AIMS & ORIGINS
PAINT YOUR PAIN - WRITE YOURSELF RIGHT - MAKE SENSE OF THE SENTENCE/SENSELESS to GET PAST YOUR PAST
- To provide X-PAIN-T Bilateral Expressive Painting as an innovative non-verbal hands-on outlet for emotion release and regulation as well as a self-awareness process suitable for anyone who wants a creative alternative when dealing for improved mental well-being without recourse to medication.
- To establish X-PAIN-T – Bilateral Expressive Painting as an effective non-verbal outlet for emotion release and regulation in preventing and rehabilitating violent-, and anti-social behaviour among incarcerated perpetrators; improved mental health issues among victims of violence; stress release and self-management tool for children and adolescents in schools on an on-going basis
- To break the cycle of recidivism, prevent re-offending and reduce the prevalence of substance abuse (alcohol/drugs and painkillers) with the ultimate aim of reducing the rates of victims, crime and violence in the community through the X-PAIN-T Emotion Regulation and Self-awareness Process for Resilience and Self-Management in dealing with mental health issues.
It was in 1997 that Tina read the book 'Ditt kreativa inre' – Ingelise Elverdam, 1993 ('Your Inner Creative'). This book came to have a great impact and and that got her onto the path of X-PAIN-T, a path that in 2003 would take her down the road to prisons in South Africa where the first X-PAIN-T (XAP) painting session was conducted in 2004. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Archbhishop Desmond M. Tutu became Patron of X-PAIN-T later that year.
It was in particular the Danish neuroscientist Dr. Kjeld Fredens and his conclusions and findings came to struck a deep chord with her: ”Mind and body can be in balance if the individual's creativity is stimulated and strenghtened. The meaning of creativity is not only to create something new but simultaneously to re-create oneself.”
He examined the imbalance between the intellect and the creative functions in connection with illness. It is hence a matter of existence and development and there is a link between illness and suppression of creativity.
The three defining factors for Tina to begin developing X-PAIN-T in 1998 (originally XAP), an arts-based approach for improved mental and emotional well-being, were as follows:
- The Danish neuroscientist Dr. Kjeld Fredens and the book 'Ditt kreativa inre' – 1993 ('Your Inner Creative')
- The comment by a friend: ”How many times do you Tina have to bang your head against a brick wall before you understand not to participate in those courses? You just have to create your own method, your alternative to art therapy!”
- Tina's idea of bilateral painting: i.e. to use both the left and the right hands to better access the feelings with the non-dominant hand. This concept was partly based on her intuition but also on some basic knowledge of the brain and its two hemispheres: the left hemisphere (controlling the right side of the body) is predominantly involved with the intellect, language and analytical thinking, whereas the right hemisphere (controlling the left side of the body) and is mainly involved in creativity and emotions.
BENEFITS OF X-PAIN-T®
Evidence has shown that different levels of the following benefits and results can be achieved during 1-12 sessions of 2,5-4 hours/session during 1-4 weeks:
- Improved emotional well-being (instantly after one session: “I feel lighter, better than before”)
- Improved sleep and cessation of using sleeping pills
- Cessation of nightmares, nocturnal sweating and screaming
- Decrease in challenging emotions: stress, anger, resentment, fear, guilt, shame, worry, loneliness
- Improved emotion regulation
- Improved impulse control, decrease in violent behavior and acting out
- Reduced/eliminated symptoms of depression, anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Cessation of seizures (symptoms of epilepsy)
- Cessation of anti-depressant medications
- Reduced/eliminated symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS)
- Cessation of self-harm
- Improved memory
- Improved cognitive skills/functioning
- Improved communication
- Improved interpersonal skills
- Improved self-awareness, self-confidence, self-management
- Improved emotional and social competence
- Improved awareness to identify and verbalize emotions
- Increased empathy and compassion
- Improved conflict resolution skills
- Improved energy level
- Healthy weight gain after cessation of binge eating disorder
- Cessation/quitting smoking
- Suicide prevention
- Emotional support for HIV sufferers
- Improved parental skills (No2theBelt – Yes2Boundaries), learning non-abusive disciplinary techniques
- Gang intervention, terminate gang membership (in prison)
- Improved/re-established family relationsships
- Learned new skills of emotion release and regulation with X-PAIN-T® tools and workbook for individual work
- Improved relations between inmates and prison staff
- Greater inmate compliance
- Safer work environment for prison staff
THE FOUR PRINCIPLES
"The target of my anger"
