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Self-Expression (prepared by the Secretary of Odessa Centre of Therapy by Creative Self-Expression, M. Raskina)

Self-help techniques that use creative self-expression have been developed by Russian psychotherapist, professor at the Russian Medical Academy of post-graduate education, and vice president of the All-Russian Professional Psychotherapeutic Association, M. E. Burno. He is an author of the clinical modality «Therapy Using Creative Self-Expression by Burno (TCEB)».

TCEB is meant, most of all, to help people who suffer from feelings of inferiority, that manifest themselves in mental and physical inertness, shyness, indecisiveness, anxiety, hypochondria, depressive vulnerability, inclinations to doubts, and uncertainty in oneself, among others. M. E. Burno describes all of these character traits as «defensiveness». A defensive individual is usually lost in life, in his/her thoughts about the meaning of his/her life, and in dreams of some mental and spiritual support.

As is the case in existential-humanistic and psychotherapeutic methods, in the center of M. E. Burno's therapy by creative self-expression is a creative psychotherapeutic mechanism.

Since it is specifically in creativity where an individual finds him-/ herself in a unique manner, the specific techniques of creative self-expression clarify and resurrect the personal individuality and lift an individual from mental uncertainty, amorphousness, and despair.

In his book «About People's Characters», written for a general readership, he adopted TCEB techniques relating to healthy people with mental problems and suggested that instead of the term «therapy», a more general term, namely «help» («self-help»), should be used. This is despite the fact that while TCEB is an inspired method, it is a complicated method of treatment for sick people.

It has been known for a long time that one has to try to use work and hobbies as a distraction when experiencing mood problems. However the most important factor is after having studied your character, find «creative activities that are compatible with the nature of your character: involving yourself in arts, nature, collecting, the creation of works of art, etc.» The author of TCEB described nine groups of techniques of self-help using creative self-expression. The following techniques have enjoyed the widest distribution in self-psychotherapy practice:

No. 35. Self-help by creating your own works of art.

This technique facilitates the fleshing out of the personality disposition of a person and revitalizing his/her individuality. The creation of works of art not only includes poetry or prose writing, painting pictures, or writing music. All the activities during which anything is created more or less to the end with a clear individual imprint — whether it is the preparation of a meal, dress sewing, or glove knitting — are also considered a creation of works of art. A subject of the creation could be a rock in the mountains, a dry root, fir cone, bird feather, etc.

In the city of Baltimore (United) in the Center «Circle of Friends», M. A. Raskina used a self-help methodology through creative knitting that helped to eliminate depressive syndrome caused by emigration stress. By expressing themselves in spiritually consonant knitting, the Russian immigrants eliminated mental uncertainty, anxiety, and pessimism.

No. 35-1. Self-help by creative relationships with literature, arts and science.

This type of self-help means that an individual reads such books, sees such plays, listens to such music, and dives into such science that help him/her to learn about him/herself and to clarify his/her mental chracteristics and problems, prompting the patient in the right direction for his/her life.

Any work of art or science can help in finding your thing, meaning of life, way out of a difficult mental problem, or inspire you to do good only if there is a spiritual connection between the author and reader.

Many people who suffer from a mood disorder cheer up when they see the happy sensual-sanguine hedonistic strength of Kustodiev's pictures, Rabelais' novel «Gargantua and Pantagruel», «Colas Breugnon» by Rolland, the works of Dumas-father, Hasek, llf and Petrof as well as music from Rossini, Strauss, and Kalman.

The psychologist T. U. Metelkina (Russia) suggested that as a way to further develop TCEB in a religious direction, a self-help technique can be utilized by acquiring the spiritual culture of Eastern Orthodoxy. M. E. Burno, while evaluating her book, wrote: «By nature, many people in Russia are predisposed to a bright religious world perception, but it is difficult for them to find their way to God. The T. Metelkina technique helps these people to enter this world perception, which is very valuable for them and thus, they become less anxious, more confident, and find their inspired-creative path».

No. 35-2. Self-help through a creative relationship with nature.

