“…art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing. She alone knows how to turn these nauseous thoughts about the horror or absurdity of existence into notions with which one can live.”
–Frederick Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy
In the above quote, Nietzsche hints at how to ride the tumultuous waters and winds of a hurricane, or any disaster brewing within or without. As the media filters its appalling paranoia around Hurricane Sandy, pervading the air with rising fears, I pause and examine how writing, or any other artistic expression can bring healing forth.
A while ago, sitting down with a client who has struggled with alcoholism most of her fifty-eight years, a lineage handed down to her on several blood fronts, including her father, whose wrecked soul broke, pieces tumbled down to crash loudly with her life. The pain of her father’s life spilled over, tearing hers apart. The nature of this entry is celebratory as she has found in writing a steady point in which to rest her heels and firm her steps. She has found writing to be a means of restoration, of sustenance, as she continues her exodus from addiction.
Often, and particularly at the beginning of treatment, I talk to my clients about creativity and its power to guide and to summon the strength necessary to bring about change. At the beginning of each session, I invite them to draw from their innermost voice when speaking about their reasons for seeking my assistance. The emphasis is on “assistance” and “draw.” While I am very confident in my professional abilities, I am also content knowing that my abilities are just that and what really makes a difference is each individual’s artistry in “drawing” what needs to be exposed. What brings true transformation is their ability to own what they “draw” while accepting my assistance.
The power of healing springs from within and often has to be mustered from within as well. This client I am referring to here, listened to my invitation to let creativity be the sorcerer, the conduit of healing. A few months into treatment, she arrived bubbling with enthusiasm, holding up her journal and saying “I found the best way to fight cravings and negative thoughts!” She had taken the initiative of personalizing addiction and was now keeping a journal, depicting her struggles with cravings and the agonizing pain of honoring each relapse, walking away from the old custom of lying about her binging episodes. In the pressing moments of desperation, by speaking to and looking her Addiction in the eye, she was able to recognize its qualities, name it, and successfully stay sober. Daily, she challenged Addiction and asked it to show up, not for inebriation but so she could take responsibility for her behavior. It has been over six months now, and she continues to report a remarkable absence of relapse and abundant pages of written testimony, perhaps a memoir of some sort, adorned with dazzling colors and pride.
I can do nothing but smile with satisfaction when I see this woman turning the often dreadful ludicrousness of existence into designs within which she can live. I can live with that too.
Marianela Medrano-Marra is a counselor and Dominican writer living and practicing in Naugatuck, CT. She writes poetry, essays, and creative non-fiction; with publications including essays and four books of poetry.