If you had to lock yourself in a room painted in only one color, what color would you choose? I ‘d choose purple because it’s been my favorite ever since I was a kid. What does my attraction to purple/violet hues reveal about me? According to Colour Therapy Healing, it suggests that I’m drawn to, or in search of, “self-knowledge and spiritual awareness”. That’s sounds about right. I like it! But hold on a second. There’s more. Check this out:
Violet is the highest colour in the visible spectrum. It has a very calming effect on us and is, therefore, very helpful for those people experiencing sleep difficulties or stress. However, it can be contra-indicated for those suffering from depressive disorders.
Did you see that at the end? “Depressive disorders”! Holy crap. Looks like I’ve been unwittingly sabotaging my mental health by sleeping under purple bedsheets. And using purple bath towels! Oh my god, the beast dwells in my linen closet!!
Color therapy, also known as “chromotherapy”, has been around for centuries. The underlying theory is that each color has a distinct energy field, and those fields correspond with the energy centers of the human body, known as “chakras”, and the organs within. The resulting benefits of color therapy are balanced energies, healing, reduced stress levels, and mental and spiritual well being.
Remember when you were in school you had to memorize the letters “ROY G BIV” as a way of learning the colors of the rainbow? It was pretty easy; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. What is color anyway? It’s simply light in different wavelengths. The colors at the “bottom” of the spectrum, beginning with red, have the longest wavelengths, and then become progressively shorter up the line. When I was a child, a relative gave me a prism as a gift once. I was entranced by it, turning it around and around, catching the light and looking at the colors with utter fascination. Good way to keep a 6 year old occupied for hours! Let’s take a little trip down the color spectrum, shall we? And we’ll enjoy some art along the way. All blockquotes are from the Colour Therapy site linked above.
Red is a brazen, provocative, stimulating color with powerful symbolism. Red has been used to signify guilt and sin, like the “Scarlet Letter”, and anger and violence. The devil is often portrayed cloaked in red. “Red” was a code word for Communism during the Cold War. Red is the color of blood, rubies, cardinals, tomatoes, poppies, the planet Mars, and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.
RED relates to the BASE chakra situated at the base of the spine
The organs to which this chakra relates are the kidneys and bladder. The vertebral column, hips and legs are also areas related to this chakra. The endocrine gland to which this colour relates is the adrenal gland. On the psycho-spiritual level, this chakra relates to self awareness. That is to say our awareness of ourselves as human beings and our place on earth. It is the area of survival and relates to our basic human instincts of fight or flight. Red gives us courage and strength. The colour relates to stability and security.
In our culture, red carries a licentious connotation; lustful, debauched, sexy, especially in women’s clothing. A lady in a red dress, for example, attracts a lot of attention and communicates a “come-hither” message. Egon Schiele, no stranger to sexual imagery, used red on his model in this piece, Wally in a Red Blouse The “naughty” signal comes through loud and clear:
Orange is the color of a terrific citrus fruit that is loved by virtually everyone. It’s also the color of less pleasing things like construction site cones, safety jackets, bicycle reflectors, and prison inmate jumpers. Aww, poor orange. It’s bright, eye-catching quality has carved it an unfortunate niche.
But the power of orange in color therapy is positive in many respects. It represents creativity, sociability, joy and enthusiasm. Good paint color for a childrens’ playroom.
ORANGE relates to the SACRAL chakra situated in the lower abdomen. The organs to which this chakra relates are uterus, large bowel, prostate, ovaries and testes. On the psycho-spiritual level, this chakra relates to self respect. That is to say having the ability to give ourselves the freedom to be ourselves and to respect our own boundaries and requirements and, by the same token, having respect for the boundaries of others. Orange is the colour of creativity and we should give ourselves the space to have creative time just for us.
This is Three Nudes in a Landscape, by Max Pechstein. Sunblock anyone?
On to yellow; sunflowers, taxi cabs, lemons, squash, bananas, pineapple (yum!). A great food color. Yellow has its share of negative associations, like cowardice, “yellow journalism”, and yellow fever, Most tragic for yellow is its rampant use in some of the ugliest signage known to man – yield traffic signs, “baby-on-board” signs, and Post-it notes. Don’t forget Post-it notes.
YELLOW relates to the SOLAR PLEXUS chakra, situated below the ribs. The organs to which this chakra relates are the liver, spleen, stomach and small intestine. The endocrine gland is the pancreas. On the psycho-spiritual level, yellow relates to self worth. How we feel about ourselves and how we feel others perceive us. This is the area of the personality, the ego and the intellect and of self confidence.
