What can I say? Where do I begin? How does one convey their own personal story within the bounds of just a page of paper?
I hail from a family of five. My father was in the Air Force and my mother was a Homemaker. I have one older sister and one younger brother. Even though there were five of us under one roof, it felt as if we were all alone. I remember that each of us seemed to visibly struggle to find some happiness…something to hang on to…something to believe in…something to love. I remember…just trying to survive.
Even though I was being reared in a less than loving environment, I had this deep belief that tomorrow could be better. I am being way too generous. The cold hard truth is that my mother was incredibly abusive towards me (physically, emotionally and mentally), while my father stood silent. My sister and brother were admired and openly loved by our mother, but they also suffered from her abuse. I was her special whipping post, though. Her “go-to”. I never really believed that my mom was justified in her abuse towards me. That’s not to say I didn’t struggle immensely. I tried to console myself and tried to justify her actions (help her – because I didn’t want to hate her). My senses told me she was struggling within herself. I knew she had a very troubled childhood. I knew she was in pain. I made excuses for her and thought of ways I could be a better child. I never really believed that the horrible things she said to me or about me were true. But, there was no one in my family to stand up for me or to tell me differently. I had to “stand up” for myself. Of course, doing so brought about more abuse. My father stood silent. At the age of 16, my mother took me to a Foster Home to live. I knew I wasn’t being forced away from my home because I was a “bad” kid, but I was extremely concerned about my worth. I felt I had very little worth. My father stood silent. Throughout my childhood, I buried my pain. Afterwards, I felt proud because I had “survived”…I felt “strong”.
And so the stage was set. For many years to come, I would bury, ignore or flee from my pain. Sometimes, all three. And often, I was hot to flash my temper should I feel provoked - I had that privilege now. I believed that this was the best way to deal in life. I honestly did not know I needed to confront my pain - my past (my anger). I believed that I could not blame anything “wrong” with my life on my childhood. That seemed like a cop-out. I believed I was the only one to be held accountable for my actions (from the time I “left home”). I believed that since I was the only one in control of my life it was “all on me”. I was free and I was in control and sometimes, it got a little wild.
My name is Lisa and I am 48 years old now. Over the last year I have discovered so much about myself through Therapy and in my EMDR sessions. Having a great Therapist is crucial to the process. My experiences with Psychotherapy is rather limited; maybe three Therapists for a total of maybe ten sessions. But, what has made a difference with my current Therapist, Jeffrey Smith, is the kind of therapy offered. Rather than simply looking at the symptoms, he looks and wants to talk about the causes and the thought process. It’s made all the difference. I finally feel like I am being heard.
All these years, I have buried my pain not realizing that I cannot move forward or in fact be healthy if I do not face the truth of my life, my past, my childhood and the effects of this truth. Of course, (in hindsight) what else could I have expected? After all, I did not have the knowledge or the tools to work with the pain. I am now acquiring the knowledge and tools I need and it’s as if life is starting anew. That is not to say that this work is not painful or challenging. But, I know it is worth it. I am worth it.
A Child’s Voice
Inspiration:The realization that the “little girl” inside me was very much alive and she had something to say.
Process: Early in my therapy (at about the five month mark), I felt the urge to paint – to craft, to create. It didn’t really matter what I created – I just needed to create. This picture came in stages. I drew an image of myself first and then constructed the bird cage. I thought to myself: What can I put inside the cage? It dawned on me (because of my on-going therapy sessions) that I should put my “younger self” inside the cage as it symbolized the prison in which she lived. I propped the cage door open, because it was time the little girl be heard; time for the little girl to take flight.
Therapeutic Value: The understanding that it was “OK” for her to speak and in fact, somebody (an ally) was encouraging her to speak and be heard. Capturing it in picture celebrated this discovery. It felt beautiful.
Inspiration: My therapist, Jeff, asked me to create a picture that preceded the first (A Child’s Voice). I immediately got a vision in my head of the little girl (inside) standing in the distance…waiting. She was just standing there.
