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In the Beginning Was the Image

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that explores images rather than words. You can learn more about art therapy here. Today, I would like to explore two primordial functions we've inherited from our ancestors - the ability to read images and express ourselves through imagery.

For prehistoric humans, reading images from nature, such as the body language of animals or other humans, was necessary for their survival. We're all born with the ability to read images. For instance, small children and their mothers understand each other through body language.

Alfred Bozic

Despite the rich vastness of images surrounding us, not every image we see becomes conscious. To better understand how only specific images reach our awareness and others don't, I'd like you to watch Adele's music video "Oh My God" first.

Pause for a moment and notice what symbol or image struck you most. The python, the apple, the burning chair, the dancer curled up in a foetal position or the dancer picking daisy petals, perhaps? You might notice that only those images that had a strong emotional impact on you have reached your awareness.

Images have another important primordial function. If we look at the earliest cave paintings dating back to 45.500 BC, it's interesting to notice that Neolithic humans had the urge to express their personal views of the world creatively. Every child has inherited this natural pleasure and ability to draw, paint, and create. Unfortunately, over the last two hundred years, modern education has prioritised goal-oriented learning, such as writing, reading and problem-solving. Consequently, the rational (thinking, verbal) left brain took dominance over the creative and intuitive right brain.

All we see, hear, smell, taste and touch is translated into specific internal 'see-image'' 'hear-im'ge', 'smell-image, 'taste-image'', and 'touch-image''. All experiences we ever had are encrypted in the right brain as images and stored in the body as body (somatic) memory, to which words have no access. The mind and body remember what we might not recall.

There are several reasons why talking about a challenging or traumatising life event might sometimes be difficult or even impossible.

Reason #1 Prenatal trauma. Trauma can start before birth, inside the mother’s womb (as early as four days after conception).

Reason #2 Intergenerational trauma. Trauma can get passed down through generations, similar to eye or hair colour.

Reason #3 Preverbal trauma. Trauma before age three is encrypted in the right brain and body (implicit memory).

Reason #4 Speech centre shut down. Remembering a traumatic experience tends to shut down Broca's speech centre in the brain. By remembering a past trauma, we can become speechless, and re-traumatisation can occur instead of healing.

This is why therapies that use non-verbal techniques, such as art therapy and Guided Drawing®, can help people to gradually connect and revisit past traumas while safely grounded in the present moment.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you want to know more about art therapy or Guided Drawing or book an appointment.

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