Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Art Therapy Exercise: Working With Our Shadow

Without awareness of our unconscious practices we have little chance of freeing ourselves from the suffering they cause.
-Cheri Huber

In therapy when we do shadow work, we are talking about working with aspects of ourselves that are hidden from us. We may have rejected or denied these parts because we are ashamed or disconnected from them. Unfortunately they do not go away but get expressed through unhealthy and distorted ways. Shadow work brings these parts of ourselves into the light of the day where we can accept, understand and integrate these hidden drives feelings, needs and potentials. They then become a part of us in a healthy whole way.

How do you know when something is a shadow part? Often the things that most disturb and upset us about others are really a reflection of our own self.  We displace our own fears and emotions onto someone else. If the threat of an emotion or situation is overwhelming, we can totally disown it and dissociate from it.
For example, I was shamed as child for having speech problems. I did everything I could as a young child to hide the fact that my parents called me “the dumb one in the family.” I got high grades in school because I thought I was hiding the fact that I was really dumb. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t have gotten those marks if I was really dumb. When someone around me did something that I felt was embarrassing or stupid, I felt deeply ashamed of them. I felt that by acting that way, somehow that was insult to me. Until I could ‘see’ this shadow aspect, heal it and embrace it, I falsely projected my fears on others. When I reclaimed my shadow I had more compassion for others who didn’t understand something and more energy for myself because I did not have to spend energy on covering up my feelings. I had new insights and it no longer felt devastating or dangerous if I did not know something.

Art Therapy Shadow Exercise:
Draw three people who you admire and write the traits that you admire beside them. Next draw and write the traits of three people who irritate you. Now write:  In me are the following traits… and copy down all the traits in the first group. Next write: In me are also the following traits…and write down all the traits in the second group.
The truth is we contain all expressions that humans are capable of. All parts of us do not have to be acted on, but they do have to be acknowledged. I may never commit acts of violence, but I can’t pretend that the capability to do so is not in me. If I didn’t, I would be creating shadows not light.

These are some of the more common examples of how shadow translates into symptom (and vice versa).
Symptom                                                  Shadow

Resentment of outside pressure                 drive
Rejection (“Nobody likes me”)                 Rejection (“I reject them”)
Guilt (“You make me feel guilty”)            Resentment (of another’s demands)
Anxiety                                                      Excitement
Self-consciousness                                     Outward focus (on others)
Fear (“they want to hurt me”)                   Hostility (“I’m angry and attacking without knowing it.”)
Sad                                                            Mad
Withdrawn                                                Rejecting
I can’t                                                    “I won’t!”
Obligation (“I have to”)                         Desire (“I want to.”)
Hatred                                                    Self-hatred
Envy (“You’re so great”)                       “I’m better than I realize.”
From: Integral Life Practice
To learn more about shadow work read  Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, Adam Leonard & Marco Morelli.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun, Fast Easter Eggs

Finished Easter Egg

Here is a fun idea for Easter Eggs. First use a product by Tim Holtz called alcohol inks alcoholinks to colour the eggs. Next add a tattoo. Enjoy!!!!

finished egg

Adding the inks to colour the egg

Adding the Tattoos
choices of tattoos.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Are Failing Our Children

What makes a country great? In my opinion it is a country that provides education for all, health care, where diversity is respected, where social justice is practiced, where there is equality, and most of all where the children are protected, nurtured and educated.
Canada is failing its children.  Compared to other industrialized countries, our children live in high numbers in poverty, obesity, mental illness, and violence. The Harper government has been failing children in this country.  We need the political framework and leadership to solve this problem.
I work in education and health care, daily I see where as a country we are failing our children. On May 2nd  join me to help change this; vote for a candidate who cares about children. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do What You Love

I was just featured on do what you love by Beth Nicholls. Read about my interview here. Beth shares inspirational stories about people who live life creatively.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Focusing Exercise to work with Tiredness

