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The Third Thing

Updated: Jun 3, 2021


I've always been pulled to writing, though I never found myself particularly original or brilliant when I indulge in it. It was always frustrating to me, to want to write but to have nothing profound and earth-moving to say. You always hear how writing for many is a joyous but painful experience. It's as if every word is wrung from the soul or, paradoxically, some authors say they had a dream or a vision and the words just flow from their fingertips almost independently. I dare say it's a mixed bag for anyone who writes or creates anything at all, really. Some days there are beautiful, unexpected visions in the mind's eye, and other times I yearn to create something and yet... nothing is forthcoming.


Recently, I interviewed licensed, practicing art therapists which turned into a very personal aha! moment for me. One art therapist explained why this form of psychotherapy is different from other kinds of therapy. She told me, "there's this third thing."


That piece of art or creative expression in whatever form it takes in art therapy becomes the third thing in the room which relieves tension between the therapist and client, allowing the latter to literally purge the emotion out of his or her body. It also allows clients an objectivity that wouldn't otherwise exist, the therapist explained, because it separated them from the problem, or at least some of the subsequent emotion from it. Otherwise, it could seem too overwhelming to address.


She went on to further explain that she and her clients weren't creating art for museums, so the end product itself was almost insignificant. You see, it was the process of creating that third thing which held the inherent healing power.


Aha! So writing is my (art) therapy and I just need to go through the process of purging words even if it is the equivalent of a simple stick figure. No matter the specific words, original or not, putting it on paper made them profound and life-changing, at least for me. Aha!


Now I give myself permission to write even if it doesn't seem terribly original or brilliant. I grant myself that indulgence, which I know logically now be a positive, life-affirming coping mechanism. And, hey, this article is "the third thing" for today's therapy session and I feel pretty good in its aftermath.


Let's collectively embrace this important concept of the third thing, pool our powers and heal the world one stick figure or Monet at a time. Or at least indulge in a little (art) therapy and enjoy this moment a bit more than the last anyway. The power to heal is in within all of us.

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