““The Bully inside your Head.” How can Art therapy help in the treatment of anxiety and depression?
We all know what a “Bully” is. We hear about bullies in the schools and bullies in the workplace, and the new policies and supports available to help stop or prevent bullying.
But what do you do if the Bully lives in your head? And every time you would like to do something or have something your bully says NO you’re don’t deserve it, or you’re not good enough! Your bully might say it differently, but the same thing happens…….. you may feel guilty, sad, unworthy and alone, even ashamed or angry. Some of us might resort to self-harm or self-medicating, like using alcohol or drugs to drown out that voice. But this leads to even more difficulties. Whatever your age the inner Bully or inner critic needs to be investigated to change this destructive and debilitating self-talk and HEAL.
Some of us may feel anxiety about not being perfect, or just not good enough. This could be regarding our abilities, or maybe our body image or our intelligence or maybe our lifestyle choices. The pressure to ensure that it’s right or good enough can cause lots of stress. So much stress that we respond by procrastinating! We do this out of fear that it might go wrong or be a mistake. This behavior creates more stress and more pressure.
Then we become so paralyzed with our own fears, that we are unable to do anything! The fear and anxiety is now overwhelming. We have created an endless circle of self-inflicted suffering, one that can be debilitating and depressing.
When you visit an Art Therapist, they might ask you to draw your bullies! .By getting that Bully out of your head and onto the paper, it gives you an opportunity to have a good look at it yourself! Now, it’s no longer about you! It's about that image on the paper.
Some art therapists might support you in talking to that image! And surprisingly that image can speak back and might even give you some answers! This verbal and nonverbal dialogue is a method of connecting the imagination and intuitive processing. This process supports bringing difficult issues into awareness.
Carl Rogers, a prominent psychologist believed that self-discovery was the most effective way to learn. When working with your images, the art therapist ensures the client only explores what they can handle, so they do not become overwhelmed. We weren’t born with these negative thoughts. Those thoughts may be traced back to an unhealthy parent, caregiver or a bully at school. The responsibility for those cruel and untrue words belong to THAT person NOT you.
When we are young, we believed what we are told. Our understanding was limited. Over time we internalize those words, and that voice becomes our own. When we understand how these thoughts came into being, they start to lose their power. Our images can help us to release those painful memories and heal. The art process can be empowering and liberating. Learning to love yourself, is the key to self-care and healing. By managing your thoughts and your beliefs, and using basic art therapy techniques that combine image making with journaling, you can help quiet that inner critic and encourage personal exploration and deepen your awareness.
If you have a picture of yourself as a child, I suggest putting it somewhere where you will see it regularly. Each morning look at that child and say “I will love and protect you today, no one will hurt you” Using this type of imagery helps us to focus on self-care by protecting that inner child who desperately needs your love and compassion.
Art Therapy can be the first step in believing you are entitled to be loved; you are lovable and worthy of happiness!