Pema Chodron wrote in “Taking the Leap” that when she was meditating, she was overwhelmed by deep anxiety with no apparent storyline attached to it. She felt vulnerable and afraid. She asked her teacher Dzigar Kongtrul about this, and he told her he had felt the same kind of deep anxiety and it had been an important part of his healing journey. He asked her what she was experiencing, where she felt it, and what the quality of the sensation was. He recognized it as “Dakini’s Bliss,” which is a high level of spiritual bliss. After hearing this, she wanted to practice again to feel the intensity. When she sat down to practice, the resistance was gone and so was the anxiety. Pema realized that she instead of being with the sensation, that she had been making the sensation bad. When her teacher said, “Dakini’s bliss,” it totally changed the way she looked at it.
Hearing this story helped me to look at one of my own stories.  I am interested in why I have been feeling that it is worrisome that I am ‘so tired’ lately. For some reason I have been attaching all kinds of negative reasoning to it as; “I am getting to old to do the intense work that I do, I am no longer healthy, or I have lost my stamina.” I feel that I am at my peak in my therapy work, but I am tired, really tired at the end of the day. I used to love traveling to conferences and presenting papers and now I think about the hassle of airports, travel and more times then not, I would rather stay home. Then I start to worry, “Is it over? Have I lost my drive?” But by using Focusing and taking an interest in my fear, moving closer, leaning in, and dropping my labels around my tiredness, I notice that the resistance melts. By using Focusing I can listen to my tiredness with a gentle curiosity and lean in closer to hear from its point of view why it is ‘tired’. I realize that I have blaming my fifty five year old body and jumping into fear instead of staying Present and awake to the experience of what I have been calling exhaustion and/or over tiredness. Taking the time and giving the part of me that feels tired a fresh open space to tell me how it feels from its point of view, relaxes my body and helps release the tension or resistance. When I listen, yes it is tired, but there is more. It is satisfied, feels blessed and well used. It is a good, rich tiredness. I love my work passionately and it is hard work. I work with children and adults who have suffered abuse, have brain injuries, autism, and other obstacles. I work hard to be Present and help them create the changes and healing that they want. When I openly listen to the part of me that is tired at the end of the day it tells me that it feels blessed, joyful and very tired. It tells me that I have limited energy but it loves how I am using that energy.
I remember seeing Gloria Steinman talk years ago about a time when she was completing an important project that she had been working on for years and after it was done, she said that she felt that she could have happily died that night. I remember at that time thinking that I if I died tomorrow, I would not feel that way. Now I do. I am not ready to die, but I do feel that I am making a small difference to the people that I work with. Now when I feel tired, I listen to it fully and move through the fear and resistance so I can also feel the joy. So now when I am tired, I know in my heart that it is a good tiredness.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What is the Difference Between Art Made in Therapy and Professional Art?

 Most of the art that I show on my blog is art that has been made in therapy. The intent of creating art in therapy is to release some emotion, explore a feeling or thought, explain a belief, meet and express a body sensation, and/or visually express some insight. The art could be a response, expression, a living forward and/or the next step in exploring an inner or outer experience. The art in therapy usually comes from a feeling and/or a sensate place. It could be the result of a practical exercise to figure out an issue or make a decision. But, the intent is not usually to look good, professional, and/or finished. It comes from the creative work that we are doing therapeutically. This is not to suggest that clients do not like what they make or feel attached to their work. They see it differently than work they do for their home or an art show. Often when people make therapeutic art, their face, body and words are an important part of the piece. Clients can talk about their issues as they paint their feelings or be in the middle of a Focusing session and express some of their feelings or thoughts on paper as they stay Focusing. It can be used as a way to start a session as a centering and becoming Present tool, as a way to close a session as a safety and containment tool, or a way to safely express big emotions and traumas in the middle of a session. It can be completely symbolic or literal. It can be used to help the client relax, feel calm and settle or to ignite excitement or inspiration. One aspect of therapy is communication. Art is a form of communication as is writing, dancing, singing and talking. Talking through art can be therapeutic.
You may feel that you create professional art with the same intent, to communicate, express emotions and insights. But you are also concerned in how the process looks and how it communicates its message to others. You may be aware of the elements and principles of design and your own personal artistic style.
In therapy, these layers to the creative process are stripped away. You are creating from a present, sensate oriented place that is immediate and fresh. Your own personal style may come out, but you are inside the therapeutic process of exploring a problem, part of your experience or a felt sense. In therapy, you may feel free to let your defences down, open up inner doubts and shame, and face overwhelming feelings without guards. The therapeutic artwork reflects this transparency. The guards are down; it is raw, real and fresh. 

client painting


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