Self esteem

Processing Inner Drama. An empowering process through Art Journalling

“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.

I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and follow where they lead.”

~ Louisa May Alcott

January is kicking my ass. I always struggle with the new year, it takes ages for us to come to terms with each other. What I KNOW, is that we always do, that this too, is temporary. I will not be stuck here.

I posted last week about resolutions, how every new year I find myself in the battleground of inner conflict, in a war that is not actually a war, but a process; I just keep forgetting that!

So here is a process that worked for me in getting unstuck most recently.

  • I kept a written journal.
  • I allowed myself to vent and to not feel like I had to control or force myself into a better mood
  • I’d had a sense of my particular conflict for a while before I ‘went in’.

I have found that our issues are always getting flagged, but when we’re not ready, we push ‘em back down. That’s ok. When you’re ready, you’ll know, because when it’s meant to be, there will be a curiosity about ‘going there’.

  • I sensed my curiosity and stayed close to that and non-judgement
  • I repeatedly told myself what I know. That every little thing is gonna be alright.

After venting enough into my written journal for a couple of nights, I managed to create a little distance between me and the ‘drama’, I let it sit for a while and waited for the urge to art it out further.

After a couple of days I felt called to my art journal.

It was during a particularly scathing train of self criticism, so I just opened a clean page and scribbled in pencil, the words of the critic.

Inner critic

They were angry, venomous words. I just scribbled them out onto the page, uncensored. It was unpleasant, but I didn't stay with the thoughts, I dumped the words out and then I walked away. Just to note, I wasn't home alone when I did this. Once I did the scribbling I dropped the pencil, left the room (I knew my journal would not be read) and returned to the company of my love. It's important to feel safe and supported if you're going to entertain the critic. 

The next day, I began with a measure of detachment. I couldn’t read the words without being triggered so working fast and without thought or reaction, I put a light layer of medium diluted gesso over the words and a thicker layer over the particularly cruel ones.

I added a few layers of paint and stamps and then scribbled some positive counter thoughts over the new layers.

Layers

At this point I had no idea what I was going to do with this page. I took a break, dunked my head into a nourishing bowl of MY FAV veggie broth and listened to an inspiring audiobook by my favourite author.  TIP: MAJOR Self care all the way!

Before long, I got the urge to go back to my journal and start with a heart. (FYI, Whatever ‘urge’ pops into your head, don't think, just go with it)

The heart represents my greater self, my capacity to be loving, compassionate and kind. I outlined the heart with black gesso and over that again with  a charcoal stick, blending it in to add some depth. I outlined two more, smaller hearts for balance and because I LOVE hearts!!

I’m sorry I didn’t take photos from this point as the process unfolded…I was immersed & it never occurred to me. Guilty face

I drew three birds, two inside the heart, painted with black gesso and outlined with white tip marker and the third larger bird, which I just outlined over the paint layer with black gesso.

I then painted loose and fast with dry-ish brushes around the drawn images with combinations of medium, black and white gesso, mauve and crimson red (LOVE that colour). This made central features of my outlined images, the exposed layers of paint giving an effect I couldn’t achieve if I ‘tried’.

I had drawn the three birds before I realised there are three inner parts to this conflict! I love how the subconscious plays out when art journalling. I included the words ‘All parts are welcome’ as a message to the conflicted parts (and the critic) from true (greater) self. This is the central principle of Self Therapy, an approach to healing I find extremely compassionate, user friendly and effective.

Self therapy, all parts are welcome

I finished by doodling some random lines with black and white gel pens and shading around the images with pitt artist ink pens.

Self care

This process was very worthwhile and therapeutic for me. It has helped me detach more from each of the characters of this inner drama, to step back (into self) and not over identify with any one, or becoming overwhelmed by it’s perspective, fears, demands, opinions.

Getting into self is the primary step in the self therapy approach to addressing inner conflict. As I write this now, realising the process that unfolded, facilitated by some (always magic) time spent art journalling, I feel relieved, empowered and strengthened. I understand now. Now I have something far less threatening to work with.

There is more to do, but for now… breeeeeathe.

Always, Amanda xoxo

New Year...Old Fear. How I'm facing it.

Time now to flourish  

 

Reflect and Resolve

As happens a woman with a history of depressive self loathing, at the end of days when she falls short of meeting her own expectations, 2014 draws to a close and she finds herself saying fare well to yester-day-year.

Reflecting on the lessons she’s grateful for, the growth she’s achieved, this woman is tantalised still by the divide between her current self and the self of her dreams, the one who exists ‘over there’. Dividing them, a river of doubt. Once again she finds herself resolving to stop pushing the boat out and blaming her defeat on the lack of a bridge.

Sound familiar? 