Process: As I started to put pencil to paper, I pictured my “older self” simply living and virtually unaware of the presence of my “younger self” and her need to speak – for both of our benefits. To represent this state of being unaware and overall confusion, my back is turned towards my younger self and there is a confusing labyrinth of doorways and walls.
Therapeutic Value: Throughout my life, I felt as if my younger self was stirring inside me. But, I did not know she wanted or needed to be heard (I thought everyone felt that stirring). Through therapy, I realized and have been able to acknowledge the presence of my younger self - her voice and her patience. I have found great comfort in this discovery and the acceptance that has come with it.
Melt Into You
Inspiration: This was an incredible day. My therapist, Jeff had been working with me regarding sexual abuse trauma I had suffered. Through EMDR, as my enlightened witness he walked me through the abuse and helped me to confront the Abuser and reprocess the experience. With my “older self” as my helping witness, I was able to defend and provide strength to my “younger self”. At the conclusion of the reprocessing, I was told to give my younger self a hug and to relay (tell Jeff) what happened. To my complete amazement, when I hugged my younger self I watched her “melt” into me. My older self actually absorbed my younger self. It was Incredible! We glowed. We were one.
Process: When I went to capture this incredible reprocessing experience, I knew my art skills could never truly relay how mind blowing it was to me. To help offset my lack of real drawing skills, I elected to use various mediums to relay the message. Working with different materials feeds the senses.
Therapeutic Value: Short of viewing a video of my experience, one is not able to truly see what I saw this day. Whether my display of art relays my true experience or satisfies my own self-imposed artistic standards and desires is of little importance. What is important is that I was relieved of all the painful memories and the confusing thoughts regarding the trauma. It was an incredible day! The overwhelming healing power of this experience is something I will cherish forever. The beauty of it will forever remain in my mind’s eye and in my heart.
My Safe Place
Inspiration: When I first started my EMDR sessions, I was asked to visualize a place where I could go and find peace – a safe place. I was thrilled when my Therapist, Jeff asked me to capture on paper this place.
Process: I am very motivated and moved in life through my senses and to share this special place made it seem all that much more glorious. The vibrant colors…the life of nature itself…the positive energy of the land. Working with the paints and creating layers of color and texture brought my safe place to life and I was happy to share (on paper) this place with others.
Therapeutic Value: With each piece of artwork, I was finding that capturing the moments on paper helped to solidify the work and was allowing me to move forward and progress. I am able to honor the work and in essence am able to turn the page (of my life) so that I can work the next chapter. It is so comforting to know that I can go to my safe place anytime I chose. It feels good to know I have acquired this invaluable tool.
Inspiration: As I continued in my therapy (while being extremely helpful and healing), I started to realize more and more how very painful and challenging it can be. Facing the truth of the past (and present) can be pretty grueling. It felt like I was standing in my own personal Hell Storm. It was scary contemplating the choice whether to go through more pain or to flee! Hell! I’d been ignoring and burying my pain as a matter of survival and now I was faced with this reality- this choice.
Process: I wanted to paint a picture of this personal storm, as I knew by now that doing so was beneficial to my recovery. I pictured myself literally standing isolated with colors dark and foreboding. That’s the way it felt. Lightening all around and threatening to strike. Features muted and posture slumping. Alone and lacking confidence. Little did I know that my subconscious included an ominous face staring me down (see the face in the upper right corner?).
Therapeutic Value: Knowing that I had a choice and ultimately have made the best choice – to stay and face the challenge is empowering. Capturing this moment in time is an honest reflection of the challenges therapy (and life) can be. As it turns out, I understand and accept that this is part of my path towards healing.
My Own Best Friend
Inspiration: By this time in my therapy, I was finding myself frequently interacting with various aged versions of myself. We’d revisited and reprocessed past events, provided comfort to and offered something special which had never been genuinely offered before – love. During one particular EMDR session (when I was face to face with myself), it suddenly came to me that I was depending on myself more than I ever had before. I felt a sense of trust and comfort…a sense of peace and it came from deep within. I felt like” my own best friend”.
