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How Playing and Art helps Healing

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

When we call for all resources on the retraining journey, mood elevation is high on the list. and that includes play. Initially we not be in the mood to play. We become serious, but when our joy outweighs our concerns we notice more rapid healing. Having fun and playing creates more space and separates us from that seriousness. When we watch children play, we don't usually think about the ways play helps them to process life events. Play functions in so many different ways that it would be impossible to list them all, but there are five key elements that would top the list:

1. Play helps us to regulate our energy 2. Play can give us a chance to “redo” challenging life events.

3. Play prepares us for life events

4. Play is a Foundation for Creativity

5. Expressive Play helps us connect to our creative and emotional selves.

The kinds of play are endless. If we can connect with our playful side, we can enter into any creative endeavor with more freedom and joyfulness. From our earliest games of peek a boo, play fills us with inspiration. Play provides us with a chance to enter into the unknown. Through cultivating the safe space of play we can practice behaviors and take risks. Like diving into a lake where we can’t see the bottom, if we are able to let go of control we can feel greater joy and come out uplifted. Each time we expand our experience we open up to new possibilities. Once we cultivate an attitude of play we can join this with any creative endeavor.

The inclination to play naturally leads to expression. Creating art and images comes from a deep part of us. If we reflect back through out human history, we often associate the earliest humans with cave paintings and art. Pictorial expression has helped humans share experience. It connects us to others. As opposed to using words to express experience, using line and color can provide us with a direct path to our feelings and emotions. Even our words reflect this. How many times have we said, “I am feeling Blue today”? “what about “singing the Blues?” It can very freeing is can be to enter into a landscape of imagination, dream & symbol, color and simply play.

Speaking in pictures.

Often when we have an experience that is overwhelming, there are no words to describe our experience. Cathy Malchiodi, PhD,, leading art therapist and author,

shares what happens when someone suffers a traumatic event

”In particular, Broca’s area, a section of the brain that controls language is affected, making it difficult to relate the trauma narrative.”

This can help explain why there are often no words for challenging emotional experiences, especially if they occurred in early childhood. It is for this reason that art and sand play have been so effective for helping process complicated experience. Expressive arts of all kinds are now frequently used in the treatment of trauma as powerful methods of non-verbal communication.

Process not product

When play finds expression through dance, music or visual work, we may look at these forms as the result of inner experience. If we understand how the art reflects our inner worlds, we may relate to all of these in a new way. Instead of feeling a pressure to create “Art” we may experience greater freedom. The expressive Arts can provide a bridge from our unconscious selves to our conscious minds. If we bring in curiosity instead of judgment, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Jung called this active imagination.

Freeing Ourselves from our inner critic.

Often people express that they do not know how to draw. This feeling may have its roots from a comment made by a critical art teacher or just simply inhibition. If we are able to free ourselves of our inner judge we can connect to our creative energy. If feel safe to explore, even a “Mistake” can provide the most interesting opportunity to access unconscious material that may need to surface.


“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Creating more freedom:Opening up to greater expression & Things to try at Home

1. Art with eyes closed to music

First select some favorite music. Choose some favorite art materials including colored pencils, pastels, markers or water color. Let the music inspire the line and marks. Change the music. Try this with the Non dominant hand. Open eyes. Try water sounds, nature sounds, be experimental.

2. Scribble drawing

Begin with an oversized piece of paper. Using a colored pencil, crayon or marker, create a wide stroke scribble with eyes closed. Count out approximately 30 seconds. Open eyes. Turn the paper in every direction, find a hidden image inside. Embellish the image.

3 Dance a dream, memory or an emotion.

For greater insight on any of these, put on some favorite music. And dance the story of these experiences.


Parts of this article were first published for the Center of Healthy You

Jennifer offers personalized recordings, sessions and journeys, through her private practice as Somatic Experience Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist and Master of Transpersonal Psychology. For over twenty years she has personally guided and coached hundreds of clients experience incredible life changing breakthroughs. Offering Optimal State Modality, and Live Between Lives journeying, Medical Hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing,©, Journey Dancing and a Hypnosis Instructor. for Hypnosis training To schedule an online or in person session:

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