They may have been told they were ‘no good at art’ by an art teacher or they may have secretly dreamed of becoming an artist, but then received very strong cultural messages that told them there was no point trying unless they were a creative genius, unless they were Picasso, that there was no point.
Perhaps they were assigned a different role in the family, told that their sibling was ‘the creative one’ and instead they were the ‘smart’ or ‘sensible’ or ‘practical’ one. So being ‘creative’ then felt off-limits, like it belonged to someone else.
Perhaps they think that they must be an ‘expert’ and the experience of not knowing, being a learner, being a beginner is terrifying. Perhaps staring at the blank page they suddenly feel exposed to criticism, vulnerable to ridicule and shaming if they create something ‘childish’ or ‘bad’.
Perhaps they fear being our of control, or not in control, and the strange images and shapes that emerge unsettle them and threaten their sense of autonomy or self-hood.
Perhaps they have strong values of ‘being useful’ and ‘not wasting materials’, so the very thought of play seems indulgent and wasteful and like they may be punished for it.
All of these are powerful reasons to not make art, and to fear the blank page (/keyboard/ stage/ singing lesson.. etc).
These messages become internalised, until people believe it as a ‘fact’: that they ‘can’t draw’, ‘don’t have a creative bone in my body’, or similar.
And then as a result they don’t ever try – or when they do try they are stilted with fear and horrified at the marks they make, and swear never to do it again – thus creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Helping people become friends again with their creativity is a powerful part of art therapy. We do this by creating a safe space for making, by developing a different story about what art ‘is’ and what it is for, and encouraging a deeply personal and therapuetic relationship with art making.