Medical science has revealed that when we heal our emotional wounds, we also heal the wounds of the body. As a result, art is being used successfully to reduce the physiological stress that causes immune system dysfunction. The mere act of releasing these emotions through art enables the immune system to return to a state of full functioning.
In the last few years, research in the field of the effect of the mind or the psyche on the central nervous system and the immune system proved that negative thoughts and painful, fear-based emotions cause physiological stress that results in immune system dysfunction. A dysfunctional immune system is unable to protect the body from abnormal cell growth and the destructive influences of external environmental factors such as viruses, bacteria and chemical pollutants. Over a prolonged period of time, physiological stress can result in an environment within in the body in which healthy cells will begin to malfunction and ultimately cause illness and disease.
We will begin to heal when we relieve the body of the physical stress that compromised the immune system in the first place. In the past, verbal psychotherapy was the method of choice to release negative thoughts and fear-based emotions. But expressive art has now been found to be even more effective.
Research reveals that we think and process our experiences, feelings and emotions as images first and words second. The body’s senses and the right side of the brain take in all of our experiences and the corresponding emotions as images first and then the left side of the brain translates those images into verbal thoughts. In addition, researchers discovered that imagery is our being’s internal form of communication. The body responds to an image of a thought or an idea first, before it responds to the words that describe that thought or idea.
If emotions are held in our being as images, then imagery rather than words would be the most direct route to get in touch with these painful emotions, and then to release the images of these feelings and emotions through art.
From Art and Healing by Barbara Gamin