To meet the demands of the complex world we are currently living in, individuals are tech-savvy, efficient, organised, highly-skilled and competitive today. We have a goal and a plan to make it happen. Then, what is it that holds us back? It is the challenges that catch us off-guard, the unforeseen experiences that are difficult to process, the overwhelming emotions we struggle to address and the social dilemmas we can’t escape. Academically trained professionals with objective crisis management schemes often struggle with subjective matters of the self. Success depends on self-work, adaptability and creative collaboration.
Life is not a series of discrete events but a multi-layered narrative. Experiencing and expressing emotions are routes we can’t bypass. Emotions are evolved functional states that regulate our thoughts and behaviour. Let’s say you’re flying the plane of your ambition with the perfect landing plan but suddenly the rational pilot decides to take a backseat and the emotional co-pilot becomes the captain. When exposed to threatening stimulus, the higher executive brain functions are overridden by primitive emotional reflexes. Emotional intelligence is seen as the most critical 21st century skill and is often said to matter more than IQ. Self-work involves developing healthy coping mechanisms required to navigate the socio-emotional upheavals.
So, where do we begin? The preliminary step is an easy one, to engage in self-expression. Mental health practitioners have been advocating ‘sharing’ and ‘talking’ since time immemorial. It is time we move beyond words. Writing, painting, dancing, singing, drawing, sketching, film-making, acting are the wings upon which expression has flown for ages. The secret lies in the very nature of the medium, the art of expression is inescapably humanistic. Pen down your thoughts in a private journal, stories or poems. Or use nonverbal modalities to engage with your narrative. Externalise the thoughts and observe them for a distance. When we tap into our creativity, many skills automatically come into play. Flexibility, higher emotional thresholds, improved cognitive abilities and a broadened perspective are a few to name.
Self-expression is the catalyst we need. Communicating one’s needs, identifying the triggers, understanding the shortcoming and mapping the maladaptive pathways. And if awareness is followed up by action, we can suppress the undesirable pattern and accelerate the desirable ones. Expression integrates the emotion-cognition gap, facilitates rational decision making, boasts confidence and embraces individuality. Our thoughts, actions and feelings are neuro-biologically intertwined, conscious expression helps sync the trio and ensure our flight of ambition makes the right landing.
The author is movement and art-based psychotherapist