Here you stand, in the early fog of this new year, daring to promise yourself that THIS YEAR I will brave the divide between the me who dreams and the me who is dreamed. You are not alone, I stand here with you. Standing here used to scare me, it kinda still does.

I know why new beginnings hold such weight for women like us.

It’s because we convince ourselves that new beginnings are the corners we turn, around which we’ll finally escape our demons. But every time we begin, we inevitably get ambushed by those old, decrepit, gnarling fears.

Outsourcing our power

I know I’m guilty of it, especially when it comes to casting out risk and responsibility to the future me, the one who lives in tomorrow, Monday, next week, next year, as if to say ‘there is no fear where she is, let her do it’. My heart sinks when I think of future me, it’s not fair. All I’ve been setting her up for is sickness, overwhelm and regret.

Hoarding Powerlessness

There’s a younger part of me who hoards powerlessness, it seems to be the only way she can feel safe. I think she believes future me will rescue us. Then there’s everyday, caught-in-the-middle me, walking on eggshells because I’m afraid of upsetting the little one, but why?

Because the little one is more experienced in her truth and when everyday me dares to set about challenging it or releasing the powerlessness, it triggers an inner conflict, a fight for control.

Inner Peace Mission

This is not easy to admit, because it's always been my dirty secret and I feel very vulnerable making it known but I’m telling you this because I know I’m not alone, because I think emotional honesty is important when it comes to struggles with self worth and because naming conflict takes some of the energy from it, freeing it up for the work of making peace. I want peace for my little one, for our little ones.

Naming it

This powerless inner part, let's call her Jane (my middle name), is so easily torn down. Easily discouraged, dismissed, dismayed, demolished. She is easily diss’d. I used to really hate her for that, I judged her harshly, labelled her pathetic and weak, which just made her even more fragile.

To her, the belief of not being able is grounded in truth, absolute truth. When this truth gets triggered I feel her fear so intently that to distance myself from it is, at times, the best I can do.

I no longer hate my little one nor do I still identify completely with her, but in my inner world, she’s still living from that place of fear and is highly influential.

Fear of Flying

Jane is terrified of me flying my own plane. There I am launched, with magnificent wings and a bulging itinerary of ideas, she sits back in air traffic control, but due to her hyper vigilance, she soon sees nothing but danger. Without her confidence I can’t advance my mission and instead am left to linger in some sort of holding pattern before the inevitable crash and burn. What I end up with is that I feel like a shitty pilot, with yet another flop.

I know Jane has my best interests at heart but she serves me up an enormous burden of self doubt and frustration.

This year I want to move beyond the holding pattern, I want to give future me some fucking chance, she’s the one I’m going to become!

I’ve seen a lot of people in their new year writings, choosing a word to guide them through this new year, my guide word has yet to reveal itself, though I think belief is a strong contender.

Leveraging Lessons Learned

Until then, I turn to 2014 as my guide. It was the year of P.

Promise, Practice, Presence

It was the showing up, the identifying of the stepping stones that I consistently have failed to see, that they be enough, that the propelling of my being across the divide, one magnificent leap to ‘over there’ be not the only measure of progress or success. That I stop waiting on my future self to arrive and rescue me and to encourage my current self in building that bridge, so that they may meet half way. To make the effort every day and that my efforts, however small or large, are allowed be good enough. To do this with compassion, faith and care, step, by step, by step.

The goal is to become experienced, as a believer in me

I have personal goals, creative goals, professional and purpose goals, but they all hang in the balance of getting through to Jane, to convince her in letting me go.

Five years ago I couldn’t even believe in myself enough to get out of bed.

I didn’t believe there was life beyond the fog of depression.

I didn’t believe I could be loved.

But I did, there is and I am. 

We can do this.

Have you overcome an inner Jane fear? How did you do it and what difference has it made in your life? Please share what you know!

Always, Amanda xxx

Before I start dreaming... I want to tell you a story about Kate.

Artist: Kelly Rae Roberts Kate exuded the elusive (to me) quality of self belief. I was secretly fascinated with her and just as equally terrified that being around her would expose my lack of same. As much as I tried to hide it, it was there to be seen that I was a woman full of impossibility, perpetually limited in my ability to believe I could possess any value. I hadn't an ounce of belief in myself.

I didn't know Kate very well, we very briefly worked together sharing the role of customer service liaison in a hotel. I'd say in all, we spent about two whole working days together over the course of three months, the accumulation of 20 and 30 minute hand overs between shifts.

At this time, my marriage had just ended and I was a little shell shocked. My self esteem, which, in truth, had always been on the floor, was gone. I had no sense of self at all.

The only self respect I had to draw from at that point lay in the fact that I had finally admitted I was fucked.

