Creative work as a medium for integrating life experiences. A conversation with somatic therapist
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Interview conducted by Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy practitioner Ingrida Danyte.
Jurga Bliss is a somatic therapy practitioner and a member of our international team at “Embodied Practice”. She is located in the Algarve, Portugal from where she facilitates Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy sessions online for clients all over the world.
Through consolidating her diverse professional knowledge and experience, she is paving new digital pathways for somatic therapy work in the current unpredictable environment of rapid change and says: “It works!”
Jurga is also a creator and a poet. She writes both in her mother tongue - Lithuanian and in English. In 2021 some of Jurga's poems were published in the poetry book of Lithuanian contemporary female creators "Women are poems".
INGRIDA The topic “Creative work as a medium for integrating life experiences“ came to you and asked to be explored. I am curious why that topic and why now?
JURGA I think it has to do with one profound case in my therapeutic practice when my client who was ill with cancer passed away. A few days before that, you and I had a conversation where the topic of death has surfaced for us. A poem was born from this meeting and later it has become my farewell to this woman. At that point, once again, I could clearly feel how my various experiences were integrating through writing. I have long felt that I use writing as a way to feel and process my experiences in a different way, to digest them and give them a new body, a new way of being. At first I have been doing it unconsciously, but lately I have been applying this consciously. Sometimes I need writing in order for the experience to settle inside. Sometimes it is necessary, so that something can leave me or transform within… And soon a desire to talk about it appeared. Creative work is very diverse, and maybe we don’t always think of it as a tool for healing, integration, or a different way to experience being. But it plays that role too.
INGRIDA How do you understand what a non-integrated life experience is?
JURGA The answer to this question will probably be individual, depending on what patterns we have, how we cope with life, with the situations we encounter. An unintegrated experience may look different to every one of us, someone will experience it in one way, another person - in another way. One option can be that the experience in our memories becomes as if a separate fragment in time. The fragment exists as a small film or a story. And we keep rolling it, we remember it and we roll it again and again and again. We can talk about it, think about it and nothing happens to it. And we can do that a thousand times. If the emotion doesn’t change and we have the same reaction to the same story all the time, I think it is not integrated within us.
Or when the experience manifests itself through symptoms but we don’t understand them. And only later, during somatic therapy sessions we may finally discover the connections between the symptoms and a certain history of a client, a certain experience. When this awareness appears, the integration begins.
INGRIDA Do you have any early memories, for example, as a child, when creativity has helped you to integrate some experience?
JURGA I remember when I was maybe around five. I once got very upset with one of my parents and made a drawing that depicted what seemed most terrible and disgusting to me at the time. I showed the drawing to the parent and said: "It’s you." And, of course, I felt a little better after. Emotions got expressed on paper, I was able to communicate them.
INGRIDA And during your teenage years?
JURGA Yes, there really were a lot of big feelings in my teens. And I wrote. I wrote both fiction and poetry. It made it easier to cope with my feelings. But I grew up in the spirit of glorification of rationality that many of us experienced in those times, when feelings were pushed aside as irrelevant, seen as something making us weak and vulnerable. So when I grew up, I managed to shut down those big feelings, suppress them. That is also when I stopped writing. It wasn’t until much later, towards the end of my personal therapy, that I wrote a poem, the first one in many years. And then it opened the gates, so to say, I started writing again and I’ve been writing for a few years now. So for me, creative work is also about the fact that if we can create, we can meet ourselves.
INGRIDA Yes, I wish to echo your words: “ if we can create, we can meet ourselves”. And I want to thank you for sharing a fragment of your personal story. After those many experiences, what kind of creativity do you think heals? How would you formulate the definition of creative work that can be called therapeutic?
JURGA Creative work is therapeutic when the message comes from deeper within. From a place that you perhaps don’t even understand - where exactly this impulse or this line arose from right now. It's as if you are led from within. Sometimes it seems like that leading isn’t even coming from myself. In such instances I experience creativity as therapeutic.
Another possibility - creative work is therapeutic when I have an intention for it to be therapeutic. Let’s say when I write to express, to write up what’s in me. It is also therapeutic. And when I say therapeutic, I mean that how I was before the moment I started writing and how I am after that moment is a little different, qualitatively different.
INGRIDA Can we say that a therapeutic moment or integration means change, right?
JURGA Yes, integration means change. Especially a change of the relation to something. For example a change of the relation towards ourselves or to that event, or towards that emotion, or towards anything that we meet. Sometimes the emotion itself may stay the same, for example maybe I was writing about it but I’m still sad, however, my relationship with the emotion of sadness may already be different and the quality of the meeting with myself or with my experience will already be different.
