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7 Functions of Art That Make Us Empathetic Human Beings

7 Functions of Art That Make Us Empathetic Human Beings

Art is a form of creative human expression, a way of enriching the human experience. We use art for our entertainment, cultural appreciation, aesthetics, personal improvement, and even social change. Whether or not we are aware of it, we allow art to affect our lives one way or another.

In their book, Art as Therapy, Alain De Botton and John Armstrong identify seven functions of art. They explain how art helps us grow and evolve in our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world we live in.

In viewing art, our perceptions change and grow, leading to growth and change in ourselves.

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    Appreciation

    Art helps us to revisit the value of ordinary things like the pretty colors in a splash of morning light on a table cloth or the familiar and nostalgic aspects of old beer cans. Art embraces appreciation.

    Memory

    Art focuses in on the essence of the scene rather than the whole of it. It hones in on what is most memorable from the scene the artist was viewing. Art records and preserves emotions.

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    Self-Understanding

    Art helps us to complete our own unformed thoughts and ideas. We have an ‘aha’ moment when we see a piece of art that perfectly captures a feeling or thought we have had that we couldn’t express.

    Sorrow

    Art doesn’t just increase our capacity for joy, it validates our sorrows. Art provides a different perspective or vantage point from which to survey our own sadness, and find a way to deal with it.

    Hope

    Art can move us to tears. Beautiful art can bring tears of joy. Experiencing such heart-warming feelings about it encourages us to hope for the same thing for ourselves.

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    Art Promotes Self-Growth

    When we see a picture of something we haven’t personally experienced or of an emotion that we don’t have a personal context for, we can take the time to think about it, react to it, and empathize with. Art promotes self-growth.

    Re-Balancing

    Our day-to-day lives influence the balance of our emotional makeup. We gain balance through art by taking a moment to observe, judge, and appreciate things we don’t normally see and our responses to them.

    Conclusion

    Recognizing and remembering these seven functions of art as therapeutic tools for personal growth the next time that you encounter art will hopefully enhance your experience of the image you are looking at. Taking the time to mindfully observe artwork is shown by the authors of Art as Therapy to be of true value to your emotional well-being.

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    Infographic via therartist.me

    Featured photo credit: http://theartist.me via theartist.me

    More by this author

    Afzal

    Curator at theartist.me

    Art As Therapy Infographics 7 Functions of Art That Make Us Empathetic Human Beings

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    Last Updated on April 7, 2020

    4 Ways to Develop a Flexible Mindset

    4 Ways to Develop a Flexible Mindset

    How many opportunities have you missed because of a bad mood or being stuck in feelings of frustration?

    I know I’ve certainly missed a lot. In fact, I can recall an exact time when I missed a great deal of opportunity. I was at a party filled with highly influential people. However, my girlfriend and I had just gotten into an argument because of my irrational expectations of how she would behave, and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I didn’t have any desire to talk to anyone or be open to interesting conversations. All I could think about was myself and my anger and frustration. I was caught up in this story; I was telling myself that I needed to be angry and I needed to show it. I can only imagine the opportunities I missed because I wasn’t flexible in my thinking.

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    The mindset you need, then, is one of flexibility and not rigidity. You must be able to go with the flow of events without being disappointed by your expectations. This open-minded approach is a necessity if you want to be happy and experience rapid personal growth. These four ways below will tell you how to develop a flexible mindset.

    1. See the feeling for what it is and accept it.

    When you begin to notice yourself feeling frustration and anger, use that as a trigger to pause for a moment. See the feeling and sit with it. Don’t act, but stop and accept that you’re feeling this way. Understand that this feeling is just that ‒ a feeling. It’s not who you are, but merely a passing cloud in a sky full of clouds holding different feelings.

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    2. Know that it’s OK to feel frustration and rigidity.

    It happens to everyone. No one is perfect or immune to anger. It’s OK to feel this way. Give the feeling some space and compassion. It’s impossible to feel thankful and angry at the same time. By giving this feeling ‘some love’, you’re improving your mood and making it easier to come back to happiness. If you think of the feeling as a cloud, imagine opening up the sky and giving it the room to float away.

    3. Notice what’s around you ― and breathe.

    The key is to be in the moment. Too often we’re caught up in life and it whizzes by without us ever realizing it. Sit back, relax, and focus on your breathe for a bit. Feel it go in your nose, down your throat, into your stomach, and back out again. If you imagine your frustration as a thermometer, the more frustrated you are, the more it fills up. You need to give yourself time to allow it to cool off and that level to go down. Then, look around and be thankful for everything you see.

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    4. Realize it’s OK to say, “I don’t know”.

    It’s OK to not know how things should be. It’s also OK to not know how things are now. Not knowing sets you up to be able to freely investigate. Why are things this way? What series of events took place that caused this feeling? What unreasonable expectations did I have that put me in this place? Once you understand, you can fully let go and change your course going forward.

    I hope these four steps help you let go of your rigid mindset and develop the flexibility to be happy and to experience personal growth. This shift in mindset will stop life from giving you lemons to make lemonade and start giving you whatever you desire. Just remember to pause, breathe, embrace, let go, and move on.

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