Change of Heart
(Artistic Alternatives to Violence)

Five Steps to Change of Heart:

Step I: Identification of Feelings

Increasing one’s self-knowledge leads to improved self-confidence. As one is able to understand one’s feelings, then one can objectify them by writing a poem, acting out a scene, painting a picture, dancing, singing, playing an instrument or any number of cognitive or affective activities. Identification is an important first step in preventing violence, because one can only control feelings when one is aware of what one is feeling.

Step II: Acknowledgment of Feelings

Our society has been taught certain feelings are not only "inappropriate," but downright "wrong." Therefore, we grow up learning to be guilty when we find ourselves having feelings we’re "not supposed to have." It is necessary for us to acknowledge—at least to ourselves—when we are feeling fear or boredom or rage or resentment…or even ecstasy. Otherwise, we will not be able to make a conscious decision to change or not change how we feel. Acknowledgment of what we are feeling, along with the reassurance that it is normal to have such feelings, both increases and empowers us to change what we don’t like about our lives.

Step III: Expressing Feelings Through the Arts

Violence is inevitably a wanton expression of repressed feelings. Unable to express strong "negative" feelings, because of the ingrained fear of personal judgment against us, we become frustrated, our self-image deteriorates and, depending on our level of emotional literacy, we may become either withdrawn or overtly aggressive. Either of these symptoms can erupt into violence against ourselves or others. Guided creative expression of whatever we may feel (which may be as simple as designing and preparing a meal or as complex as producing a community event) allows us to focus our energy on acts of creation rather than acts of destruction. Involvement in the arts teaches us the principles, processes and techniques of creation.

Step IV: Communicating Feelings to Others

Writing a poem about how we feel toward a loved one is a deeply personal experience. When we write a poem to a loved one to let them know how we feel, the experience is quite different. We choose our words more carefully, we think not only about how we feel, but also how the recipient will feel when the poem is received. Songs, plays, dances and other art works may be designed to communicate to an audience or spectator. Once a student is able to understand and express feelings (achieving a degree of self- knowledge) it is then possible and often desirable to put forth a personal statement about how one feels. The artistic statement becomes the "voice" of the artist. And being "heard" inevitably validates the self.

Step V: Collaboration

Co-creation, or working together for a common purpose, is what transforms a community. Within the classroom environment, the preparation and presentation of an exhibit, a theatrical production, a concert or other collaborative event that may be shared with others, gives students the opportunity to be an active part of something larger than themselves. Once they have learned to identify, acknowledge, express and communicate their feelings, they can then cooperatively give the gift of their transformation to the larger community, thus experiencing the self-esteem of contributing to the whole.



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