Thursday’s Children February 21, 2013

Inspired by Pain

A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them. Join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them. Join us!

I liked Sinead O’Connor’s music back in the day, but her rage, put me off a little. I had no idea why she was so terribly angry.

Now, having read this article, I know.

The notion of suffering being part of the artist job description is pretty widespread, but open to interpretation.

Some people’s pain inspires creative work so magnificent that the world becomes aware of their torment, though the details may remain obscured. For some, their suffering may yield art that will never be shared with even one other person. It still matters.

During college I did an internship in Art Therapy. Every week I worked with three art therapists and a group of troubled teenagers who rode the proverbial short bus from the seedy sections of Boston (Roxbury, Dorchester, Southie, etc.) to affluent Brookline.

Danny and Marco used art very differently.

Danny was obsessed with airplane disasters. EVERY drawing he did depicted planes cracked in half, consumed by flames, with black smoke filling the sky. When he got overwhelmed by his own art, he ran from the room. It became my responsibility to cajole him back in. I always succeeded, but first we had to play his game, which included swearing at me, hiding so I had to go find him, and threatening to hurt me when I did find him. Underneath the “game” was pain, of course. His father was disabled and, as I learned firsthand, his mother was a BITCH. Danny invited me to dinner at their house. I got permission to go as a covert operative, since he never told the therapists anything about what went on at home. Throughout the entire torturous meal Danny’s mother taunted him, belittled him, and make snide remarks about his “useless” father. Freudian interpretation of Danny’s drawings suggested castration anxiety. My observations seemed to support that theory.

Danny’s art was inspired by his fear and his rage. Pouring them out on paper was the beginning of catharsis. After completing catharsis, he could connect. At least a little.

Marco was equally obsessed with his popsicle stick house. Each week he got right down to business and worked straight through to the end of the session, usually skipping snack. None of the kids EVER skipped snack, and with good reason. Marco never told us about life at his house either. But his younger brother Andre did. Theirs was a single parent household. Mom had many male “friends”, most of whom were involved in gang activities. Chaos. Poverty. Violence. Over the months, Marco created a multi-story popsicle stick house with several rooms. Once the house was complete, he used more popsicle sticks to build tiny furniture. Then he carefully painted everything in vibrant hues. We suggested he create some people to live there. He made only one. Himself. He created a space where he controlled everything. A home that was clean, safe, and well-appointed.

Marco’s art was also inspired by his fear and his anger. To cope, he built a better world in the most literal sense.

Though I have no contact with either, both boys continue to inspire me. I write things out of my system that have to be gotten out. And I create worlds for my characters, worlds I can visit whenever I need to.

Is writing ever “therapy” for you?

And now, Sinead O’Connor

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33 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children February 21, 2013

  1. What a beautiful post. I can totally relate (from a different life perspective from those boys) how art (writing or whatever form) can become a vehicle to pour out those difficult feelings that you just can’t articulate. I don’t know why it helps so much – but I hope each of those boys found some form of peace – and a way out of a damaging situation.

  2. Pingback: Kate Michael » Spells and Whatnot–Thursday’s Children

  3. Wow, these boys’ stories broke my heart. And I admire you for trying to help and for sharing. I definitely think writing is a way for me to express the deeper emotions that I couldn’t otherwise express.

  4. Well I’ve written many letters I’ve never, and will never, send. But the beauty of having reached a certain maturity is rage just doesn’t seem worth it to me anymore. My fiction is about story for me. Occasionally I feel the need for a rant on my blog, but I try not to work through my own issues in my stories.

    Art therapy is an incredible thing. A dear friend of mine does this work and for many kids it is the way to and through their feelings. Kudos for you having done this work.

    • Yes, I think for most kids art/music/dance/drama therapy is much more effective than “talk” therapy. They share things they don’t even realize they’re sharing, vent steam, etc. It also taps into the nonverbal part of the brain which is often more about feeling vs. thinking.

  5. Wow, this is very moving and I’m impressed you did this internship… not sure I could do such a job. I guess writing is a therapy for me in the sense that I am quite shy, and I express in my writing a lot of feelings and ideas I would never share out loud.

  6. Beautiful, haunting, moving… and scary post. Kudos to you for giving of yourself–I’m glad you are still inspired by your experiences. Writing as therapy–oh, yes. I’d give you some of the details that have emerged, and continue to emerge, but I’d hate to put a spoiler out on the ether, in case these damn books ever see the light of day. 😉

  7. Pingback: Thursday’s Children: To the Pain | Veronica Park : Author, Journalist, World Traveler

  8. What a heart and gut-wrenching experience – for all of you. I hope that they were able to receive and accept the full scope of the help they needed. Although it sounds like they were both in awful places. And I’m absolutely horrified by the Magdalene Laundries. I had absolutely no idea. Sometimes I think art is the best way through pain. I know it’s the only way for me. 🙂

    On another note – I can’t get the links to post on my blog. I was wondering if you had any suggestions. 🙂

    • I google the names of kids I worked with occasionally. I’m always afraid of what I might find.
      I will look into the linky html, John mentioned he had an issue-but I think he fixed it so maybe he can help 🙂

  9. That was lovely. I can only imagine the inspiration you draw from your time with the two boys. In your post, you very quickly reached the heart of what (some) art is about.

    For me, writing a novel has helped me grapple with the deaths of two very close loved ones that occurred when I was just a kid. I’ve learned to pull myself out of the story a bit, but my main character’s lessons are still my lessons, and his pain is still my pain.

    Thanks for a great post and for Thursday’s Children.

    • Yes, that’s what I do too (filter, “spin”, reinvent). I don’t ever see myself writing memoir. For one thing I like the ability to manipulate the ending 🙂 I’m sorry about your losses, but I’m glad writing helps.

  10. Therapy, huh? Hehe.

    As I’ve stepped back and taken a look at the protagonists and storylines that I’ve written, I’ve actually started to realize that I’ve been subconsciously writing about my own inner conflicts. So the protag ends up having issues and a longing eerily similar to my own, and ends up going on a journey that exorcises my own demons too. So maybe it is a form of therapy!

    But hey — write what you know, right??

  11. Therapy, huh? Hehe.

    As I’ve stepped back and taken a look at the protagonists and storylines that I’ve written, I’ve actually started to realize that I’ve been subconsciously writing about my own inner conflicts. So the protag ends up having issues and a longing eerily similar to my own, and ends up going on a journey that exorcises my own demons too. So maybe it is a form of therapy!

    But hey — write what you know, right??

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