Process: Wow! What a realization! It seems simple enough (to be one’s own best friend) but honestly it’s something that I was missing (unknowingly). Over the years, I had actually done fairly well getting myself (and others) to believe I was a true friend to myself. But, the reality was that it was a “front”. Deep inside, I was unsure, unsettled, vulnerable and fearful. Fortunately (for me), my therapist, Jeff recognized this. Through EMDR, my younger self has been able to experience love and security – something missing from (her) early life. And I have witnessed that deep within my soul I am stronger and much more capable and confident than I ever realized. Each EMDR session has been specific to a particular event and age; but, no matter the time or age there is one common factor: I am always me.
Therapeutic Value: Self-Love. Being able to process and re-process some of the expectations and misconceptions I have had about myself and others has been extremely valuable. I recognized that I have never been able to truly love or trust myself because I was clinging to expectations that could not be filled by any other than me. It is exhilarating and a great comfort to know that I can provide (to myself) the kind of support, trust; acceptance and love that I (like most) desire and need. I’ve learned that in order to be one’s own best friend there must be truly self-love.
With or Without You
Inspiration: The realization that ultimately, I do not need someone (else) to “complete” me. With new found strength, I started to embrace the knowledge that I can be content and fulfilled – “with or without you”.
Process: How can one stand next to another, if one cannot stand on one’s own? Through EMDR, my Therapist, Jeff helped me to realize that I had been much more dependent on the feedback of others, than I knew (or even cared to admit). I came to understand that I had given to others (in my life) my power of contentment. I had been allowing others much more “say” than was healthy. After months of therapy, I literally started to see myself content…standing alone. (At the same time, it is still my pleasure to allow room for company).
Therapeutic Value: Inner Strength. With each new day and each session, I was learning more and more. I now feel more self-assured and balanced. I feel stronger and wiser. And my chest (more often) fills with inner strength, rather than discontent. It’s refreshing to know that life (or the sun rise) can be just as beautiful whether I witness it by myself or with another.
Raindrops Keep Falling Happiness Greets Me
Inspiration: Driving through the mountains of Oregon, the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” filled the airwaves. The weather was misty and the trees were full and lush - a variety of greens. It was beautiful and peaceful. The lyrics of the song are actually positive and seemed to speak to specific events I was going through. These words struck me: “But there’s one thing I know ~ The blues they sent to meet me won’t defeat me ~ It won’t be long til happiness steps up to greet me”. I knew immediately that I wanted to paint a picture of the emotions I was experiencing.
Process: Thankfully, many of my EMDR sessions have been specific to my relationship with my mother. In a most unexpected way my mom had recently come back into my life. She needed help and took me up on my offer to live with me. Within months she wanted to leave and was not kind about it. Her hostility and “rejection” caused me much sadness, confusion and anger. I agreed to drive her (a three day trip – one way) to live elsewhere. It was not easy. My Therapist, Jeff helped me to express my grief and anger (present and past). He helped me to understand the realities versus the ideologies. Those sessions helped me to better process and accept the challenges with my mom (and ultimately with other trials in my life). When I set down to relay on canvas my experience, I saw myself standing in the rain…not shivering but, embracing the rain. I saw the rain as cleansing…purifying.
Therapeutic Value: Facing some of life’s hard realities can be relieving. It requires perspective. Like many, it’s been my instinct to run from (or bury) pain, but, I’ve since learned that confronting the painful truth is actually enlightening and in many ways crucial to life. It has helped me to grow – to become more whole. I’ve learned (and am learning everyday) that I do not need the love or approval of another to realize happiness. Life presents many tough challenges…even still, there is much to look forward to…much to appreciate…much to smile about…much to love and embrace (even the rain).
I’ve Gotta Be Me
Inspiration: “Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong ~ Whether I find a place in this world or never belong ~ I gotta be me, I've gotta be me ~What else can I be but what I am.” Those are the opening lyrics to the song “I’ve Gotta Be Me” (by Sammy Davis Jr.). They speak the words I feel.
