What is CJEA?
CJEA stands for Creative Journal Expressive Arts. It is a method of creative expression developed by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., A.T.R., R.E.A.T., in the 1970’s when she was going through some difficult health issues. It utilizes the power and unique characteristics of both sides of the brain. This is done by expressing yourself through movement, drawing, sketching, sculpting or other physical methods and writing with your dominant and non-dominant hand.
But CJEA means much more to me than its rather dry definition. Let me attempt to describe:
I’ve never considered myself an artist. A musician? Absolutely. A writer? Surely. But an artist? Not unless you think stick figures will someday occupy the Louvre in Paris. But there I stood next to my kitchen table, staring in admiration at a drawing I had just made. And dare I say it? It was an incredibly artistic drawing of my shoe!
When I began a year-long certification process with Lucia Capacchione Ph.D., A.T.R., R.E.A.T., I had been comforted by the assuring words of the program’s facilitator, Dr. Marsha Nelson, that being an “artist” wasn’t a requirement to benefit from “Creative Journal Expressive Arts” (CJEA) techniques. Even though Dr. Capacchione is a professionally trained artist, the goal of her CJEA method isn’t to produce gallery-ready, aesthetically pleasing art. In fact, it is only the process of creation that really counts, not the end result.
So, when I was given the assignment to draw a common household object, I trusted in the process (especially the part about not being required to share my drawing) and drew what I judged to be a horrible representation of an old gym shoe. The drawing seemed awkward, asymmetrical, and overly concerned with details, while paradoxically being unable to accurately show those details. Hey, at least I tried.
“Now, what’s the next assignment?” I asked myself while thumbing through Dr. Nelson’s paper.
The next assignment was to draw the same object with my non-dominant hand! Still thinking that the point of the assignment was to produce something “artistic,” I laughed out loud.
“If you take a guy who has trouble drawing stick figures with his writing hand, and have him attempt to draw a complex-looking object, well . . my drawing was prima facie evidence of the ridiculousness of it. But now, you want that guy to try it with his other hand?” I thought to myself. “This is crazy!”
Taking the pencil in my left hand I looked at the shoe, heaved a big sigh, and started to draw what I saw. That’s when the “power of the other hand” and all that Dr. Capacchione had been saying about the brain’s right and left sides flooded my mind. Somehow, by simply putting the pencil in my left hand, my mind saw details and textures in the shoe and the shoelaces that I had not noticed before. Not only that, I was able to reproduce them on paper!
When I finished, I wasn’t just looking at a sketch of a shoe. I was looking at a depiction of a comfortable, well-worn, beloved article of clothing. I was able to capture subtle nuances that brought out the shoe’s “character.” I was flabbergasted by what had come out of my brain onto that piece of paper. I left the drawing there for days, unable to take my eyes off it every time I passed by.
And that’s how my journey into the healing world of Creative Journal Expressive Arts began. From then on, rarely did my “artwork” consist of drawing objects. Often it was simply a release for whatever was building up inside. On those days, my “drawing” consisted of scribbles and shapes. When I combined my “artwork” with CJEA’s unique, right-hand/left-hand journaling method, I soon learned how to use the power of my other hand to “unlock” hidden strengths, access hard-to-retrieve mental content, flesh out repressed emotions, and essentially connect my every-day left-brained existence to a more healing, holistic, judgement-free version of myself.
My ability to identify the emotions I’m feeling and to process them more effectively has made a world of difference. For instance, I am an introvert who for years has suffered feelings of “dread” before speaking in front of large audiences. By fine-tuning my ability to identify and process my emotions, I’ve come to understand that what I was feeling was excitement and a little nervousness, not dread. Now, when my stomach tightens and my mouth goes dry, I know that I’m excited and nervous, but I’m able to enjoy what I’m doing.
The results of my journey into CJEA methods have been far-reaching. I’ve been able to envision and fulfill an exciting version of my future, heal relationships, boost my morale during difficult times, launch a more fulfilling career, handle stressful situations more effectively, and process serious abuse and bullying from my past. I even used it to completely overcome a serious back problem that had put me on the government’s list of the “permanently disabled.” I am now disability free!
For the last ten years, my wife and I have worked together to teach these concepts to others. It has been a rewarding experience to watch others overcome serious challenges and move forward in life! — Chuck Chamberlain