Over the past 20 years, Paolo Knill, Shaun McNiff, Natalie Rogers and Steve and Ellen Levine have pioneered the evolving theory of intermodal/multimodal expressive arts practices as a way to "increase the range of play" in therapy. As a way to care for yourself, you can regularly take breaks from habitual states of mind by designing your own regular expressive arts practice sessions. In this article, I offer ideas on how to set up a multimodal expressive arts practice at home.
In an expressive arts practice session, it is encouraged that you try two or more disciplines of artistic expression to deepen the meaning and momentum of your experience. You might, for example, transfer from painting to dancing, and then write a poem before your session is complete. As you move from one creative discipline to another, it is helpful to keep notes about how your process has deepened, enriched and progressed through each creative discipline.
The Intuitive Logic of Your Imagination
You can transform painful emotional states by entering into the imaginative world of play, dreams, visions, free association, guided imagery, making art, interacting with art, and using metaphors and brainstorming. Expressive arts practices create a container for change which Paolo Knill calls "alternate experiences of worlding." After a period of expressive arts practice, you can re-enter the regular world with all your adult concerns and responsibilities, changed and opened, with a newly enlivened perspective.
Entering into a regular expressive arts practice, you can temporarily leave the troubled logic of your practical life behind, and enter into the "intuitive logic" of your imagination." Helpful symbolism for forward-growth arrives through right-brained creative play, imagination and intuitive exploration. Right brain imagination has its own intuitive logic that differs from linear left-brain thinking. Entering into your imagination through structured expressive practices, you can temporarily move away from problem bound states to resource surprisingly new solutions.
The expressive arts could be considered a kind of play for adults. The expressive arts provide ways for you to leave your logical mind and experiment spontaneously into ever-new realms of imagination. Creating spaces and times to create spontaneously every day can loosen you from the world-weariness of adult concerns and invite the long-forgotten innocence from your childhood to reemerge.
The aim of an expressive arts practice is to explore two or more artistic disciplines within a single session. Regularly changing up your creative practices can keep you imaginatively nimble. Expanding your range of play by creating a drawing and then writing a poem about it, or dancing to a song you are singing can deepen your connection to your imaginal world.
To "decenter" out of regular linear consciousness and "expand your range of play," you can open the door to your imagination through the combination of two or more expressive arts disciplines. You might consider combining some of the following: painting, drawing, writing in your journal, creating a poem, collage, singing, playing an instrument, acting out a play, dancing, or whatever else feels right at the moment.
How to Set up an Expressive Arts Practice
Knill refers to expressive arts explorations as finding "freedom within limits." To set up regular expressive arts practices, I invite you to explore spontaneity within the following structures: