the interconnectedness of creativity and therapy
during my time in nashville, tn, one of my closest friends often made the comment, while chuckling, “i don’t need therapy, songwriting is my therapy.” we would all nod and titter in both agreement and recognition. for us, a community of people largely identifying as evangelical and also artists/creatives, the concept of “therapy” was largely dismissed. our emotive personalities were ascribed to our artistic and creative natures, and as long as these “gifts” were used for the glory of god and his church, what may have been viewed as symptoms of a need to address our mental health, were often ignored and/or we were directed to meet with our mentors (or pastors or accountability partners, etc). the complication with mentors is, in this setting, they are almost 100% of the time untrained and uneducated in regards to mental health issues and tools. the advice we were often given would ultimately be reduced to our need to pray more, draw closer to the holy spirit, and trust both god and his son, our savior, jesus christ. while this meant that most of us continued to learn how to operate and function in the world sans the very real assistance and guidance that actual therapy could have provided us, there is a kernel of truth to those words spoken by my friend. and if you are a creative person, you already know this.
a little over 2 years ago i found myself at the start of the most significant “romantic” relationship i had ever been in up to that point. i put the word romantic in quotes because it was more complicated and harder to define than that but that is the most closely accurate of any general description. the healing from the incredible damage i experienced in that relationship has been a long and surprisingly, maybe only to me, non-linear journey.
while i had for many years desired and even attempted to engage in consistent therapy, it wasn’t until a few months into quarantine that i finally found a therapist that i felt i could work with consistently on the myriad of albatrosses i had come to carry over my 40+ years on this planet. i had long ago shed my evangelical indoctrination, which had so vehemently decried the necessity to engage in “secular” therapy, but settling in on a person and a practice that matched me and my needs, as well as my financial resources, took a little longer than i expected and hoped it would.
thing is, finding the right therapist is essential to the process. the tools alone are not sufficient. the engagement is necessary and, to that end, if you do not feel safe or comfortable, you may not open up in the ways you most need to.
a few months back i decided to challenge myself to write 5 songs in 5 days. i ended up writing 2, taking a day off, and then writing the other 3. so it took me 6 days, but who’s counting? (me, i’m counting, i’m the only one counting.) it came as no surprise that all 5 songs related in some way to that awful relationship i had been spending so much time working to heal from. what i didn’t realize was how much of a release i would get from putting those thoughts in verse form. i discussed this with my therapist and she relayed that, while we had not formerly discussed it, the practice of putting my thoughts and feelings on paper were a part of the processes we were working through. i felt as though i’d experienced a victory. in my mind i was winning at therapy. of course, as anyone who isn’t a fire or cardinal sign knows, therapy is not a competition at which you win. and the thing that happened next reminded me of that, very intensely.
once i had written the songs, the next step was to record them. i’ve never been particularly confident in my singing. correction: i was incredibly confident in my singing until around high school, but lost that confidence during those teen years. what i have always been confident in is my stage presence and performance abilities. however, when you’re trying to convey a particular idea or emotion through a purely audible medium, you have to tap into something more than just really good vocal control. so when i went in to record the first song, one of my best friends, who happens to have a masters degree in vocal pedagogy, advised me that i needed to feel what i was singing more and relax my need to sing so perfectly. i was scared out of my mind to do that, but it turns out i was afraid of the wrong thing.
returning to that non-linear healing thing i mentioned earlier, as i was in that studio, engaging with those personally-lived lyrics, attempting to convey the raw emotions behind what produced them, i was hit with something unexpected: opening that wound to show it to someone else exposed it to the air, and that air hurt. it took me a few days to fully recover from that. and while it was indeed painful, part of the beauty of removing those bandages was being able to see how much i’d healed so far. essentially i learned that i could explore those danger zones and still survive.
and, for me, this is where creativity and therapy intersect. it’s quite cyclical. while therapy helped me allow myself to open up creatively again, when i did explore that creativity, it continued pushing me down the path of healing, which then exposed me to deeper wounds that needed dressing, which i needed the tools i’d acquired in therapy to properly process.
and that’s the beauty of being a soul both fully engaged in the art of creating while consistently practicing the skills learned from the science of therapy. i firmly believe that they complement and only enhance the outcome of each other and i highly recommend participating in both regularly. then maybe we’ll all be winning at therapy.
jaymi lynne -- born and raised philly girl, brooklyn-based since 2010. works primarily in film and television production, with the occasional music or film festival tossed in to keep it fun. happy human guardian to 2 all-black cats.