Monday 2 May 2005

Art as Philosophy of Healing (2005)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIII No. 1 Spring  2005


By Anna Zahovaeva

Within Russia, the art-therapy method is one of the new technologies in humanistic psychiatry. It is a method of treatment based on the use of artistic production. Art- therapy is a vivid example of a direct influence of art upon a human being, when a particular place is created for the use of the emotional suggestion mechanism. This includes transmitting certain emotional states inherent ina work of art to the patient.

But one of the problems of this psycho-therapeutic method is the absence of a sound methodological philosophical basis.
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Nobody can imagine their life as full without art. Art is creation, play, beauty, communication, intuition. All of these are ART. But what is the meaning of art, what is its true purpose?

Artists express their emotional world through art, and the spectators or readers let this world pass through the realm of their sensuality. The specifics of art lie in its perceptible and image-bearing nature. Art is the sphere of feelings and sentiments of a person arising from of their direct experience. The carriers of emotions in art are images and symbols, which are organised and visualised in material of certain forms.

Art approaches the phenomena and objects ,not merely for the purpose of representing them, but for raising emotions to stir up feelings within a persons soul. All of its products, that is, works of art, are meant to be perceived by human organs of sense, of eye or ear, and it is the senses that also help grasp the meaning and content of an artistic work.

What art influences directly is feelings, and through the human feelings and soul it makes an impact on the personality itself. 
Emotions in art are special: 
• Feelings in art pass over to a spectator through mediators, that is, from an object, to the author, the material, the interpreter, and to the recipient. Therefore the art not only mirrors the world, but also represents it, gives it an expression.
• Feelings and emotions in real life have different colouring, both negative and positive. Emotions in art are always positive.
• Emotions in art have social implications, and they always have something in common with the original feelings experienced by every human being, so an artist never experiences merely a simple emotion, but rather a kind of a general social feeling. 
Through feelings, art reaches the inner world of a human being, inspires us and makes us humane, creates a 'personality' within a person. Art can bring up and develop this personality and, as a result, solve pedagogical and psychological problems. Moreover, art is a psycho-therapeutic remedy for a soul, a means of psychological and psychic relief. It is here that art can assist medicine.

The question of relations between art and medicine is not new. Long ago, ancient magical rites of healing could not be performed without a rhythmic dance, music, and dramatisation. It is now known that the sanctuary of Aesculapius (the Greek god of medical treatment) in Epidaurus had a music room and a theatre as well as areas for medical purposes. Paracelsus introduced a vibration method into medical practice, a method that used art, music in particular, as a remedy. 

Art is the world of emotional images deliberately created by people; it is the world which is aimed to bring beauty, knowledge, enjoyment, elements of creative work, play of imagination and spirituality into human life. Art makes people humane, forms a wholesome personality; moreover, art is able to correct psychological pathologies.

The object of art-therapy is the human mind, that is, the emotional world of a human being, a human soul. Here one can clearly see the sensual and image-bearing nature of art. Art can purify the sensual world (catharsis), and correct its orientation. Through art-therapy, psychical and psychological disorders can be diagnosed and cured. 

The art-therapeutic influence on a person can be exerted in three ways. Firstly,Ýa patient creates a piece of art on a specified subject out of a specified material. 

Secondly, the patient chooses the subject and material all by themselves. In both these variants, the patient expresses their feelings and worries through line and colour, and, in consequence, reveal all hidden sides of the disease.

And finally, the third way is when the therapy is in the form of a piece of visual art. Here the mechanism of the author and the spectator's joint creative work is engaged. 

The influence of art upon a person is caused by human conditioned reflexes. Perception of a piece of art by people depends on a whole system of conditioned reflexes called dynamic stereotypes. But Art is not just a form of a conditioned reflex; it is the soul of a person, their emotional world. Emotions in art are emotions of a higher level, and they are controlled by the human mind. So one of the tasks of the art-therapy is to expressthe special emotions of thoughts and feelings about art as a kind of synthesis, an organic union of emotions and the intellect under control.

As a result, art becomes a means of relieving fits of passion, because an artistic image can accumulate and hold the feelings caused by transfer and counter-transfer, gradually making them easier to be interpreted and realised. Moreover, through art one can move information possessing emotional value up to the cognitive level, causing the fit of passion to remain within the psychotherapeutic limits. And there is another result, the patient's behaviour ichanges, they develop an ability to look for meaning when acting, the relationship between the patient's inner world and the social system deepens, they begin to show interest increative work and its analysis, their self-control improves.