During the process of relating to nature, a depressive individual experiences a dominating positive emotional condition as a result of a spiritual accord felt with nature. While a direct contact with nature awakens a positive emotional condition in an individual, the following viewing of slides, photos of nature, flowers, animals, and rocks in a comfortable environment supports that. Growing flowers, raising dogs, caring for a bird at home — all these activities have a beneficial effect on mood. M. E. Burno writes: «When you are looking leisurely at clouds and trees, butterflies and crows, when you feed a dog or a cat... «a collecting» so to speak, fleshing out, underlining of spiritual individuality takes place, and as a result one gets rid of a bothersome mood disturbance, and you find stronger more inspired ties with life».

People differ in their dispositions and have different mental problems, thus different painters of nature help them to get closer to nature. For some, painters they could relate to would-be painters, such as Koltsov, Aksakov, Soloukhin, or Astafiev. For others, Levitan or Savrasov would be painters to whom they could relate. Other painters could also include Tiutchev, Toro, Serya Sova, and Sveitser, or for others Sarian, Krymov, or Nesterov.

Most importantly, one has to learn to see the nature uniquely in his/her way, that is, creatively. The road to uniqueness is walked by learning the repeatable in yourself. An individual imitates someone who he/she can relate to, quite often a known creative person with similar character traits in, for example, his/her relationship with nature and his/ her stories about nature. In this imitation, through characteristically repetitive features, he/she gains his/her uniqueness, since he/she cannot be exactly same creatively even in the framework of one character. The feeling of one's uniqueness — that's what creative inspiration is.

No. 35-3. Self-help by creative collecting.

Creative collecting means that one is collecting only those things that ring true with the collector's soul. One can collect stamps, postcards, coins, or city emblems.

The author of TCEB cites his own observation.

S., forty-six years of age, with a serious depressive feeling of decline of his individuality, feelings of being a «robot» (as if he was not himself), came to a conclusion that by acquiring stamps known to him and by looking at them in the album while experiencing these feelings of being a robot, he experienced a spiritual mollification and a return to being himself.

No. 35-4. Self-help through a profound-creative immersion in the past.

To be creatively immersed into the past means to see deeper, to more clearly see your current self in your childhood turmoils, in pictures, in the past of your native city or village, humankind in folk tales from your native country, etc.

By specifying one's spiritual individuality as a result of this immersion in the past, a person recognizes his/her «nonrandomness», his/her deep connections with relatives that passed away, with the history of his/her native country, mankind, and the universe. And that, in a final analysis, facilitates the formation of specific belief systems and a behavioral orientation that inspires one to look creatively for one's own life path, higher self-awareness, worthy place in society, and the meaning of one's own life.

No. 35-5. Self-help by creative travelling.

M. E. Burno describes this type of self-help as follows: «Creative travelling is travelling with the goal of seriously learning about oneself, about one's attitude toward a new place and people (that is, a journey that is most of all a journey inside of oneself). It is good to go somewhere far, where nature is completely different, where you have never been, but one can get no lesser healing effect from a creative trip to a neighbouring town on a local train or from going to a neighbouring street. It is important to prepare for any such journey by reading, keeping a journal with notes from guides, encyclopedia, geographical books, etc., about the place you are about to visit. This will allow you to show your attitude toward the most important things as well as to details with expertise, to record this attitude (feelings) into the journal and accompany it with photos and pictures that also reflect your attitude. Reading books written by B. K. Arseniev, N. K. Rerikh, V. M. Peskov will give one the needed educational background for this» («Strength of the Weak», 1999, 239).

All of the described self-help techniques by creative self-expression are the source of a bright world perception, bright mental state, and creative inspiration in which love and sense are contained. The effectiveness of self-help techniques by creative self-expression has been confirmed in classes — groups of Christian psychohygiene and characterological ecology of humans (E. A. Poklitar, M. A. Raskina).

Handbook of Psychotherapeutic Self-Help
(How to help yourself and your family)
I. Vorobeitchik, M. Minkovitch

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