This week you get a rare peek into an anecdotal blog- this is a topic I feel is important enough to share some personal information and opinion. Please, if this is not for you and not in line with your sensibilities, take no offense, I do not offer my views to you aggressively and am always open minded and grateful to listen to your thoughts and experiences:
I am currently preparing two pieces for a female artists’ invitational honoring International Women’s Day (the Holiday is March 8, 2019). This day has always been important to me and so is this show and its message. Because of this, women’s history, feminism, and I suppose the unfortunate current exacerbated global climate of hate, division and fear have been heavy on my mind, and not so far from home. I hear and feel in my heart your stories firsthand on the therapy couch. I don’t pretend to ever know what another person’s experience is like and to hear these stories and take care of them purely by the listening is a responsibility I take very seriously. What I can say from hearing your stories and from knowing my own is that we are universally connected in our experiencing of hardships- of how we have been put down, marginalized, criticized, overlooked, judged and worse by other human beings. In a strange way it seems to be a fairly ubiquitous experience of humanity- though in varying degrees. I marvel not infrequently that people don’t connect more often on this simple point: life is a struggle and we are all struggling together.
This is a difficult topic to write about because I know how delicate it is. Each of us have been injured and many of us deeply. All of us so differently. That means there isn’t much that can be said specifically that won’t trigger someone else painfully. Perhaps, again, the best we can do is simply acknowledge, generally, this common experience of humanity. I wonder if healers, nurturers and helpers get a cross-section of stories and can see this better. Sometimes I meet a person that just seems to be born seeing “big” with “eyes open” able to consider the experiences of others easily. Others struggle or are unwilling to do this very thing. Regardless, all of us are neighbors, coworkers, and community members together.
The big question I suppose, is will anything ever change? Has it ever changed, historically? To be honest, I am not sure about the latter. I certainly want to have hope for the former. I think most of us have a pretty good idea of what it will take: good human beings as our children. The most simple and beautiful concept- muddied by a chaotic world of influences that each of them, each of us, came into.
I have been, and perhaps you have been, too, struck by this experience: watching young children, (perhaps 5 years old, perhaps younger) playing together. They do hurt one another’s feelings- but they also see each other’s pain and are quick to see their mistakes. They rally for each other. They are so beautifully inclusive. The new kid is incorporated. The shy kid isn’t left out. The crying kid isn’t shamed and someone gives them a hug. The child that doesn’t understand the game is explained the rules so they can play. Conflicts arise and are resolved. Clearly the potential for a future all of us hopefully want is there. We can see it in our littles.
From my perspective that is the most important thing we have to do. Maybe we adults are broken. Maybe we are too set in our ways. Maybe our hurts, our past, our present, have entrenched us too much to really change. Maybe not. But maybe. But maybe not so much that we can’t still want different for our children and support their natural inclinations to do better. I think looking at them we know what this looks like. We know that it’s better. Can we give it to them? Can we allow them to have it? I see this as our most serious responsibility.
These are my thoughts these days as I paint.
(C) 2019 Creatively, LLC
A favorite question in therapist offices everywhere, no less frequently heard in my offices : “how does that make you feel?” I ask it not for no reason! Getting in touch with your feelings is an important step to creating your best life. Today’s blog post spends some time on emotions 101- a nod to a blog post past and today connected to the theme of mindfulness.
In simple terms emotions are signals between our bodies and our brains to communicate information. They are physiological sensations often in unique combinations that have important messages to us about a threat, a need or overall sense of wellness. The process can be clouded by emotions’ tendency to not always be “logical”- the brain is needed to “assess” if anything is “needed” in response to emotional signals once received. The problem is, as human beings, thinking organisms as we are, we spend too much time in our brains and not enough time in our bodies. We lose touch with our emotions. They may be trained out of us by society. They may be labeled “good” “bad” or “valuable” “nonvaluable” to our lives. We suppress, ignore, or avoid. None of this prevents the signals of emotions from being generated by our bodies. Just as we are thinking beings we are also emotional ones. The emotional signals are going to be sent. What does this mean if we are not “listening” to them?
Oftentimes in daily jargon or even in the therapy office we are cautioned not to “stuff” emotions or “bottle them up” or there can be negative consequences. This is not really a good explanation of what happens. When we stop paying attention to the emotional signals in our body what we are suppressing or ignoring is information. What we are really avoiding are uncomfortable sensations in our own bodies (aka- the actual emotion). The consequences of this are not an amorphous pressure chamber that will “explode” some day though it is a ticking time bomb of sorts. What we are doing by neglecting these signals of information is neglecting our needs. Imagine if you had a pet and each time this pet tried to communicate to you it was hungry, wanted to be pet, wanted to go for a walk and so on, you didn’t pay attention to it. Over time this pet would not be well. By not paying attention to our feelings we are essentially doing this same thing to ourselves. There are consequences like becoming more vulnerable to stressors in our daily lives because we are generally not taking care of ourselves as we could be.
By using mindfulness we can begin to train ourselves to bring our attention from our thoughts where we spend so much of our time, to check in with what is going on in our bodies. We begin to get to know what physical sensations go on in our bodies throughout the day and what they mean. Do you know what your feelings actually feel like? Would you recognize them before they reached crisis levels? There is a lot of data about yourself to learn if you start paying more attention. It requires patience directing and redirecting wandering attention that wants to live in thoughts. It requires persistence staying with potentially uncomfortable body sensations we are used to ignoring. It requires daily practices and stick-to-it-ness. But it can truly change your life.
And- as we have alluded to in posts past- being more in touch with yourself and your needs and improving your control over attention in general has positive impacts on your creative work as well. Curious how? Look back at creative block posts for “Get Unstuck with Mindfulness.”
Ready to start your mindfulness journey? Want to live your life with more purpose, acceptance and peace? I can help.
(C) 2019 Creatively, LLC
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.