people. The work ranged from singing, to dancing, to poetry, to spoken word, to performance art pieces and even some impersonations.
I enjoyed myself at the performance and was very happy to see that these young artists had a chance to express themselves through various art forms. But, when the presentation came to an end and the curtains closed, I was left with a lingering concern.
At first, I wasn’t sure what the concern was, and I spent some time trying to wrap my head around my response, a response which I thought was very uncharacteristic of me.
Why did I think my response was uncharacteristic? Because I often write deeply personal stories on my blog and share them with my readers. My readers send me messages all the time telling me about how a deeply personal story I wrote moved them or inspired them.
So, I thought, what happened to me? I went to this performance sincerely looking to be deeply moved, touched, and inspired by the work of these young artists, but even though these artists shared very deep, personal, and often painful stories–I didn’t leave feeling inspired.
What happened? I thought to myself. Where did these young artists go wrong?
Although these young performers were sharing deeply personal stories that were incredibly cathartic for them, the thought that kept coming to my head was this:
“I hope these artists are seeking counseling to cope with their difficult past.”
I got the uncomfortable, intuitive sense that each artist who I saw bare his soul to the audience that night was relying solely on poetry or songwriting to cope with their difficult, painful past.
Now, I never like it when people set qualifiers for what makes art art. I think part of the vital beauty of art is that it’s not quantifiable, not definable, and has no limits or boundaries. But I would be the first to say that art is not a replacement for therapy. Art can be therapeutic, yes. It can be a healthy, helpful compliment to professional therapy, but art cannot replace a professional therapist.
Although I may never get to speak to those young peformers again, I can speak to all the young artists reading this who may have gone through a tough childhood like the performers who I witnessed bare their souls on stage.
What I want to tell you is this: please don’t confuse art with therapy.
If you love art, that’s wonderful. If art serves as way to express yourself, your story, and your true, unadulterated feelings, I say go for it. We all need to know that we are not alone. We all need to feel validated. We all need our true voice to be heard.
But please don’t rely solely on art to heal your old wounds.
Art and therapy are not interchangeable.
You deserve to have a professional get you through whatever you are going through.
And if, after that counseling, you’re inspired to write a killer verse that connects your pain to all of ours, inspires us to overcome adversity, and helps us move forward with greater strength, then more power to you.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? Are art and therapy interchangeable? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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