“Traditionally the rainbow and the rainbow-colours have always played an important part in anthroposophic painting therapy. But one must remember that the rainbow always comes into manifestation between the light and the darkness: There is a dome of lightness on the inside of every rainbow and darkness on its outside, the darkness of the clouds against which it appears. The rainbow is a beautiful image of the human being: Its seven colours can be looked upon as the purified human soul, the light and darkness on either side of it stand for the spiritual creative polarity that calls it into being. In the human being the polarity can be found in the light of consciousness and the darkness of the living organism in which creative and destructive processes are continuously at work”. (Liane Collot d’Herbois)
The light and darkness aspect of Liane’s approach to therapeutic art, addresses the incarnating path of the higher ego or higher self. It is related to mankind’s spiritual development. Working with colour, helps nurture the soul. It enables the person to come out of a possible ‘soul cramp’, opening the way to a feeling of being more connected, whole and alive.
In this context when referring to the activity of light and darkness, their archetypal spiritual activity is meant, and not light in connection with good and darkness in connection with evil. The light process is connected with our thinking in relationship to the nerve- sense system; the darkness or one could also say warmth, is connected to the will in relationship to the metabolic system. Through the light of the thinking and nerve-sense process we are able to become more conscious, awake and focused, finely tuned and able to respond in the moment; Through the warmth and darkness of the will and metabolic system, we hold, cherish and digest all that life brings to us, until the distillation of our wisdom can be meaningfully placed at the service of others.
If the light process is too strong it is likely that we are quite nervous, anxious, and always too awake in our thinking. If the darkness aspect is too strong then we may find it difficult to be clear about what it is that we want to achieve and we may be overcome with feelings of lethargy and sleepiness.
If either of the processes relating to light and darkness dominates then the middle rhythmical breathing realm of colours will be affected. Our own personal inner colour world may have become immobilised, and be too pale or too dense.
Whatever is happening on an emotional and soul level will impact on the physical body. Long term healing is likely to be more effective if the underlying emotional issues are addressed.
We have many colloquial colour expressions like feeling blue; seeing red; green with envy; feeling in the pink, but we may not be aware that focussing on a particular colour can actually change the way we feel. Working with colour is an important part of the therapeutic art process, but even more important is to work with the light and darkness aspect in order to enhance and optimise the ability of the higher ego to be able to do its important work of balancing and co-ordinating all the different layers of a person’s being on a physical, soul and spiritual level.
“Therapies that restrict themselves to the confines of the individual soul can help resolve a neurosis, but if they do not call on the patient’s ego and thereby initiate a period of personal development, they can have no lasting effect. Nor can they truly heal”. Treichler, 1989, P334
In an individual therapeutic art session for adults there is an initial process where the client is invited to make their own light and darkness picture using charcoal, and also to paint a picture using watercolour on a moist piece of paper. The ‘free’ work of the client provides the necessary starting point for a guided process. No aptitude or previous art experience is necessary to benefit from the sessions, although it is important that the client is actually doing the painting and the charcoal work, as this activates the will to become healed.
Children are met in an age appropriate way and invited to paint whatever they would like for the first session. After the initial ‘free’ work, the subsequent paintings are part of a carefully guided process engaging the natural creativity of the child. It is only with older children from puberty onwards that the process may involve working with charcoal.
The Liane Collotd’Herbois method of therapeutic art can be very helpful to complement a doctor’s diagnosis. It goes beyond analysing the symbology of what is being expressed on the paper, to a deeper level of interpretation connected to the archetypal gestures of light, darkness and colour. To the trained eye, the latent potential for a person to become ill as well as the actual process of a disease is made visible.
Through the therapeutic process the client’s will to be healed can be supported and guided in such a way in the earlier latent stages of a potential illness that the actual physical illness may never manifest.
In the words of a client:
“Therapeutic art (in the Liane Collot d’Herbois method) has opened up a whole new world to me – one of colour and movement, gentle but so powerfully profound, like stepping through a door to another world. The experience of learning the archetypal movements of the colours in painting lessons and later having individual therapeutic art sessions has helped me to find the balance and space to be able to handle life’s stresses and gain more confidence and trust in my abilities and myself.”
For the Art Therapist trained in this method much time is devoted to building up an imagination of the many ways in which the archetypal light and darkness interact, and to imagining the colours that are able to manifest in these different situations. This work provides background knowledge to help understand what is manifesting in the clients pictures.
In the client’s pictures as they progress along a therapeutic pathway, there may be elements of these archetypal movements in, for example: landscapes with trees, mountains, fish, birds, animals, etc. but for them it should seem natural and effortless, and part of an enjoyable creative process.
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