The therapeutic influence of visual arts is exercised through colour, lines and volume. The patient reproduces their feelings directly through the colour scale and shapes in their works. The viewing of a well-selected picture collection on a certain subject can raise the patient's spirits, make them optimistic, reduce nervous tension, relieve fatigue.

Friedrich Schelling, the German philosopher, asserted that geometrical forms influence a person's emotions. A straight line can symbolize brutality, a curved line can stand for flexibility, an elliptic horizontal line for tenderness, a wavy line for life. But the strongest psychotherapeutic influence is achieved through colour. Colours chosen by the patient reveal their inner emotions. 

Doctor Rubinstein, a Russian psychologist, wrote about the influence of colour upon a person: red colours excite, they are warm, lively, active, cheerful; yellow colours calm, they offer a comfortable feeling; blue is peaceful, sad, quiet.

Art helps to decode symbols (colours, forms, perspectives), so that one can find hidden meanings, interpret subconscious aspects.

A special place in art-therapy is given to music. It is common-place that music appeals to the human feelings directly. Survey show that cheerful music hastens the secretion of gastric juice and works up one's appetite, and also increases muscle efficiency and even temporarily relieve muscle fatigue. Dr Rubenstein also noticed that minor accords make muscles relax whereas major accords make them work. The most exciting of the music intervals is the major sixth.

Music therapy activates emotions in interpersonal relations, offers facilities for the patients social activity. Doctor Karvasarsky, a Russian psychiatrist, suggests a specific programme of music psychotherapy:
Bach: Sonata in G minor, part 1.
Chopin: Sonata No. 3
Rakhmaninov: Concerto No. 1, part 1.
Chopin: Nocturne in E flat minor, Op. 9, No. 2.
Schubert: Symphony No. 7 in C major, part 2.
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons. February.
Liszt: Nocturne No. 3.
Mozart: Symphony No. 25, part 2.
Chopin: Waltz No. 2.
There are specific recommendations for specific psychic disorders. For instance, musical pieces of Handel, Bach, Gluck, Haydn, Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, Grieg, Chopin, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Rakhmaninov, Shostakovich and Shchedrin are prescribed to defensive schizoids.

The success of art-therapy owes to the fact that different kinds of art are connected with different functions of the brain. So, instrumental music activates the right cerebral hemisphere, reciting a poem sets the left hemisphere to work, and singing a song, consequently, is a task for both hemispheres. Knowing that depression attacks the left hemisphere, doctors can apply art-therapy to the patients who need it.

y, or curing by means of reading, was introduced by the Russian physiologist B.M.Bekhterev. The use of specially selected books helps exert a considerable impact over the emotional state of a person while using minimal efforts. In some cases, a book draws the reader's attention away from bad influences and directs their energies towards reaching positive goals, saves them from boredom, arousing a thirst for knowledge. In other cases, books make readers revise the whole of their life, not only to change their attitude towards certain things, but their behaviour in general. For example, psycho-asthenics are advised to read Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Pushkin, while works of by G. Sand, Bunin are thought to be best for hysterical psychopaths.

To combat the effects of being over-strained, theatre therapy is recommended. Emotions, artificially stirred-up by the show, are crowned with a natural reaction, which alleviates fits of suffering and fear, at the same time bringing the feeling of satisfaction and relief, similar to the one found when grief expresses itself in tears. Here we should once again emphasise the peculiarities of emotion in art: first of all, its positive colouring, irrespective of whether it is tragic or not. The use of the Stanislavsky system methods in psychotherapy allows expansion of the human mind's domination over emotions and instincts.

Another method of therapy: curing by dance, is being newly developed. The treatment is carried out in groups with the help of motions and gestures accompanied by music. This method is widely used in therapeutic physical training. Thus, art in art-therapy reforms psychic disorders of a person, without disturbing the individuality, the 'I'; and still allowing indeed facilitating a means of forming a perfect personality. While influencing emotions, art, having a perceptible and image-bearing character, activates the thoughtful feeling, and enriches the emotional world of a person as well as their mind. Art does not solely have a therapeutic impact upon human beings, it makes them more humane and puts the chaos of their feelings into a system, where they become reasonable emotions. 

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