Tag Archives: art therapy

Your Childhood Does Not Define You!

Your Childhood Does Not Define You.

Some allow whom they were pigeonholed with as an identity when they were children in their family to define their entire lives.

Witness a middle aged man I know, who has built a successful career as a behavioral health professional, but who as a child, had to deal with a family where put downs and being told “You don’t have what it takes” were often heard, What these adults told him did resonate in his head for a long time.  As a young man going through college, he stopped and almost didn’t complete his degree, thinking to himself “What would it matter anyway”, and hearing his family’s voices in his head, thinking he would just be another overeducated professional with no skills to find a job.  But what got him beyond this to build a successful career as a behavioral health professional that he has today?

All it took was one person.

Yes, you heard me right, one person.  This person believed in him, saw talent and potential based on his gifts and gave him through positive statements and other support the strength to move ahead towards his goals by finishing his education, finishing his internships and eventually getting hired at one of his internship sites at his first job.  He is now using his experience to help others move ahead with their lives.

We tend to think that we need a multitude of resources to get “past our past” but the opposite is true.  There have been cases of children who have lived through abuse, neglect and other horrible childhood circumstances that had one person, yes one person, a friend, a neighbor, a particularly sensitive relative, who saw what was going on in a dysfunctional family and was able to reach out and help that child enough so that they would have the confidence to move forward.

I could list here many resources, particularly in the Internet age, of support groups, organizations, etc. that help adults who have lived through horrible circumstances be able to succeed.  There are many out there and they aren’t hard to find.  But all it really takes is one person, one spark of confidence, a few genuine positive remarks…to give someone going through either a tormented present or thinking about their traumatic past to move ahead, and the confidence to achieve their goals.  It is like being given a thin lifeline, when someone is overboard and drifting in the ocean, you grab onto it, and it pulls you back up on the boat and gets you to your destination.

So we don’t really need a multitude of resources.  The resiliency within us wants us to heal and be strong.  Just like a cut of our skin has a scab grow over it to aid it’s healing, we have the inner resources in each one of us that with at least one positive person in our lives, can pull us through.  Of course resources such as online in real-time support groups as well as our own personal therapy can strengthen us and aid us in this quest, and should be used to help us go further down the line of emotional recovery.

Neuroscience is proving how our brains, like the rest of our bodies, are largely programmed for self-healing.  Expressing ourselves through our own creativity aids this tremendously, and allows us to put our past out there in a non-verbal manner, which allows us to digest whatever painful past we are dealing with and be able to integrate it and allow distance ourselves from it.  Are you dealing with some sort of pain in your life?  Find your own creative way to express it, this will not only allow you to put out there whatever happened and move on, but you shouldn’t be surprised to see that others will see or hear what you have created and be able to relate, so it is a way of joining a community out there of other people who have experienced similar issues in their own childhoods.  Find a mentor or therapist who supports your creative expression, in whatever form it takes, art, blogging, music, or anything where you feel you are expressing yourself in your truest form.  You can be proactive and be a partner in your own self-healing,



Just Digging Around…

IMG_5664Often, in our lives, we put on layer after layer.  I am not talking here about clothing, (Winter has just about arrived, after all, in the Northeast!), but about the cycles our lives go through, and instead of resolving each cycle before we move on to the next, we simply “skip” over and go onto the next latest thing.  Our culture of immediate internet based communication in the past 20 or so years has only encouraged and quickened the emergence of this culture of not attaching or resolving before moving onto the next phase of our life.  It could be about a job, a romantic relationship, a family relationship, a friendship or acquaintanceship, or anything that has to do with our interactions with the others in our lives.

Some of this “skipping” could be done not to face any pain that may have ensued during the relationship, an avoidance of anger or trauma (which isn’t always a bad thing).  But it also enables the ease of “moving on” without reflection or thinking.  These patterns of behavior are also coming out in relationships we do not discard, like our family relationships.  Instances I think of are families that can be in the same house together and not speak to each other for an entire day, families that do not eat together, and families who may speak briefly on the phone with each other but do not go out of their way to physically see one another and be together.  This is especially true in North American culture, and not all cultures have this mode of distancing in them, although I do believe with the advent of technology change has occurred to all to some degree.

In my own personal form of art making that I have enjoyed of late, Encaustic Painting, involves the use of bee’s wax, Damar varnish and colored IMG_0938pigment to make a wax based paint that is put on in layers.  Items can be embedded in the wax like drawings, objects, different forms of papers and more.  But you do not only add layers, you also take them off by scraping and burning off wax using tools and fire.  The beauty can be found in what is underneath the latest layer and you are “building up an archeology” in your own art work by putting a “history” into the work by adding the foundational early layers of wax in various colors and materials first and then adding final layers which you may leave “as is” or expose through digging or scratching through the wax based paint.  The wax lays in layers, much like the rock layers in the picture to your left, where a crack developed and which were exposed through a centuries ago earthquake.  Look at the beauty that the “shake up” of the earth revealed!

Using my encaustic painting as a metaphor, how much more of a stable foundation we could have if we were willing to “burn through” the surface layers of our lives to find the beauty of the earlier, foundational layers that existed before?  This means exploration and getting to know ourselves, and could be the greatest journey we undertake in our entire lives.  It does take courage, as some of us may have undergone trauma, but the end result, validating and empowering, as well as getting to know yourself, is more than worth it.  Even if we cannot face “all of our layers”, if others, for example, have moved on or are no longer with us, we can at least explore these layers of our lives,  validate them, and learn from them.  Building self awareness and self validation can be some of the greatest gifts you can give yourself this holiday season.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at lifebalancecounseling@gmail.com.