emotional intelligence

How art, pets and meditation impact emotional intelligence

Thejamjar in Dubai’s Al Serkal Avenue is best-known as a haven for aspiring artists, but when it comes to creative expression, there is always a lot more going on emotionally.

Staff at the center decided to explore that link this summer by organizing the first day-long event devoted to emotional intelligence. Clearly they were on to something: 250 people showed up, and they now plan to hold the event twice a year. 

“We usually have classes focusing on technique, learning skills and developing creativity,” says Camille Despalle de Béarn, head of projects and programming. “Through these classes, we discovered a demand to explore the conceptualization, the ideation stage, which is why we decided to offer the emotional intelligence day, to bring awareness.The idea would be that well-adjusted adults lead to a well-adjusted future generation.”

One of the sessions offered pet therapy through the Red Paw Foundation, which brought in cats and dogs that were up for adoption. A study conducted at Washington State University and published this summer found that spending 20 minutes with a pet reduced cortisol, the major stress hormone.

Nishka Srivastava, an 11-year-old from Singapore, spent some of her time at the session drawing cats. 

“I learned how to sketch and had to look closer at the cats I chose to draw. I saw things I didn’t see before,” she said.

An Intuitive Creativity workshop used Theta Healing, which involves group meditation followed by a creative painting session. The combination is used in workshops conducted on the first Thursday of every month at thejamjar, and seems to promote a greater ease of expression, says Despalle de Béarn.

“Very often we see students coming out of it saying that they came in not knowing how to draw,” she says. “But when they started drawing on the canvas, they didn’t care what it looked like and they honestly can’t believe that it would look so good.” 

Katherine Bell, one of the participants, found the atmosphere “very welcoming, very calm, kind.”

Professional therapists Mariam El Halawani and Natalia Gomez-Carlier of the Atic Psychological and Counselling Center addressed psychotherapy through art. 

Creativity can be hampered through emotional blind spots, which most people have and which prevent us from taking in all of reality, they said. 

Attendees were invited to paint a symbol that expressed an area of their life they wanted to focus on.

“We are doing some abstraction,” explained Gomez-Carlier, “because we do not want the group to get attached to the figurative or engaged in the judgement of what’s right and what’s wrong. So abstraction does allow us to bring our personal voice more to the forefront.”

Members were asked to analyze each other’s canvases and write down any blind spots, which the creators of the artwork could then choose to work with. 

“Creativity is a huge aspect in our ability to have emotional intelligence, the divergent thinking, not being attached to having one answer,” said El Halawani. “The idea is to meander through thoughts and not have to find an answer immediately.” 

  • Intuitive Creativity workshops are held at thejamjar on the first Thursday of every month. 

Featured image by Dimple John

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