1. PAINT YOUR PAIN ..
...and ANGER, STRESS, RESENTMENT, REJECTION, HURT, LONELINESS, GUILT, SORROW, RAGE, AGGRESSION, JEALOUSY etc.
When there are no words, paint!
Nightmares and flashbacks of trauma appear to most people as unpleasant visual content and can be emotionally intense causing normally fear.
According to Dr. Robert Scaer the definition of trauma may be any situation where one is faced with a threat to one’s well-being, one’s survival. And that can be like losing a job, and a situation that is combined with a state of helplessness where one has no control over that event.
“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” ― Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
Social rejection, to be excluded, or rejected by peers/others causes pain and also anger that over time can turn into rage, resentment, aggression and acts of violence and revenge. Perpetrators of school massacres often have been refered to as excluded, lone wolf or bullied.
The pain of rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain. As humans we are social beings with a fundamental need to belong, to feel understood and to be seen.
Conscious access to traumatic memories and their meanings in a verbal context may be difficult or impossible based on the memory mechanisms that operate in traumatic stress. Traumatic memories tend to be stored in an emotional or somatic context, and the victim simply may not be able to express or experience them in words. Alexithymia, the inability to adequately express emotions or body sensations in words, undoubtedly relates to this problem. (Scaer, p. 161)
Alexithymia is a common occurence among prisoners, who have numbed their feelings as a self-defence mechanism to avoid feeling anything in the first place.
2. WRITE YOURSELF RIGHT
Put pen to paper and write yourself right!
There are scientific links between handwriting your notes and memory. Children who drew the letters activated three distinct areas of the brain according to research, psychology prof. Karin James of Indiana University.
There are vast benefits from keeping a journal (visual journal) thanks to a unique relationship between the hand and brain, sparked by the composition of thoughts and ideas. (James Pennebaker study)
3. MAKE SENSE OF YOUR SENTENCE (AND THE SENSELESS)
In prison with a purpose: never to return and to grow as a person. The only way OUT is to go within.
”X-PAIN-T® has made me aware of how much I have suppressed.” - prisoner (33)
We begin to make progress when we are able to understand and make sense of the ”senseless” and get in touch with our emotions and the reasons for those emotions.
Dr. Eugene T. Gendlin's theory. The supposition of this theory is that people begin to make progress, sick people get better and healthy people become healthier, when they get in touch with their emotions and the reasons for those emotions.
X-PAIN-T®has proven to facilitate the integration of experiences, both verbal and non-verbal processes and to decrease the impact of a negative memory by releasing the associated emotions, feelings and thoughts.
4. GET PAST YOUR PAST = Resilience & Empowerment
To use the stumbling blocks of the past as building stones for the future.
Resilience, to bounce back from adversity. Post traumatic growth.
Resilience – to bounce back from adversity.
Trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk states that emotion regulation is the critical issue in managing the effects of trauma and neglect. (van der Kolk, p. 209) and empowerment is the ultimate goal of all trauma therapy – it removes the state of helplessness that is essential to the trauma experience according to Dr. Scaer in his book 'The Body Bears the Burden'. (Scaer, p. 180)
The benefits and transformations with the X-PAIN-T® Self-Awareness process suggest that it also provides interoception as explained by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score:
The neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux and his colleagues have shown that the only way we can consciously access the emotional brain (where most imprints of trauma reside) is through self-awareness by activating the part of the brain that notices what is going on inside us and thus allows us to feel what we are feeling. The technical term for this is ”interoception” - Latin for ”looking inside”. (van der Kolk, p. 208)
What does X-PAIN-T have in common with the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi, to repair a broken bowl with gold?