INGRIDA It would be interesting to hear specific advice from you. For example, if I experience something that is too much, too complicated, or I have experienced something that is now repeating itself, it turns up again and again in my life, what should I do? How to find a way to integration, how to find some personal unique medium of self-expression? How do you recognize that this is the creative path I have to take?
JURGA I think we need to try different forms of self-expression. We all probably lean towards some things more than others, not even as creators, but as, say, consumers, as listeners, as spectators... Something resonates more with us. At times, you may not even need to create. Maybe, for example, it’s enough to listen to some music and a meeting happens within us. Sometimes that is enough.
But if that’s not enough, then you have to give it a try. Or, to correct myself - then you can try, there is no obligation to do that. Nothing is obligatory, but it is possible... And in the case that you try, I would dare you to allow yourself imperfection. It seems to me that we are most afraid to try because we are supposedly ungifted. "I can't draw," "I am not able to write," "I can't play," and so on. These concepts and beliefs often come from childhood, perhaps from the time when we were criticized and had to meet a very high standard. I really have that within myself and empathise with that very much. So I encourage us to give permission to ourselves. Somebody says, "I draw like a five-year-old." Great! You can give yourself permission to draw as a five-year-old and see what will come out of it. You enjoy it? Hooray! And if I tried drawing and I don’t fancy that, maybe it's then worth trying to write something...
As for writing, one option is to write letters. We can write letters to others that we will then send out or not. We can write letters to ourselves. We can write letters to ourselves in the past - for example at a certain age, or you may write a letter to yourself in the now - to the person you are now who has experienced a certain event. And then if writing helps to feel something different - better or at least different, it can become an incentive to continue.
INGRIDA Yes, I had forgotten about writing letters. Now I feel that writing letters can open up many opportunities to express, tell, stay with something. And as our conversation draws to a close, I’d like to return to the topic of death that we touched upon at the beginning. What do you think can help us integrate, accept, talk about phenomenal experiences, about those which are not tangible, understandable, something which is beyond words, such as death-related phenomenality?
JURGA Yes, when we face something that is greater than our human existence, engaging one’s creativity is perhaps one of the few ways to experience it deeply. How to experience the subtle and the profound - perhaps a profound feeling or a phenomenon that seems impossible to contain within boundaries of the body? Something that can’t be fully expressed in neither words nor through a paintbrush because it’s so big? And at the same time, at least to some extent, creativity can help to touch upon that greatness.
INGRIDA Sometimes it happens to me that if I, for example, meet something that I feel I cannot contain within myself, fear appears. It seems that if I say a word, it will all collapse. I will not be exact. It is simply impossible to express that. How do you behave in such cases, what do you do?
JURGA I stay in silence with that. I open my senses. Since I live in a place where the greatness of nature is truly impressive, I have the luxury to meet that very easily. In the past, people have told me that it will fade over time, something like, “yes, it’s nice for you there now, but you’ll see, you'll get used to it”. And yes, maybe I don’t walk at the coastline as often as I would if I had just come here on a vacation. But when repeatedly facing the profoundness of nature, my experience is that it doesn’t fade away for me. And that feeling is so hard to describe. That infinitesimal me and the greatness of nature. How do I make that meeting with her happen then? I simply open my senses. And not just those carnal senses. I would say even those subtle senses that we can’t talk about because we don’t have words to express that.
Yes, to hear the silence.
INGRIDA Maybe sometimes silence is also an art form.
JURGA Definitely so. When we can truly hear the silence, we meet it as an art form, and we ourselves become an art form. We then really witness, we witness with all of our being. And we become what we witness. When I witness the ocean, I feel like I have the same ocean in me, I become the ocean. Some of my Lithuanian poems are born from these kinds of experiences. It is about such presence, simply being present.
INGRIDA Is there anything else you would like to say at the end?
JURGA I think the final words have already been said.
Unlikable - lovable
Time flying so freakishly crazy
As I float in it seemingly slow
Like petals pulled off from a daisy
Taken promptly away by the flow
In the moment of ultimate truth
Stripping naked of all that's not mine
At the stem of it all, at the root
Sending shivers downward my spine
I stand here courageous and wild
Sweeping fears away from the shelf
Shining love and laughter and smiles
On unlikeable - lovable self
Aut. Jurga Bliss
Jurga Bliss was interviewed by Ingrida Danyte - an Integrative bodywork and movement therapy practitioner at EMBODIEDPRACTICE.LT . Ingrida works with children, facilitates groups and individual consultations.