Robin B. Zeiger
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. Carl Jung
On a daily basis, as we face a very scary world pandemic, we are constantly flooded with words. Again and again, we hear warnings, scary statistics, and predictions. Yet, as a psychologist, I am convinced that words are not enough and at times “too much” for our psyche and soul to digest.
Rather, we often need the non-verbal to fully express ourselves. For me, professionally and personally, art is one of the most powerful mediums to meet and express our inner language — language that emerges from the depths of our Soul.
As COVID-19 hit our country, I had to make last minute choices of what I “needed to survive inside”. One of my last trips I made for “non-essential” items was to the art store to purchase clay, paint, and canvas.
Like so many others, I began to feel somewhat anxious about what would be. No matter how calm we generally are as human beings, it is hard not to be somewhat anxious in our current world situation. Thus, I needed a ritual to meet this new reality. And in this ritual, I knew I needed to build and fortify a solid core that could carry me in the face of a faceless virus.
First, I traversed the nature covered path next to the fields in our agricultural village and collected some flowers and other greenery for hope, growth, and rebirth. I then took a piece of clay and rolled it out flat, after which I carefully placed inside a selection of my “jewels” of the world.
Ceremoniously I rolled up the clay into a cylinder; safely hiding and protecting the treasure. I decorated the outside with the selections from nature. As I gazed at this phallic-shaped creation, I felt a sense of satisfaction.
But it was missing one thing. I added a beautiful flower to the top.
And I lovingly placed it on a tree stump. Here was the strength in hope.
I am a Jungian psychoanalyst. I believe in the power of the non-verbal and the symbolic. Again and again I encourage my patients to relate to art and the creative. Human beings are the sole creatures that understand the power of symbols. It is here that the simple becomes pregnant with meaning. Humankind is blessed with the capacity to imagine and create from anew. And, even in the worst of circumstances, we are capable of imagining and praying for a new day and a new beginning.
My object was not just a blob of clay or a stick. The creative process allowed me a way to meet and dialogue with my deep inner fear. And perhaps, most importantly, the work of my hands gifted me a way to transform a piece of the world’s shared terror inside of me into strength and hope. Deep inside the bowels of my clay were the “seeds and jewels of safety.”
I encourage all of you to move beyond mere words. Read a bit less of the news. Turn off the constant barrage. And find your own language and medium to create. It might be clay or painting or a collage. It might be images you find on the internet. Or perhaps you can take advantage of a virtual tour through one of the world’s famous art museums.
Art is therapeutic. And true art therapy does not need to look nice or neat. The outer world is not so nice and neat. And likewise our inner world is populated with contradictions, complexity, and chaos.
Art allows us to create and to destroy. It allows us to rage and to cry and to hope and to smile. When it comes to communication with our soul, there is no right or wrong; only the inner truth of Self.
I also encourage you to create with your children or your spouse or partner or friend. It is even possible to honor social distancing and create a Zoom art experience with a group of friends or colleagues. The beauty of the art is that your soul speaks across the miles.
Dr. Robin B. Zeiger is a certified Jungian analyst and a free- lance writer. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois in 1985. She resides in a peaceful agricultural village with her husband and small dog and is using her current extended time at home for quiet walks, creativity and writing.