Art through Pain—Getting to the Heart of Our Struggles through Expression
One must still have chaos in oneself
to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Life is full of ups and downs. They are what make it interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. In order to get to the high points—the victories, the triumphs, the loves—we all have to risk, and ultimately experience, the low points. And it’s in those low points that we truly learn what we are made of.
When we go through our lows—whatever their cause and however they manifest—it’s natural to want to get through them as quickly as possible, to snap out of it and pretend they never happened.
Not only does that not work—we can’t ignore unpleasant emotions any more than we can ignore a broken arm—it also denies us the opportunity to gain insights into what makes us tick and get to the heart of who we are.
Some of the best art has been inspired by emotional distress. For example, people going through hard times write great songs that get to the heart of raw emotions. Sometimes you have to live through hardship to have enough insight to write about it.
The handful of songs I’ve written that are in any way interesting were written during times of emotional turmoil. When I’m happy and content and sit down to write a song, I feel like I’m cooking without the main ingredient. There is no shortage of happy songs out there, but to me, songs that tap into strong emotions are the ones that resonate.
Of course, not everyone is a songwriter (or a poet or painter)—despite my efforts, I know I’m not really one—but that doesn’t mean that we can’t express our feelings in a cathartic way. It’s very important to process and understand the emotions we are feeling.
One of the best ways to understand something is to describe it. This can happen through art, but it can also be accomplished through conversation with a therapist, a talk with a good friend, writing in a diary, or just writing it down on a piece of paper to throw away. The important point is that you are getting it off your chest—you are expressing it in such a way as to provide yourself with insight about it.
One benefit of writing in a diary or other media that won’t be seen by other people is that you can be brutally honest with yourself because you don’t have to think about how others might interpret those thoughts, or how people might judge you. You can be totally honest and truthful about the pain you are feeling, the thoughts going through your head, and your options for dealing with them.
This can also help us identify the more dangerous thoughts that might be going through our heads so that we can recognize them and get help. The important thing is that we explore what we are going through and, as a result, understand ourselves better.
This understanding and the resulting evolution we experience as people can be that great song, that great work of art.
Through the process, we become the art.