Today as I was sitting in the Cabhrú therapy room I found my self gazing up at some of the artwork on the walls. Naturally, my mind started to wander and I found myself thinking of all sorts of other thoughts sparked by these images. There are many different people that view these pictures every day, from other therapists to clients, yet every single individual will have an entirely different thought process conjured up by these images.

This got me thinking about art, what it is and what role it plays in affecting the mind of the individual. This is an interesting thought because ‘art’ as a concept is one that is a little trickier to define in that it has somewhat of a fluid meaning. It can not be described in one particular way because this is not possible. Why not? Because art is different for everybody, it is subjective. Whether in painting, drawing, writing, sculpting, performing, dancing, singing, filming, take your pick, there will be a different experience occurring within the individual that will dictate the way in which he/she relates to the art. Think about the clothes that you wear, the places you like to go, even the interests that you have. These are all an expression of something that requires another mode other than what words can bring to mind at that time. The result? What is conjured up in our creative expression is cathartic.

Art is creative, and the creation of something is usually an attempt at expressing something else. But of what exactly? When you think about a beautiful painting, a passionate dance, or some other mode of artistic creativity you are in fact engaging in an articulation of something unconscious. This ‘something’ could not quite be put in to words, and so it took another form in order to be expressed. Essentially, these are the workings of the unconscious mind. What cannot be brought to words, or to mind, finds an alternative pathway where trapped thoughts can be diffused out.

In a similar way to dreaming, art is an uncensored way to allow our minds to run free. This is why art and creativity have always been a part of the psychoanalytic cure. Sigmund Freud’s theory of art centred around this concept of motivation towards creativity. For him, one of the key components of art is the expression of unconscious desires that are trapped in the darkest parts of our minds.

In creatively expressing oneself in conjunction with the psychoanalytic process, the individual can find ways of putting words on their creative expression alongside the help of the analyst. As they begin to symbolize their internal experiences in a new way they can hopefully understand themselves that bit better.

Sometimes a picture really can speak a thousand words; if you allow it to.

Nadia Paruk