The tough world is drying out people’s minds—teenagers blindly study, those in their twenties and thirties struggle with their precarious future, people in their forties and fifties with their jobs and children, and the elderly worry about their lives after retirement. In other words, modern society is seemingly wealthier than the past, but in fact is more stressful and colorless. Surprisingly, color itself could be the way to settle down such an explosive volcano of daily turmoil and remove the greyness.
By looking at the recent best-seller list, one can easily guess what is lacking in people’s lives. For example, the high sale of liberal arts books suggests that people are deficient in the humanities, while that of psychology books implies that people are mentally unstable. Then, how would one interpret a coloring book ranking number-one sale? Have people suddenly grown interested in coloring? Well, the coloring book Secret Garden, by the Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford, reveals way more secrets about the society.
Similar to other coloring books, this book neither has letters nor a plot. It is simply filled with black line drawings waiting to be colored. Yet, it is unique in that it has attracted both children and adults, all of whom have named this book an anti-stress book. “If one is asked to draw something on a blank sheet of paper, this would also be stressful,” said Paik Nak-Sun, the head instructor of Suenaga Method Color Psychology Institute. “Yet, coloring books are different from such plain drawings because the drawings are already there, and the reader only needs to color them up with their favorite colors.”
Color therapy itself has existed for a longer time. In the psychoanalytic approach, extending even until today, the therapist would interpret the client’s state of mind through symbolic self-expression. A majority of the students of Danwon High School, who were the closest victims of last year’s Sewol Ferry incident, children who were assaulted in kindergartens, and university students who were sexually abused by their professors, expressed a great sense of loss, demotivation, and mental shock through this therapy.
▲ A paint brush can mean more than a mere coloring utensil. Provided by www.desktopwallpapers4.me
Color— the Subconscious Language
Color therapy is not only for those suffering from such general mental illnesses coming from the aftermath of disasters and physical or verbal violation. Color, in fact, is needed for everyone who holds their own stories of the past. “Color is a subconscious language,” replied Paik. “The colors that one likes and dislikes are surprisingly all linked to one’s unconscious memory of that specific color deep down in one’s heart.” Color therapy uses colors as the medium in pulling out such hidden feelings, helping the client realize the origin of their stress or anger, and thus making them understand their ego.
Scientifically speaking, color links the right brain with the left. While the right brain deals with emotions, the left governs a human’s thoughts and facts. “Simply being sad is different to asking oneself, ‘How and why am I sad?’ which is of true emotion,” answered Paik. “By talking about such inner sadness through color, the two brains get balanced.” In the somewhat logical and rational world that asks for the what rather than the fundamental why, color penetrates deep into the fundamentals and heals the injured hearts.
Conventional psychological treatments, such as drug therapy, are temporary and ineffective overall, as they often accompany serious side-effects, such as addiction. Color therapy, on the other hand, is a more natural, friendly, and less burdensome way to soothe one’s complex feelings. By inducing unexpected emotions through colors and coming to truly understand one’s inner side, one can naturally merge better into the society and form more amicable relationships with others.
▲ Paik Nak-Sun stresses the importance of color in individual’s lives. Photographed by Lee Ji Hoon.
To Become a Universal Language
The fact that color therapy is client-oriented can be an advantage because it tries to listen to the individual’s agonies associated with colors, but it can also be a drawback to this remedy. According to Paik, people often wrongly approach color by believing that colors hold the answer to one’s characteristics. “I frequently receive questions like, ‘What kind of a person am I if I like this color but hate that one?’ but this is misunderstanding the essence of color,” confessed the color psychologist.
Considering human’s nature that pursues immediate results and straightforward answers, this kind of wrong approach is difficult to eradicate. In this world that values perfection, swiftness, and one-way answers, color can be a cure; at the same time, however, it can raise skepticism. In particular, this is more evident in adults than in younger generations. Whereas children are flexible, easily accepting their troubles, and adapting to changes, their elders are somewhat more likely to withhold their inner feelings, and thus resist to changes.
Paik ascertains that the future of this remedy is truly colorful. It, indeed, has a bright future since modern people who are growing less expressive by overwhelming smartphones and technology will turn to color for a means of communication. Simultaneously, though, there still remain some tasks for this treatment to win the faith of all people and to become a mainstream psychological treatment. “This is why we actively open ‘color schools’ for diverse people such as North Korean defectors, so that people can come to know color therapy in their daily lives,” added Paik.
In a global perspective, there exists the World Children’s Crayon Foundation (W.C.C.F), which is a non-governmental organization that donates crayons to children in peril. Not only that, but it also opens workshops, seminars, and exhibitions of these worldwide beneficiaries. This shows that color is, without doubt, a universal symbol and message beyond language and human history. Any Korea University (KU) students can play an essential role in making the world a more colorful place.