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Powerful images” which reinforce adolescents' identity development

“The image is saying about me that I feel alone and am always sad.” The profound and open response of a pupil in the context of the youth study “Starke Bilder” (“Powerful Images”), carried out with the award-winning exhibition project “Klang meines Körpers” (“Sound of my Body”). The study showed that the 76 boys and girls questioned were directly and immediately moved by the creative language of the images and the open and emotional “outings” on the panels. They recognised themselves in the creative works of members of their peer group. What the adolescents affected had managed to accomplish was continued in the encounter between other adolescents and their works: in developing the exhibition, those affected had found an intelligent way of dealing with their powerful feelings of loneliness, fear or insecurity, as well as their longing for love and freedom, thereby developing a creative way out of their eating disorder. Their images spoke from deep within themselves. In this way, they also speak to the core being of many other adolescents, even if they are not (or not yet) looking for a way out of their eating disorder or a different illness. Engaging with the “Powerful Images” made it possible for the 14 to 16 year-olds to find a way into their own inner emotional landscapes and, furthermore, to also write about this, at least in the form of the anonymous questionnaire.  

In their answers to the questions, the pupils frequently indicated that themes such as loneliness or the fear of not fitting in are familiar to them. When asked about their own hopes for their lives and their own longings, there was a noticeably large number who longed for a sense of belonging, attachment, love, health and happiness. Friendship, family and loyalty were also important cornerstones for the adolescents in the study. Themes such as the desire for wealth, career, beauty or perfection – which we usually expect adolescents to mention – were, on the other hand, mentioned very infrequently. 
In summary, the adolescents questioned saw their own hunger for life reflected in the expressive collages, and subsequently they were in a position to articulate clearly what they needed in order to satisfy their hunger: stability, trust, a sense of belonging, love, freedom and creativity.