Sunday, March 21, 2010

Making Peace With Our Bodies

                           For years I have taught body image workshops. Growing up in our culture causes the majority of us to have a distorted view of our body image. We are bombarded by images in the media of beauty that do not reflect our own image in the mirror. Society has set impossible standards that have left most of feeling that we are not acceptable as we are. Air brushed images of women that are super thin face us everyday. We don’t see images of ourselves, we see a body type that is impossible to achieve or maintain.
   Seeing comes before words. A child looks and recognizes before it can speak. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world. Women are looked at. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. Throughout time women have been objectified and looked at in art. The first nudes in Europe portrayed women’s bodies in a way that appealed to male sexual preference. In the art form of the European nude, the painters and spectator-owners were usually male and the persons treated as objects, usually women. This unequal relationship is deeply embedded in our culture. Today this tradition is continued in advertising, journalism, and television. There is still an ‘ideal’  image which usually reflects one body type.
         As women, we are taught that there is a ‘supposed to be’ in bodies. Size and shape are more important than feeling, sensing and intuiting. For women to be powerful, healthy and strong we need to ‘reclaim’ our objectified image.  We need to love the body we live in. Enjoying and accepting our bodies is a fundamental aspect of accepting ourselves as women. We need to listen to our bodies to hear what shape and size they need to be. We need to reconnect with the wisdom of our bodies.

What is your relationship with your body?                 
Body image is     ~ a perception we have about ourselves
                       ~ how you feel about your body
                       ~ the way you move, experience and sense your body
                       ~ messages you received about your body
                       ~ how your body is seen and experienced by others
Your body is    ~ feelings, sensations, memories

The body uses its skin and deeper fascia and flesh to record all that goes on around it.  Like the Rosetta stone, for those who know how to read it, the body is a living record of life given, life taken, life hoped for, life healed.  It is valued for its articulate ability to register immediate reaction, to feel profoundly, to sense ahead... The body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers.  Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves.  Like a sponge filled with water, anywhere the flesh is pressed, wrung, even touched lightly, a memory may flow out in a stream... To be thought ugly or unacceptable because one’s beauty is outside the current fashion is deeply wounding to the natural joy that belongs to the wild nature.
         - Clarissa Pinkola Est’es
         Your relationship with your body is the sum total of the visual, emotional, physical, and historical aspects.  Women become dissatisfied with their body image when they feel negatively towards their body or parts of their body.  Women with eating disorders may hate their body so much that they wish they were invisible.  Many  woman hide in baggy clothes, retreat from social interactions or choose not to participate in activities that involve wearing revealing attire such as bathing suits.
         Your relationship to your body affects your behavior and self-esteem.  Body image develops as a person develops.
What is your relationship to your body? 
Is it a: ~ reliable companion
          ~ mediator of your experiences of the world
          ~ vehicle for transformation
          ~ temple of God, Goddess
          ~ something you dislike
         Our body image may be congruent with or distorted from our actual body. Examples of distorted body image include feeling fat when one is thin, feeling ‘satisfied’ when one is hungry, feeling comfortable when one is in pain. Examples of healthy body image are feeling tired after exercise or staying up late, feeling hungry if one hasn’t eaten, feeling ‘in one’s body.’ 
How to regain a congruent body image:
1. Get to know yourself; your emotions, your social life, your body.
2. When you ‘feel fat’ ask yourself what is going on in your life.
3. Get to know your body from the inside out. Get to know yourself as a kinesthetic being, an emotional and tactile being. 


NynArt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NynArt said...

Hi Karen,

Although I've learned a lot about Focusing during my study, I seldom use it in my Art Therapy practice. Maybe more often in future.

I work with traumatised adults and refugees (PTSD) since April 2009.

Focusing can be very helpful and there's a lot of evidence based material on Focusing in treatment of trauma's - especially caused in pre-verbal phases of life.

Art Therapy can be very helpful in finding missing pieces.
Most adults don't have words (or lost emotional connection with them) after one ore more shocking life-events, but they DO have images. Or small parts of it.

I believe Focusing and the felt sence of 'something' can have that same function; collecting (un)conscious pieces.

I like your post "Making peace with our bodies".

An Art Therapy technique I used in the past (womengroup with BPD) is a big piece (5/6ft?) of wallpaper pinned on a wall.

1. Someone else makes a contour of ones body; with big markerpen (contour of clothes, ears, legs, arms, fingers, ponytail etc.)

2. After that someone can 'fill' his/her own body by painting every bodypart in colours:

a. One way is: to make IDEAL body, by changing things (smaller hips, perfect nose, eyes, new clothes, high heels, haircut etc.)

b. Other way is (can be more confrontating): experiencing every bodypart and give each of them own colours.

Result: a colourful statue of one's body.

This can be fun with a group of children too I guess :-)

Gr, Nynke

Karen Wallace said...

Nyhke, Thanks for your helpful response. I also work with PTSD and other forms of trauma. Warmly, Karen

Elena said...

Synchronicity again. I've been beating myself up about my weight. And your the 2nd blog I read about accepting, loving, ourselves. So beautifully put Karen. Thank you.

Emmeline said...

I just discovered your blog and I really like it a lot! Seems to be a mine... Thank you for your work, I subscribed!
Emmeline Craig, painter.


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