The following post is part of the Year of Healing I’m doing on my blog, where I will explore monthly themes on different aspects of healing. February is the topic of Relational Healing. Please click here for more info.
To wrap of the month on relational healing, I thought I’d share an expressive art project I created last year. This project first appeared in the grief & healing workshop that my friend Abby and I created, so if you want to delve deeper into creativity and why it helps us process things, please check that out.
Relationships form the foundation of how we grow up. Not just family, but friendships, significant others, etc. This project explores the roots of who we are, how we grew and were influenced by the environment and hardships of life. It also helps you think through what you’d like to see grow in the future. Because luckily, the past doesn’t have to define us. We are a new creation if only we start the path towards healing and redemption. Relational healing is possible, and hope can be the cornerstone of the future.
ART THERAPY PROJECT: THE REDEMPTIVE TREE
- Take two large pieces of paper and some art supplies (pencils, markers, crayons or paint, etc).
- Draw a line on the bottom of the first page to represent ground or soil. This is the foundation of who you are. What are the influences in your life? Where do you come from? Who did you come from? What were the ingredients of the soil of your childhood? Was is rough soil, or tilled and fruitful soil? Think of both good and bad things. List these words, people, and circumstances that signify the things that influenced your growth, the things your roots fed off as you grew up.
- Draw a storm–just powerful wind or a cloud over your tree or rain, etc. What have been the great storms in your life? What could’ve destroyed you? What almost has? What was it like to live through the storms? Write down what the storms and list them in the cloud or in the wind.
- Now draw a trunk of a tree and its branches. This is a tree of your past and present. Think about who you are because of your roots. Think about who you’ve become because of the storms. What are positive traits, and what are negative ones? Who are you now? What have you learned from these life circumstances that were beyond your control? Write these down inside the trunk of the tree.
- Draw leaves, flowers, and/or fruit on your branches. What do you give to the world now? What are the fruits or offerings that you give to the world because of the storms and soil of life? Are they negative or positive? Are they self-destructive or life-giving? Would you say you have grown more thorns than anything else, or fruit?
- Unlike a real tree, you have the power to grow your own fruit despite the soil or storms of you life. Take the second piece of paper. Draw another tree–a tree of the future. This time, draw what you would like your life to be (with the context of the first tree in your mind). Draw who you would like to see yourself becoming in the trunk of the tree. Draw what you would like to give back to the world no matter the storms of life. Draw your dreams and hopes and wishes in the leaves and fruit of the tree.
- Draw the sunshine on this picture. What is the sunshine to you? What gives you life and joy meaning? What helps you warm and dry out after the storms of life? What are refreshing moments? Refreshing people? Refreshing activities?
- Look on both pictures. Then use the journaling prompts below to process.
ART JOURNALING PROMPT
1. A tree takes a lot of time to grow. Years upon years upon years. Would looking at yourself as a tree give you patience to continue the process of growing, learning, thriving? What stage are you? Do you think you’re a young sapling, or a great oak tree? Don’t necessarily think about age–think about life experiences and wisdom you possess. How would you like to grow?
2. Take a moment to just think over your tree pictures. I want you to think about this: A tree needs both storms/rain AND sunshine in order to thrive, be strong, and grow fruit. If you only had sunshine, a tree would dry out, be hard and brittle, and break easily. Trees that aren’t exposed to wind snap very easily and never build up resistance to storms. Can you think about how the storms of life might have been necessary to shape you into who you are now? Have they made you stronger? Or COULD you let them make you stronger? What have you learned through them? How might they help you out in the future?
3. Think about your fruit. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve probably had bad fruit come out of life experiences, and you just may be learning to grow good fruit. Do you have more bad fruit or good fruit? As you strive to grow beautiful, life-giving things out of your experiences–what does that look like? What are ways you can give back to the world?
4. What are the positive, warm influences (the sunshine) that you need in your life? Do you fill yourself with warmth and love, or do you cut it off? Do you live only in the gloom, or do you let love shine into you and through you? How might you let more positivity and love into your life?
5. Do you let the soil upon which you first began to grow define you? In what ways? Remember that you are your own seed, and your surrounding circumstances don’t rigidly determine who you are. They definitely affect you, though, and it’s important to note that. But in the end, you are your own tree of life. Do you believe this? What ways might you continue to grow and thrive despite the beginnings of your life inside the soil? (Soil can be toxic or good, or more likely–it’s a mixture of both).
6. What other thoughts or ideas did you have when making the tree pictures? Jot them down.
7. The last thing I’d like to emphasize is this: You are a tree that began and grew and will grow until its death. It’s easy to get lost in the midst of the story, but it may be helpful to think about your life in this way because it helps you see where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Make your life a beautiful tree and cause good things to grow. If you feel like you’ve messed up along the way, the amazing thing about it is that you can change, you can heal, you can grow. You determine the course of your growth. It’s an empowering thing to realize this. While you may not be able to control the storms, you can use them to dig deeply down, gain strength, and grow. And you can use the sunshine to thrive as well into wholeness and abundance.
You can do this. Now keep on growing.
Photo by Adobe Stock/mimadeo