What the gold does to the bowl, X-PAIN-T does to a person.
It fixes the broken!
X-PAIN-T®is a safe 'hands-on' outlet for emotion regulation and an individual process that helps people help themselves and that may be started without the recourse to words, which is helpful to persons who have difficulty in expressing themselves verbally due to language- and cultural differences as well as cognitive challenges.
This non-verbal approach feels to many less threatening and less intrusive than face-to-face counseling where much can be avoided by simply refusing to talk about it/or by not having words to explain the feelings and/or events that have been suppressed and cannot be remembered by the conscious mind.
With its non-verbal emphasis X-PAIN-T®allows considerable and individual variation on the level of verbal (and written) input during sessions. It is a process in self-exploration that requires determination, courage and individual work, of which writing is an essential part. Clients are encouraged to continue independently applying the X-PAIN-T® method through journaling and painting using a X-PAIN-T® workbook and acrylic paint.
The paintings can also been seen as a bridge between the internal and external reality. The finished product is a three-dimensional record and it can be looked at, shared and discussed about with others as well as disposed of which can be of great symbolic significance within the process.
X-PAIN-T® does not rely on previous artistic skills, nor does it involve any judgment of quality. The painting serves as a communication tool and a mirror. Acrylic paint and plastic cards are used, no paint brushes.
The methodology of X-PAIN is based on focusing on the underlying causes of symptoms/problems i.e. suppressed trauma and suppressed negative emotions (especially ‘anger’) which lay ground for conflict and offending behavior and that cause dysfunctions in some area of life. Since ‘anger’ – and suppressed anger – is the main culprit of violence and destructive/criminal behaviour, it is pivotal to have a constructive and safe outlet to release anger and other challenging emotions. Anger is only one letter short of d-anger.
The success of X-PAIN-T® Bilateral Expressive Painting is based on a twofold approach with two topics and tasks (paintings) per session:
1) X-PAIN-T® helps release - the first ”the negative” painting with the non-dominant hand
a) Challenging/destructive feelings – especially anger, shame, guilt, grief – of the past that have been suppressed but that still continue to cause discomfort.
b) Un-resolved trauma that has been suppressed and stored in the subconscious mind in the past but continues to cause dysfunctions/disorders/discomfort in the present.
2) X-PAIN-T® helps build self-confidence/empowerment - the second ”the corrective/the positive” painting with the dominant hand).
X-PAIN-T® operates on the notion that:
- prisoners of today were yesterday's child victims of domestic violence, abuse (harsh physical discipline by caretaker/sexual-/emotional abuse e.g. humiliation) and neglect (physical/emotional), a shool bullying.
The trauma caused by childhood neglect, sexual or domestic abuse and war wreaks havoc in our bodies, says Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score (retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429941-200-the-lifelong-cost-of-burying-our-traumatic-experiences/ 20.07.18)
- considers violence as suppressed/repressed anger turned into rage and aggression over time which originates in adverse childhood experiences (physical/sexual/mental/emotional abuse, and/or physical and/or emotional neglect).
- acknowledging and healing trauma is essential for to a successful post-prison life/ post-release into the community, to live law-abiding, productive lives when they are released. In order to enable successful re-entry into society it is pivotal for prisoners to get tools to build bridges between prison and their community, i.e. with focus on resilience.
- Life is a subjective experience and we are all different. There are no two people with the same DNA or fingerprints. That's why we respond differently to a seemingly similar situation. The factors that contribute to how we respond to the ups and downs of life are a combination of personality, temperament, parental attachment model, adverse childhood experiences of abuse and neglect as well as the level of internalized anger that we have repressed/suppressed and that has become our coping history.
- Corporal punishment fosters anti-social and criminal behavior.
