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Painting The World to Rights

Painting The World to Rights


In this week's art therapy session Kate Evans recalls an overheard conversation between her mother and aunt that crippled her self-confidence. Back to the sunny courtyard and this time we have moved rooms. I’ve been having a little trouble with the energy excerise I was given to practice at home.  I’m meant to imagine myself floating between two banks of a river with the current flowing through me and experience  warm tingling sensations as the earth’s energy circulates with my breath.  Instead I spend 20 chilly minutes each day wondering how I am supposed to see the river’s banks when I’m flat on my back underwater.  The best I can manage is one warm tingle and a couple of 40 winks. Annie looks mildly horrified when I tell her this, as though I might actually have been at risk of drowning.  Apparently I was meant to use a grounding visualisation to anchor myself to the river bed first and then float on the surface but I’d forgotten all about it.   The good news is that the exercise is still working even when I'm asleep so I feel much encouraged to try again. We move on to discuss my catastrophic body image once again and Annie asks me to recall a real incident from my childhood when I experienced negative feelings about myself.  Quick as a flash a conversation between my mother and aunt pops into my head.  Returning, unnoticed to the room, I had overheard my mother bemoaning my ghastly legs in disparaging terms that have remained with me ever since. Annie asks me to visualise the moment again and tell her where in my body I’m feeling something happening.  There is definitely activity around my throat which Annie feels is the area of the body linked to wisdom.  This triggers a realisation that back then, as a child, I’d actually had the sense to see my mother’s criticism as unhelpful and unfair but had taken it on board none the less because I wasn’t confident enough to disregard her adult point of view.  I suddenly had a strong sense of my own wisdom and a tiny kernel of confidence began to grow! It seems a lot of what I’m now doing with Annie is sitting with my eyes closed visualising stuff. This process of identifying emotional activity in the body is how we began the painting in the first art therapy session but now I am learning to describe my feelings in mental images and words rather than paint.   What comes out of it is surprisingly powerful.  Not only are the images and feelings that arise very pertinent but in the discussions we have about them I find I am able to make sense of them in a clear constructive way.  I finally have a direct line to what I am feeling after years of confusion. But just when I’m getting comfortable with my navel gazing Annie throws in a curve ball.  She wants me to re-enact the unfortunate scene with my critical elders and change the outcome.  And this time it’s not just an eyes closed sitting on a chair affair.  She means proper re-enactment.  I can do it outside or inside, I can use props, I can have Annie there to hold my hand or I can do it on my own.  But I have to get up and start pretending to speak to my mother!  Oh yuk! I choose solitude for this exercise, convinced I couldn’t do it with an audience and begin to wander round the room visualising the bygone scene.  I do manage to speak out loud to my imaginary mother, admittedly in a very low mutter and I give her a garbled lecture on how unhelpful her remarks are and how looks aren’t everything anyway, it's what is on the inside that counts.  I tell her she should focus on the parts of my body that are beautiful and encourage me to feel good about myself. Then suddenly the magic of visualisation takes over and I find myself revising the scene completely and lo! my mother is now giving me a pedicure and teaching me how to take care of my appearance. Yikes – where did that come from? Now I know I’m probably doing active visualisation a disservice by sharing the cringe factor but actually it was remarkably effective.  I’d been given permission to challenge my mother’s authority and let my own wisdom prevail.  I didn’t think I knew what to say to her but actually what came out was instructive and thought provoking. If only I had stood up to my mother like this at the time - I could have saved myself a lifetime of crippled self-confidence. Annie told me that a child faced with an independent choice or to follow the opinion offered by a parent tends to go with the parent's point of view – they are the authority on all things and we usually defer to their wisdom. As a parent the responsibility seems quite overwhelming. www.theheartofbeing.co.uk

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