An artist friend of mine once told me he that “detests” the color yellow. When I asked him why, he went nuts and said, “I just fucking HATE IT!!”. Gee, chill dude. Needless to say, he was not a fan of promiscuous yellow-user Vincent Van Gogh. So to avoid offending my friend, I’ll skip Van Gogh and replace him with a different artist. Check out the yellow background in this Georges Seurat painting, Seated Woman:
Green gets a bad rap. It’s identified with negative personality traits like envy and naivete. It’s the color of American money, plants, flora, St. Patrick’s Day, chlorophyl, algae, and emeralds. Green is also a popular color in the flags of many African countries.
Green has the distinction of sitting in the exact middle of the color spectrum. Because of this location, green has the most effective balancing quality. Color therapists will often conclude a session with green to achieve final “centering” on the subject.
GREEN relates to the HEART chakra. Associated organs to this chakra are the heart and breasts. The gland is the thymus gland. This chakra relates to love / self love. that is to say the ability to give and take unconditionally. When balanced we are able to give this love and also to love and nurture ourselves, warts and all.
Green has become the one-word title for the global sustainability and eco-awareness movement. To encourage earth-friendly practices we say “Go Green!”. Although I can’t wear it well, as it looks terrible against my skin, I still like green a lot. Clearly, Dante Gabriel Rossetti did too. He went green crazy in this painting, Daydream:
Blue is the most popularly given “favorite color”. Everyone loves blue. It’s comfortable, familiar, versatile, calming. Yay for blue! Blue jays, blueberries, sky, water, sapphires, denim, and, here in the United States, blue is the color of democratic, left-leaning “blue states”. Our NY Giants football team wears blue uniforms, and are affectionately nicknamed “Big Blue”. But it’s not all good for blue. “The blues” describes a very down, sad mood, and even sadder music.
BLUE relates to the Throat Chakra. Associated organs to this chakra are the throat, lungs and the endocrine gland is the thyroid gland. The upper digestive tract can be affected by imbalance in this area. Blue relates to self expression. Speech, communication, the ability to communicate our needs and requirements. Spirit of truth and purpose.
Selecting an artist work to demonstrate blue was a no-brainer. Who better to give us some blue than the “Blue Period” man himself, Pablo Picasso. Here is the famous Old Guitarist, an iconic early Picasso work and one of my personal favorites:
Things get tricky here in the blue/indigo/violet section. What is “indigo” exactly? Well, it’s darker than the average blue, and its very short wavelength makes it hard to discern in the spectrum. Many people look at indigo and call it “purple”, and others consider violet a shade of “purple”, which it is. Purple is really blue mixed with red. Now I’ve gone and confused everyone. Oh who cares? They’re all beautiful colors. And keep in mind that no such color as “purple” exists in the spectrum. It’s either indigo or violet.
I shouldn’t be mocking the inscrutable and enigmatic pigment known as indigo. According to color theory, it deals with some pretty deep stuff. Time to get in touch with our “third eye”.
INDIGO relates to the BROW chakra or third eye which is in the centre of the forehead The related organs to this chakra are the eyes, lower head and sinuses and the endocrine gland is the pituitary gland. Indigo relates to self responsibility, that is to say, being responsible for one’s own life; responsibility to oneself to follow the soul’s path and needs and trusting one’s own intuition. The ability to see things from a ‘higher’ viewpoint rather than purely for satisfaction of the ego or one’s material comfort. Intuitive messages are unique to you and are for your own personal growth and differ from the gut feelings.
From the French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, this is The Golden Cell. It’s the closest I could find for indigo. A stunning color:
We have come full circle, right back to where we started with my beloved violet. Yes, I do have pots of African Violets on my windowsill and use purple file folders. An excellent color for meditation, violet is used in Chinese art to symbolize harmony.
VIOLET/PURPLE relates to the CROWN chakra which is at the top of the head. The related organ to this chakra is the brain and the endocrine gland is the pineal gland. Violet relates to self knowledge/ spiritual awareness. It is the union with your higher self, with spirituality, and your higher consciousness.
This Gauguin painting was appealing to me because the violet is incredibly vivid when contrasted with the yellow. A visual feast for the eyes, this is Woman with a Mango:
Color therapists employ various methods. Colored silks/fabrics, light filters, and solarized waters are just a few. In our day and age, where we seek healing and harmony and a relief from stress, alternative, holistic, non-invasive therapies like color therapy are worth exploring. Why not? Color is imbued with energies and vibrations. And don’t forget the most important thing: rainbows appear after the rain, when the sun comes out . . .