”I knew already at 20 that the physical punishment I got as a child had made me angry.” - inmate 42 – South Africa
”When I was ten, my dad took me to bars drinking Whiskey and smoking weed. I was terribly brutalized as a kid, wipped with extension cords, punched, broken jaw and other body parts). I decided as a 10-yo kid : once I'm big enough I'm going to kill my dad. I have tried three times.” prisoner (35) - repeat offender of domestic violence – the USA
Creative experiences have the potential to integrate information from both hemispheres of the brain. Based on evidence, the results suggest that X-PAIN-T® has an integrative function.
Expressive therapy provides a way to conduct therapy in a language that the right hemisphere speaks and assists in connecting to the limbic system which is responsible for the experience and expression of emotion. (Hinz, 2009; Lusebrink, 2004; Malchiodi, 2003)
The X-PAIN-T® bilateral process appears to have the potential to douse the emotional fires set off by the amygdala, the fight/flight/freeze response.
Art is a tool that can be used when emotions are experienced as overwhelming or when they are projected onto the environment in the form of aggressive or destructive acting out.
For clients suffering from bulimia nervosa, feelings and emotions that previously would have been purged through self-induced vomiting can be ”purged on paper”.
“I also after years of slowly losing weight have actually put on weight. I have not binged/purged since your class! I am forever grateful! I have been reborn in a way. I feel alive, not dead any longer. Thanks to you I feel human again and am part of the human race after self-loathing and self-torture.” - prisoner L (41) – the USA
The same goes with self-harm.
”If only I had learned this technique earlier I wouldn't have had to keep cutting myself.
X-PAINT® gives me the same relief.” - woman, (35) – victim of human trafficking
”The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle
Dr. Ralph Welsh, who has given psychological exams to over 2,000 delinquents has said: "...it is now apparent that the recidivist male delinquent who was never struck with a belt, board, extension cord, fist, or an equivalent is virtually nonexistent. Even after 10 years, the full impact of this discovery is still difficult to comprehend."
"As the severity of corporal punishment in the delinquent's developmental history increases, so does the probability that he will engage in a violent act."
"I have yet to see a repeat male delinquent that wasn't raised on a belt, board, cord, or fist."
Alvin Poussaint, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School: "Researchers have also found that children who are spanked show higher rates of aggression and delinquency in childhood than those who were not spanked. As adults, they are more prone to depression, feelings of alienation, use of violence toward a spouse, and lower economic and professional achievement. None of this is what we want for our children.
Dr. Ralph Welsch proposed ”The belt theory of juvenile delinquency”. The more a child is beaten in early youth, the more likely he or she is to become a lawbreaker.
The single most important correlate of juvenile delinquency is severe corporal punishment.
Retrieved 23.09.19 at http://web.ncf.ca/an588/disc_crime.txt
Here is the actual data from Adah Maurer, Ph.D. and James S. Wallerstein study.
The columns show the amount of physical punishment the people reported that they had received as children (ages one to ten).
Degree of Physical Punishment
The Aftermath of Physical Punishment (during early childhood, ages one to ten)
|Violent inmates at San Quentin||0||0||0||0||100%|
|High School drop-outs||0||7%||23%||69%||0|
Extreme: implies need for medical attention
Severe: means use of an instrument: strap, paddle, cane
Moderate: includes open hands, slaps and ”spanks”
[The Influence of Corporal Punishment on Crime by Adah Maurer,
Ph.D. And James S. Wallerstein (1987)]
The implications of these results are clear. The more someone
is successful in life (not being a juvenile delinquent, not
dropping out of school etc.) the less likely they were to have
been physically punished as a child or the less severe the
To put it the other way around:
The more physical punishment, the more likely the person later became
a criminal, high-school dropout etc.
