Creating doorways: Finding existential meaning and growth through the creative arts in the face of life-threatening illness

Conference object English OPEN
Reilly, Rosemary C. ; Lee, Virginia ; Laux, Kate ; Robitaille, Andréanne ; Saavedra Macías, Francisco Javier (Coordinador) ; Español Nogueiro, Alicia (Coordinador) ; Arias Sánchez, Samuel (Coordinador) ; Calderón García, Marina (Coordinador) (2017)
  • Publisher: Universidad de Sevilla, Vicerrectorado de Investigación
  • Subject: Posttraumatic growth | Existential growth | Cancer | Art therapy | Art making

Life-threatening illness can be sufficiently traumatic to shatter one‘s beliefs about self, others, and the world. This disruption can trigger an instinctive search for meaning. Research highlights that how individuals respond post-adversity can make the difference between experiencing posttraumatic stress or posttraumatic growth (PTG) and existential growth (EG). This paper presents the findings of a pilot study situated in a tertiary care cancer centre and details the impact of creative arts therapy on the experiences of individuals living through breast cancer. Ten women were interviewed about their experiences making art, many for the first time. Emergent themes included: the significant benefits of art-making on their sense of self-efficacy; the emotionally enhancing nature of art-making; the power of their artwork to trigger insights (including subthemes of EG, PTG) or in communicating their experiences to loved ones; and how art-making changed their worldview and life philosophies, creating doorways of possibilities. Findings suggest that art-making provides a safe, dynamic context for individuals experiencing breast cancer to reflect on profound personal changes and to re-story losses following adversity through creative arts practices.
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