Art and Transitional Objects
Psychology has come to coin the phrase “transitional object” to refer to those things which help us manage change. For children, this might include a blanket, a pacifier, or something they cling to when it’s time to switch gears (e.g., when it becomes nap time, when their favorite person is leaving, or when they feel inwardly unsettled). Though often times children are taught to eventually refrain from clinging to these objects, in most cases they simply find another way to manifest the same solace. Rituals are one form of this transitional act. As discussed in other blogs, the changes of life are adorned with special objects and actions which help those involved to acknowledge and manage the transition before them.
Making art can provide a way to manage change, and leave the creator with something tangible to represent and even contain their inner experience. When we experience loss, sometimes we hold onto those objects that we associate with that loss. This may include an object such as a photograph, watch, or anything that helps in retaining an experience (albeit a good or bad memory). As art can help illuminate our thoughts and feelings, it can become another object that we may keep hold or let go of a manifestation of what was lost. Art therapists use this concept to assist others in understanding their experience of transition and learning adaptive ways of handling it in the future. For those who have difficulty with change on a daily basis, using a journal/sketchbook during those difficult times may aid in providing the time and space needed to adapt. As change is likely life’s greatest certainty, allow yourself and those around you the room to learn how to manage it well.