Numerous studies have pointed to negative consequences for all children who are spanked, regardless of parents' race, ethnicity, income-level or education level. Kids who are physically punished face higher risk of anxiety and depression, higher rates of aggression toward others and a more distant relationship with their parent, Elizabeth Gershoff, professor and researcher at the University of Texas, said.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau
CASE EXAMPLES - SUCCESS STORIES
TRANSFORMATION: 'FROM GANG MEMBER TO EX GANG MEMBER'
PRISONER A – SOUTH AFRICA – 2007-2009
X-PAIN-T® Program during 3 weeks in April 2007
Inmate A – (24) had a strong gang affiliation and participated successfully in a three-week sexual offender group. When he started the X-PAIN-T®program he was restless and full of hatred and wanted to take out his revenge on the person who had killed A's twin brother but who never was convicted for the homicide. The perpetrator was at the time in prison charged with another offence and therefore - once released from prison - A contemplated to kill the perpetrator. Changes happened in A already within a week into the three-week program in April 2007. He became calmer which also had been noticed by fellow inmates and correctional officers.
Five months later (09/2007) he had in fact left the gang and was no longer a gang member, much to the admiraton of the prison staff. Inmate A had informed the Case Management Committee in 2009 that it is thanks to the X-PAIN-T® Expressive Painting Program that he had been rehabilitated.
1st Follow-up Visit - December 2007
Eight months after the end of the program there was a very visible physical change in his appearance. His body posture was straightened which reflected the confidence, maturity and serenity that he had gained during his process which he had been able to continue on his own. The news about A included the fact that he was now working in the kitchen together with his late brother's un-sentenced killer. A had maintained his peace of mind and had been able to forgive the offender. However, A felt it imperative to talk about his late brother with the person responsible for the death and the reasons for the killing.
Furthermore A had decided to leave the gang he was a member of three months earlier, in September 2007 – i.e. while still incarcerated – which is considered impossible. A had informed the leader that he is prepared to take the consequences but that he does not want to be affiliated with gangs any more. The gang leader had accepted his request without imposing any punishment, which is normally un-heard of.
Inmate A further stated that he now wanted to focus on his family and prepare for his release and said he was feeling great and had been able to release all the hatred and frustration of the past.
2nd Follow-up Visit - December 2008
One year after the 1st follow-up visit, B had by now been working together with the un-sentenced killer in the prison kitchen for 1,5 years without any incidents. A permanent and remarkable change had hence occurred considering the fact that A was an individual with a strong gang affiliation throughout his life incl. “stabbing all his life”. He had left the gang in September 2007 and he had now found peace with the brutal death of his twin brother and had no longer any need of dealing with that issue. Now he was committed to writing poetry about the day to day life in prison. He is experiencing many positive changes in the interaction with members of staff as well as his fellow inmates thanks to his positive behavioral change and improved inter-personal skills. Now everyone can see how calm and happy he is, no longer the angry and violent man who used to stab his way to gain higher rankings within the gang. Especially prison staff expressed their admiration as to how inmate A had been able to make such a remarkable and positive change while still incarcerated. His release date is believed to have been 2010/2011.
TRANSFORMATION: 'FROM FEAR, PAIN AND PILLS TO A NEW LIFE'
PRISONER B – THE USA
X-PAIN-T® Program during 4 weeks – Jan-Feb 2011
INMATE B – U.S. – 41 year old prisoner with a 2nd degree murder conviction, released in December 2011. Since no contact had been established prior to the one-month program during January 18 – February 15, 2011, this inmate – according to his own words - had been an extremely timid, anxious and depressed individual with constant nightmares and a long history of medication (anti-depressants and sleep medication). He also suffered from epileptic attacks (2-3 times/week), self-harming behavior and eating disorder, had been loosing weight due to binge eating.
During one session two weeks into the four-week program - when dealing with the topic ‘An Image that Keeps Haunting Me’ the reaction was apart from emotional even physiological and caused vomiting (after the first painting with the non-dominant hand). It was after this session that major changes began to occur, which was reflected in the paintings as well. The merky ”blood-stained” paintings during the first half of the program changed radically in a positive way and turned into colorful and ”clean” paintings during the second half.
