Lecture “Love and Art Therapy”, by Anna Buxaderas

“Eternal Love” Sculpture in Kiev

Monument Eternal Love in Kiev dedicated to the memory of the prisoners of war camp. The sculpture created by the artists Alexander Morgatsky and Grigory Kostyukov and installed in kreschaty park in 2013.

«Two things greater than all things are, The first is Love, and the second is war… And since we know not how War may prove, Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!” Rudyard Kiplin

As I write this lecture, I imagine this auditorium, and a shiver runs through me. I feel an immense gratitude and light-headedness for having the opportunity to talk about Expressive Arts and love with people from so many different countries. And I think that love and art are two universal languages. It seems to me very beautiful looking at this topic together on this occasion. It is an opportunity to lovingly establish a collective resonance.

The universality of love and art:

Love, because all of us, wherever we come from, even though we build our families in different ways, or live according to different social norms, know what it is to love. I dare to say that we have all loved, our heart has the same way of breaking under similar circumstances and the same way of feeling gratitude for the love we receive, that heals, soothes and comforts us.

Art, because it reaches a depth where social codes, and therefore our differences, are erased. Because through art we can listen to each other, resonate, understand, and feel close to each other.

On love and the role of the expressive arts.

I came across this image which I found in total resonance with this lecture, whose author I do not know. The title of the article it came with, said: «The human being is capable of generating the most atrocious wars and at the same time of writing the most beautiful poetry».

Our task is to write poetry and this is obviously closely related to love, to what unites, to what creates.

Our task is to attend to the intimacy of human beings. As therapists we have the honor of seeing behind the scenes of the theatre of life, and it is there that we can see how important love stories are for people.

In the era of «Happycracy», where happiness becomes an obsessive, consumerist lifestyle, matters of the heart are buried under the glorification of self-improvement. Millions of recipes unfold in the vast universe of social networks, «Be your best version! Keep an open mind! Be confident! Take care of your happiness! Avoid despair!” 

As if we could control and contain life, make everything happen through obsessive effort or through buying it. Doesn’t this way of looking at love brings us closer to a huge need for control and therefore brings us closer to fear? Isn’t that, just the opposite of love?

As if life, was not much bigger than all of us, as if Love suddenly ceased to be that noble, profound and moving mystery, that great force that surprises and captivates us, and that connects us to life.

I resonate with Pessoa

If I speak of Nature it´s not because I know what it is

But because I love it, and for that very reason,

Because those who love never know what they love,

Or why they love, or what love is…

To love is eternal innocence,

And the only innocence is not to think…

Fernando Pessoa

To love is eternal innocence, an innocence that is taken away from us through the culture of fear and control.

And loving is not easy, we have plenty of reasons to be angry and resentful, we carry a complex and difficult history, we have been hurt and have hurt. Between men and women, between races and cultures, between nations, and within our families, lovers, partners, parents and children. How then to preserve this innocence? How to reconcile ourselves with life? How to undertake the journey again? What role can the expressive arts play in this?

I imagine our task as a repair workshop for mending broken hearts, in which tools are: listening, tenderness, patience and wisdom. Art is the golden thread that sews up wounds, it is also the scalpel that pricks numb skin to release infections with painful beauty, and it is also the balm that soothes and comforts. 

But what art therapy is not: it is not a recipe book for successful living, nor is it a pill that numbs our sensibility with anaesthesia.

Our task in the expressive arts is deeply connected to, and even rooted in, love:

– Because the psycho-emotional health of a person, community or society has to do with the sense of belonging and the right to love.

– Because we work from the intimate, in the intimate and for the intimate.

– Because creativity can be a generous act of love, and the love of others and the love of life pushes us to create, to want to be better people,

– Because art connects us with feeling, with beauty and therefore with feeling love towards life.

– Because a work of art contains the intimate truth of a person, and that truth can resonate in others. The work of art arises from a person’s expressive need, and that work of art awaits timelessly to be resonated by another. Art is a piece of a person’s soul wishing to communicate with another.

Art can be an opportunity to express what hurts and freezes us, so that we can heal our wounds and not remain anchored in fear, mistrust or resentment. Because our task has to do with the intimacy of a person, and in it are all the feelings contained, all the contradictions. Also, the stories of love and heartbreak, which sometimes obsessively torment us when they are judged and thought about. All the intimate questions that have no answers. Without exception, all the people who have come to my practice at some point in time have needed to go through their questions about their relationships, as well as their conflicting feelings.

I am thinking of one woman in particular, in her 60s, married to her partner at a young age, suffering from fibromyalgia, who harboured a deep and silent resentment towards her husband because she felt that she had given much more in the relationship than he had. Her resentment was only expressed by her reluctance to make love to him, which at her age and suffering from pain, seemed quite normal. The space of tenderness and trust provided by art therapy made it possible for her to listen to herself, to feel herself, to name this resentment of which she was not even aware, to feel compassion for herself, to cry. And to acknowledge to herself that she was still in love with her husband. She was then able to talk to her husband, express her feelings and tell him what she needed from him. She showed her husband the poems and drawings she had created in therapy. Her husband was able to understand her, to listen to her. Perhaps another husband would not have been able to do this… What would have happened in this case? We don’t know, but in this situation, it was like this, and what is certain is that art on this occasion allowed her to go through her most intimate feelings and to express the truth of her soul sincerely, and to communicate.

Although it is true that, in the middle of her process, she managed to convince her husband to go through art therapy as well, which undoubtedly made it easier for him to listen to her. It was actually Mónica Sorín who accompanied this man. Reading the script of this conference together made us realise that here too, the love for our work and the connection with art is being expressed, since we had never shared these processes during the silent labour we carry in the consulting room. We were accomplices in the process of two human beings learning to love each other.

Coming back to this woman’s process, it has been much more extensive than this anecdote. She has been able to soften her need for control in many aspects of life and become more tender. Not only as her fibromyalgia lessened, but she also recently shared, mischievously that her husband and her were having a sexual revolution. She said, I’m only telling it to you because my friends would die of envy and wouldn’t understand.

It is also the potential of art to connect us with the love of life, because as Robert Filliou said, «Art is what makes life more interesting than art». To be connected to life, to love it as it is, to unite us in our differences.

– It is necessary to create spaces of welcoming and of resistance to the lack of meaning. In order for a person to be able to open up to their intimate universe and take the courageous leap of entering into a creative process and creating from the truth of a body-soul, the tenderness and sensitivity of the person accompanying them is essential. Our task is also to help people to find beauty within themselves and to see the beauty life brings.

– Creating with each other can bring us together: It is especially beautiful to see in children’s groups, how through the task of group creativity we can move from constant fighting, guilt games, discomfort, to creating and enjoying together. In working with expressive arts with children in school, I see how day by day, the task of creating together fosters their sense of belonging and the care and love for what they do. They can quickly go from fighting and blaming each other to cooperating, giving their best, having fun while working seriously. And how the continuous work with them establish cooperation in the group not only in the session of artistic expression but also in the other subjects (photo mandala Landart nens). 

They have also been a proof of this in the preparation of the Symposium, where we have gone through the experience of creating together with the international committee, the team of our school and the volunteers. A display of complicity, enjoyment, teamwork and beauty.

And this is undeniably Love.

«Love is for the individual a grand opportunity to mature, to become something in himself. To become a world, to become a world in oneself out of love for another, is a great and immoderate demand made upon the self, something that singles him out and summons him to vast designs.»

Rainer Maria Rilke

Thank you very much for listening

Anna Buxaderas

Co Director the IATBA

Lecture held at the 34th Symposium on Expressive Arts. Barcelona 2023

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