As a Depth Psychologist, my area of expertise is split largely between two fields: Jungian Psychology and Liberation Psychology.
Jungian Psychology sees creativity as a doorway to the unconscious, where art, music, movement, and voice reveal deeper aspects of both the individual and the collective. A universal language and unifying force, the arts allow for change and transformation to happen of a nature that a purely cognitive process cannot ensure. Much more is achieved and produced through play and art than through thought and instruction when we look to self-realization as our measurement. Social and cultural boundaries become malleable when we play and create together. Play breeds an environment of self-discovery, and is how mammals teach their young to thrive in the world. Biases can find themselves unprotected when laughter and artistry are the bridge, when we help each other solve a problem or feel a connection to a stranger’s creation. The creative arts provide a doorway to resources for mending, healing, and understanding of an inner continuity that lies within the individual and his and her community.
Even though I do not identify myself as an artist per se, as a Jungian, I understand and have seen the necessity in spending time with the arts. Something unpredictable but necessary happens when we are posed a question, and the answer is expressed from our actions rather than originating solely from our thinking mind. When what we create goes beyond what we imagine, we can lose a part of ourselves to the process, giving rise to a newer aspect of self. Arts-based community projects expose a plentiful of peoples, not otherwise privileged, to a necessary condition for creativity and healing.
Dr. Low gives her attention to the many aspects that are at work when a group gathers and creates. From her discoveries we can learn to capitalize on the effects these endeavors evoke, not only on each participant’s art-making but on the group as a whole. Through her direct inquiry into the process of person-centered community arts practices, one of Dr. Low’s many achievements has been to articulate a specific view so arts-facilitators may more consciously tend the needs and outcomes of their community-based goals. It’s one thing to know that art can be of benefit and has the power to unify a community. It is another to know how to best utilize that raw power to access its restorative potential.
Dr. Low’s insights and observations, which seem obvious now that she has presented them but were before quite allusive to me, culminate in the architecture of four dimensions, comprised of the social, the personal, the cognitive and the cultural dimensions. They speak not only to group and individual dynamics but also give guidance and importance to the artist’s facilitation as well—taking community arts programs and elevating them into “person-centered” community arts-based programs. A distinction I feel has been under explored.
In 1985, I created a community-based arts project, which focused on the interweaving relationship of Self, Life, and Other. I have toured this program within the borders of America since that time. The process is one of “Ask Question, Draw Answer.” The questions are derived from various principles of four distinct concepts: MESHE (mee-shee) our relationship to Self, HESHE (hee-shee) our relationship to Other, MISON (my-sahn) our relationship to Life Itself, and ORBIT (or-bit) when we have fallen out of relationship to self, life or other.
In the introductory class, participants create a MESHE Chart. The questions they will draw their answers to involve five main categories: 1.) What they like and love, 2.) Their physical body and environment, 3.) Their creativity and expression, 4.) Their intuition and inner landscape, and finally, 5.) Their authority and personal truths. Participants spend the day looking into these categories, making inquiries about their relationship to each of the five areas of their lives, and drawing onto the Chart their discoveries. Patterns emerge, insights are gleaned, goals and intentions revealed.
As its developer, it has been my dream to share this program with others so the work may travel the world. The tool itself is highly therapeutic and it has potential to reach many communities in need of therapeutic support. Up until now, I’ve been dissatisfied with the variables with which I’m left to contend and how to ensure that teachers bring care, consciousness, and diversity inclusion to the tools built into my programs.
Not having a framework by which to identify or account for the quality of teaching, or a means by which to define it, I have held back my larger vision. So when Dr. Low presented her work to me, I was very pleased to be a part of the research and development of her pedagogy’s architecture. With her Four Dimensions, I can ensure that my teacher trainings impart a curriculum designed to teach person-centered skills of attention and interaction to my person-centered content, elevating my local community-based arts project to an international person-centered one. Yes, Dr. Low’s work is exactly what I’ve been looking for!
Liberation Psychology seeks to include those marginalized in a society by way of economics, incarceration, mental health, race, and disability, to name a few. It presupposes that if a society is to truly function in its wholeness, it must find ways and means by which to include its members—shadow selves and all. I’m particularly excited by Dr. Low’s work for the way in which she informs, shapes, instructs, guides, and illuminates all arts-based projects. Regardless of their medium, participant demographic, or geographical location, Dr. Low illustrates the importance of identifying the shadow community socially and culturally, tending to them in that space, when doing arts-based work while simultaneously engaging them cognitively and personally. In this way, we are sure to create caring, inclusive dynamics for all participants.
Jungians look to the self as a continuum of the collective. They see the individual as extending into the community and the community as inseparable from the individual. For this reason, my own arts-based program did well, as have others. But with Dr. Low’s work, all person-centered arts-based programs have the potential for being as rich in their attention to the participants as they are rich in content, adding an important dimension to the quality of how we run community-oriented programs.
Diversity is at the heart of a global collective. The arts are a means by which the individual can cross borders into the collective. Achieving social change through art, by bringing therapeutic conditions to the marginalized, is just one lens through which to see Dr. Low’s expedition. I believe she will spearhead the construction of even more valuable bridges and important chasms for us to cross, and I look forward to consulting, creating, exploring and contributing in support of the journey that lies ahead for her.
Dr. KD Farris is a Doctor of Depth Psychology who has been writing, speaking and teaching on the practical application of key psychological concepts, techniques and philosophies since 1985. She has a private practice, coaching and counseling individuals and couples in the Southern California area. KD has a masters in Jungian Psychology and is experienced in Counseling Psychology. She is the author of MESHE, HESHE, MISON & ORBIT: What My Grandmother Taught Me About the Universe. The book presents her original self-help tool in a fictional environment. For decades she has toured a Companion Workshop Series using art-based practices to successfully explore the interweaving relationship of self, life and other. This tool has also been taught to teachers in training as a means of personal growth and development for students. KD has also conducted empowerment workshops to victims of domestic violence. She is currently the consultant to CCD (Singapore) in the dimensions of personal and social development.