He was an individual who had experienced a multitude of positive changes from X-PAIN-T®, which also had been observed by prison staff. During a follow-up meeting four months later, in June 2011, it could be confirmed that the benefits had been maintained, which included: cessation of nightmares and fear of nightmares, cessation of need of sleep medication, self-cutting had stopped, binge eating had stopped and now he had finally gained weight after constantly loosing weight during the past six years. He also did no longer experience any fear related to his release, but was in fact looking forward to it. His epileptic seizures are believed to have completely abated.
Dear Ms. Borg,
I want to apologize to you for my initial impression of you as a person and of your techniques. You are nothing short of “revolutionary”! A miracle and a blessing! Not a “Kooky Finnish Lady” after all!
By opening up to you and your process I have accomplished so much in such an amazingly short period of time. I am a living, breathing testament to you. The results are undeniable. I now smile whereas I kept a constant frown. I now speak whereas I used to remain silent.
Thank you for sharing your passion! I count myself fortunate to have been among the “chosen few” and feel truly “blessed”! I pray that “the powers that are?” takes your methodology seriously and makes it part of the Re-Entry curriculum. So many people could benefit from it as I have if only given the chance. Words cannot describe all that I feel and gained from you, for you have “freed” me of the noose of my past and given me a future! I no longer dread or fear my release into society but look forward to it. Thank yo! May God Bless You In All You Do.
Addendum in June 2011, during follow-up four months after end of one month program:
“I also after years of slowly losing weight have actually put on weight. I have not binged/purged since your class! I am forever grateful! I have been reborn in a way. I feel alive, not dead any longer. Thanks to you I feel human again and am part of the human race after self-loathing and self-torture.”
What are the secrets, how come X-PAIN-T is so effective?
TB: X-PAIN-T is about fixing the root cause instead of providing a symptomatic intervention.
How X-PAIN-T works can be explained through this metaphor:
When the ceiling is leaking: Fix the leak – Don't just bring in more buck(et)$!
Focus is on our raw emotions and feelings and the origin of these, especially suppressed emotional pain of hurt, fear, shame, guilt, grief, loneliness that have turned into anger are really at the core of X-PAIN-T. Anger and expecially the misdirected anger is at the focus of X-PAIN-T
At the very core of the X-PAIN-T® methodology lies the anger and especially the repressed and suppressed anger. Anger is a secondary emotion and ”underneath” that anger lie more vulnerable emotions, the primary emotions, e.g. fear, grief, loneliness.
There is unresolved and suppressed hurt behind rage, aggression, violence and misdirected anger, which originate in childhood. Internet hate speach and road rage are examples of misdirected anger/aggression.
Anger is often a secondary emotion that covers up more vulnerable emotions and feelings. There is unresolved hurt behind anger, rage and violence. As an example. When a prisoner is informed about the death of a family member, it is not unusual that he reacts in an aggressive way because he does not want to show his vulnerable side.
Well, what if we are complicating matters? What if Aristotle was right all the time about art: "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
X-PAIN-T is a proof of how using art as the non-verbal language of emotions and feelings , i.e. the inward significance. And that's why it is an effective tool for achieving emotional, mental and physical well-being. The focus is on the multi-sensory creative process not the end result of the image.
Why have you been focusing your X-PAIN-T® program on prisoners?
TB: Prisons are angry places. Prison is an expensive place of making criminals worse that's why it's pivotal with rehabilitation during incarceration because we don't want that ex prisoners return more violent when they return to the society. Prisons can provide an excellent platform to reach violent, anti-social and self-destructive individuals. It's a golden opportunity that should not be missed, and an excellent setting to reach violent and troubled individuals who otherwise would not seek help.
For every rehabilitated violent offender there will be less victims, less children who have to fear their parents. It has a positive ripple effect. Currently there are around 10.000 children in Finland who have parents incarcerated. Prison is also a way of child protection, when e.g. a formerly violent father rehabilitates and learns non-abusive ways of discipline of his children, a NO2theBelt – Yes-2-BoundariesWithoutBeatings – approach