Written by Allison Wickham
“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” -Dalai Lama
The above quote speaks of such a simple concept, but is oftentimes hard to apply to the challenging situations life brings. Our clients who are in the school system face challenging situations on a daily basis, particularly when dealing with social conflict. At Art it Out, we work with clients to equip them with the tools and strategies they need to handle social struggles effectively. When faced with social dilemmas and negativity from peers, it is essential for children and adults to remember they can’t control the behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs of others, but they can control their own.
For this particular lesson, social skills group members were asked to identify behaviors they could control (e.g., being nice to others, ignoring negative behaviors, and doing homework) versus things they could not control (e.g., mean kids, different opinions, and what is for school lunch that day). For the group activity, we looked at the different mediums used to create art and the amount of control they, as artists, had when using each medium. The mediums were used as metaphors for the amount of control they have in real life situations. The group members graduated from using pencil (most control) and markers to acrylics and wet-on-wet watercolors (less control). As group members transitioned from one medium to the next, they were encouraged to practice acceptance as they had less control of the outcome and refrain from making judgments as their creation emerged. Although therapeutic art activities focus on the process of art making rather than the product, the work they created was amazingly beautiful.
As clients practice releasing the desire to change others and situations that they do not have control over, they open up new space to focus their own interests, goals, and behaviors that align with their personal values. There is a shift in energy towards being effective as unique individuals and working on their own piece of the puzzle. This inevitably leads to less frustration, stress, and disappointment and allows for more time to spend on the things that really matter in their lives.