MenagerieAesthetic expression: The art of catharsis
Aesthetic expression: The art of catharsis
December 5, 2017
December 5, 2017

With the constant pressure to succeed heavy on our shoulders, and the everlasting existential crisis plaguing our seemingly mundane lives, we can’t help but sometimes feel alone and helpless, trapped within the confines of our minds. The struggle of battling bouts of depression and anxiety can be extremely difficult to overcome. Many have been victims to several depressive episodes, often finding themselves lost and unable to find their way in life. A lot find themselves struggling to stay strong, often, desperately searching for ways to distract themselves from the lingering sense of dread and anxiety.

This is a battle most cannot fight alone. Fortunately, while depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses have proven to be relentless opponents, some are lucky enough to have reinforcements supporting them. A form of catharsis for some, the therapeutic effect of the arts has proven to be more than worthy comrades in the never-ending battle against mental illness.




The spectrums of art

Art has always been revered for its sensual appeal, beautiful masterpieces, and skillful renowned artists. For years, it has served as visual pleasures to the masses, providing impressive and inspiring pieces for the eyes to wonder at. Art, however, has also served as an avenue for some people to express their emotions. For a few, art acts as sort of a coping mechanism, a way for one to deal with the anxiety and stress of reality.  For others, art can become a way to let out repressed emotions, ones that they are unable to express through words.

Whatever the reason may be, no matter what the artists have gone through, art has proven to be a testament to limitless grandeur. It has never failed to not only provide visual pleasure, but at the same time to also stimulate the senses, triggering waves of emotions within the mind, providing the artists with a sense of comfort and security. In this hectic and stressful world, our minds have become vulnerable, prone to the harmful effects of anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes, all we need is a little push to get us back on track.

For Nikki Sy Wong (V, LIM-MGT), crocheting has helped her overcome her struggles with depression. “I first got into crocheting last year,” Nikki narrates. “My mom taught me the basics back in grade school, but it was only last year when I thought of making them into stuffed toys.” Despite her busy schedule, Nikki finds the time everyday to crochet, often posting her masterpieces on Facebook. Beloved by her peers, her plush creations are something to admire, when one visits her timeline.

Throughout the process of learning how to crochet, Nikki benefited from the healing and creative effects it gave her, which is why she continues to create her masterpieces almost every day. Various scientific studies have actually proven that crocheting and yarn knitting to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression especially. Something that Nikki was all too familiar with.


A battle worth fighting for

Dealing with depression is an episode we’re all too familiar with. In today’s day and age, where mental illnesses are either ignored or ridiculed, a suffering individual might find solace in the solitary confines of their minds, free from the judgments and scorn of society’s preconceived notions. However, depression is not a battle one can easily fight alone. The effect depression has on a person is drastic, and if not tackled head on as soon as possible, could lead to devastating consequences. It pays to have an edge in the struggle against it, something one can use to combat its toxic influences.

Having battled with depression in the past, Nikki found that crocheting provided an avenue for her to vent out her frustrations, a way for her to channel all that emotion into something creative. “While at first I did spend a lot of time just crying out of nowhere, and even entertaining thoughts of self-harm and suicide, [until] one day I thought of trying crocheting,” Nikki narrates. “Crocheting gave me this feeling that I could create stuff that would bring joy to myself and others.”

While crocheting helped Nikki overcome her internal struggles, she found that it also changed the way she interacted with her peers. She became more forgiving towards people, became less angry towards others and towards herself. “Crocheting was a really big help for me. I found myself more able to come to terms with other people.” Nikki gushes.


Advocating the arts

While Nikki might not be a direct advocate of crocheting, she does want to encourage the utilization of the arts as a way for struggling individuals out there to cope with whatever emotional distress they currently face. “I believe that art can be a form of catharsis for depression,” Nikki shares. “They could channel their emotions in creative ways, and it gives them a new sense of purpose and brings some color to the world.”

Nikki now wants to pursue other forms of art, as a way to express her emotions and creativity through various mediums. Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s speech about “making good art”, she made it a point to follow his words to the tee, by exploring all that the arts have to offer for her. In fact, she recently decided she would like to take up rhinestone art, as another way for her to express her artistic capabilities. “Rhinestone art is like cross-stitching, except instead of embroidery, you stick rhinestones on a sticky canvas to create a picture,” Nikki explains.

Despite the depressive episodes she’s had in the past, coupled with the thoughts of self-harm that plagued her so long ago, Nikki has finally found peace with her crochet creations. Crocheting has given her an avenue to channel her temper and hatred towards something beautiful, something that gives joy to others. She has eventually learned to come to terms with herself, letting her emotions flow in perfect harmony throughout the healing process of her artistic journey.

Creativity and mental illnesses are sometimes said to be correlated; the emotional torment that people go through on a daily basis can only really be expressed through something as abstract and unique as art. Whether it be teens who suffer from depression, students struggling with anxiety, or even the elderly cursed with dementia: all can benefit from the healing art of catharsis.

The beautiful thing about art, however, is that it has a little bit of something for everyone. No matter how small or difficult one’s problems may be, art can be used as a way for people to express their emotions. It can be a form of release, as way for them to vent their frustrations out through creative means. Art has no filter, and it knows no limits; it continues to serve as a beacon of light, a sign of hope in the bleakest of times, and a source of joviality in all aspects of life.