I was attending counselling and about six months in to the deconstruction of my faulty self concept. What I didn't know then, was that I was also on the precipice of reconstructing an identity that would continue on through a process of true self retrieval.

I'm remembering Kate now because of a very simple, casual but profound exchange we had one day while talking in the hotel reception's back office.

She had brought in with her some of her own art and showed it to me. I remember thinking how simple it was, but yet so pretty, carefree and uplifting. I didn't realise it was her own work until she said she was going to ask the manager could if she could display it in the hotel.

I recall being aghast with the idea and simultaneously fearful for her confidence in making such a request. She was (in my mind) leaving herself wide open to ridicule should she be rejected, or even if he approved, that she display her paintings and expose herself to people's opinions on it's artistic merit.

She was an aspiring artist..self taught. Her work wasn't fine art, it was the kind of newly, self discovered artistic ability that I had discovered in myself over the years. I stood there looking at the paintings and struggling to believe that she would be so brave as to put them out there. I was also a bit crushed knowing I can do that kind of art too, but wouldn't EVER have the confidence to 'out myself' as having such aspirations and as a consequence, I didn't bother... what was the point?

Here's the crux, by way of my then twisted logic, this meant, if even I could do this... that meant it was shit and oh my GOD, she's going to be crucified. 

Imagine.. this is where my mind was at, I would NEVER in a million years have had believed anything I was capable of producing, had any value whatsoever, it could only be flawed and therefore, must remain hidden. In my ignorance, I deemed  this logic as also being applicable to Kate's art.

I wasn't to know it then, but this was a golden moment.

Either my face said it all or this girl had been confronted with my kind of thinking before or maybe she was just that tuned in, that astute... but she addressed the critic standing in the room with us in that very moment. Here's what she said:

"You know, some people might look at this and think 'that's not 'art', shur I could paint that myself and just slap a price on it'; but that doesn't bother me because I know the point is that they didn't paint it and probably never will... but I did, and that makes it art"

***RECORD SCRATCH*** 

Wow... did she just drive a wooden stake through the vampire that is my fear?

With that addressing, invited I would guess, by the fleeting terror in my eyes betraying my truth, she so gently but confidently assassinated an unsuspecting part of my critic that day. And she did it with such style... She didn't knock as much as a piece out of me, I was still intact, but she stood up to my inner bully; for herself, for me and in doing so, taught me something about how immediately effective that was. I'll never forget that.

I had been living my life in fear of judgement and ridicule all my years, to the extent of never truly expressing myself and as I stood there with her, still being afraid.. she saw it and modelled for me how to hit back.

That moment was a marker for me. I never even got to know Kate very well, but she gifted upon me a little bit of confidence and courage that day and slapped the bully of fear I had been completely oppressed by.

That was 4 years ago.

Rumi

After that, I started to apply that practice myself and you know what? It has never failed. I love that move. I wasn't applying it to the context of art making, because at that time it wasn't on my radar of priorities... I had other important inner work to do first.

The reason I think of her now of course, is that I have arrived (finally) now to the point she was at then. When I started painting in April this year, I had to slay this same vampire, but this time in the same context it was meant that day.

Tomorrow morning I head off for to Bantry to attend my first art retreat; A Space for Dreaming. And for me, it really is about dreams.

Am I brave enough now to, GULP, put what I create out there regardless of how it will be received?

To my surprise and delight, the answer is yes. Of course I still have to keep my eye on the vampires, because they still lurk, just waiting on an opportunity to pounce. I'm sure they always will, but thanks to Kate I can say:

"It's not about my creations being good, it's about my creations being here".

This is the mantra I am going to Bantry with tomorrow.

Okay, deep breath... I'm about to tell you something I've never told anyone before... 

For me to sign up for this retreat is big, it is the allowing of something in me that has been denied too long. I have dreams for Daisy Jane... I want to give her a chance. I have been holding her in since I was 19 years of age... she has been a logo on my business cards when I was a beautician, she was the name of my band when I played music, she was the logo on another business card when I did nail art parties, the artist name I signed on books, journals, the backs of bathroom stall doors when I would doodle and draw love hearts and flowers... she has been waiting all these year, just wanting to exist. This retreat is for her <3 ***watery eyes***

Here's the strangest thing of all. I told you in this post about our upcoming move, we're moving up north to a house that's sitting right in the mouth of a forest. When I first conceptualised Daisy Jane, I imagined her as a pixie and although I never manifested her or wrote her story, I did know that if I did, her home would be set in a forest. Hello!  ***Goosebumps*** 

So, in the words of another Forrest...."that's all I have to say about that" 

I'll keep you posted on the retreat as much as I can during the week... please send me positive vibes and do loads of believing for me and for Daisy Jane <3 <3

Always, Amanda xoxo