Case example 6Catharsis
This example is taken from a short-term training group aimed at introducing art therapy to people working with substance abuse. The group, which consisted of twenty people, some staff and some residents of therapeutic communities in Italy and South America, had been working in pairs on life-sized portraits of each other (see description of body images, pp. 63-8). In the interaction I shall discuss, one of the men was a priest and the other a worker in a closed community. Both came from South America and were training in Italy.
One of the men, S., had been very nervous from the beginning of the week and was always anxious to ‘do everything right’. He felt himself to be very clumsy and indeed his whole bearing was unconfident and hesitant. This applied to his painting of C. which he worked on carefully and with much checking out with C. to see if it met with his approval. C. also put a lot of care and thought into S. ’s painting. He was having a lot of difficulty with the feet and asked S. to stand close to the painting so he could make the feet right. By this time the feet had gone decidedly wrong and were out of proportion to the body. They were also two left feet. This would not have been important in itself except that it was obviously causing distress to both men. At this stage in the group, all the pairs were intensely involved in the process with their partner but the tension between S. and C. was communicating and some people went over to offer advice. Eventually C. drew a pair of feet which although looking awkward, satisfied him for that moment. Several minutes later I observed S. moving to get some paint. He passed by C. ’s water pot and somehow the dirty water got knocked over and spilt all over C. ’s careful rendering of the feet. There were gasps of horror all over the room. C. looked distraught and S. sat down, put his head in his hands and cried. I felt an intervention was important and between the three of us we concluded that it would be possible to place a clean piece of paper over the lower part of the legs and re-do the feet. In fact, C. decided to paint the feet and stick them on and they certainly looked more sturdy and in better proportion. (This is an example of how reparation can take place