Process: I’ve been in therapy now for a year. So much of the unknown is now known. I have more perspective and understanding. I have been able to admit my own “bad habits”; to acknowledge and take ownership of my own “shortcomings”. It’s been amazing to realize the healing that has come from my EMDR sessions. For years I carried this “weight upon my shoulders” and accepted it (because I did not know what to do with it – if anything at all). Some was placed there early in my life and some placed there by my own hand. Much of that weight has been lifted and I am walking taller and breathing a lot easier. I praise the enlightenment!
Therapeutic Value: Today, I feel an inner peace I’ve never known. I am happier to be me and I am loving myself more completely. I accept myself more…my strengths and my weaknesses. Facing one’s own truth has been rewarding and trying. And for me, it’s been intriguing as I find myself wanting to learn more… craving more insight. I even want to learn about the things I do that hinder me. I admit I’ve got more work to do. But, I welcome it. I am on a journey to finding my true self…a road I must travel. What else can I be but what I am? I’ve Gotta Be Free…I’ve Gotta Be Me!
Inspiration: Life. Sometimes it feels as if Life has a “stranglehold” on me. I feel bound. (What can I say; I’m a work in progress). When I contemplate the feeling, I realize that the word “bound” has several meanings. It means to be confined by bonds; and to be determined, resolved; and to be destined, headed or intending to head in a specified direction. However the context, feeling “bound” does not necessarily have to be a “bad” thing.
Process: I can see in my mind’s eye my feeling of being “confined by bonds”. Alone in a room and restrained. So many doors and windows…offering opportunities for an escape. But, how do I get out? Think. Think. Am I really bound? Is there not magic in the room? Do I not possess gifts? Am I determined, resolved? Are my restraints really as they appear? There is magic in the room and my bindings are just an illusion. My arms are free and I have the key in my hand.
Therapeutic Value: Realizing that (sometimes) things may appear to be a restraint, but in fact may not be so. It’s so important to consider our feelings…to acknowledge and show ourselves respect. But, we must also contemplate them and process them with facts…with reason. We have to “see” what is reality and what is illusion. And attitude! I can take the attitude that I am “bound”…that my restraints prevent me. Or I can take the attitude that I am determined and resolved. Fortunately, through therapy, Jeff has helped me to acknowledge the feelings of being bound, to process them, and to see what is reality and what is just an illusion. Life…it has its bindings, but with determination we can work through them. As for me…I am determined, resolved and I am headed in a specific direction. And…it feels good.
A Happy Welcome to My Newborn Self!
Inspiration: Having my mind blown again! On October 31st, I experienced something during an EMDR session, so powerful that I am still affected three weeks later. I am a bit at a loss to put the experience into words. How can I explain seeing one’s own spirit before it became part of your new born self? Or explain witnessing this through the eyes of your present, adolescent and older self? How can I explain that we are all one and the same? Does this “blow your mind”?
Process: The session itself was incredible…an experience beyond words. During the experience, as my Therapist, Jeff guided me and supported me, he asked me to relay the interactions. I told him that I could see my spirit and it was a colorful warm glow with good energy and it was beautiful. It was extraordinary when I saw my newborn self in her crib. I thought to myself: What a beautiful baby…What a gift. I also realized that it seemed that no one had ever looked at her this way…ever felt this love. It moved me to tears. I was more than happy to love this baby! At another point, I was smiling and laughing as the “three of us” debated who was going to get to hold “her”. (My 12 year old self was given the honors). At this point, Jeff posed something to me and I was astonished at my realization. I recognized that I had being viewing my new born self as “her”, instead of “me”. I was overwhelmed by the understanding that, in fact, I have been fractured from my inner self. Fortunately, I was then guided to see (all forms of) myself integrated. I watched as the colors moved around us and felt breathless as our energy connected. (I still feel that sensation). Mind blowing, indeed! I spent a couple days relaying my experience on canvas. I knew it was complete because when I looked at it, it sent a rush through my body. I literally caught my breath and felt this rush. (I still feel that rush).
Therapeutic Value: To be able to give this testimony is an incredible gift I have received. I feel honored to have had such an experience. There is still much to say, though. I know that I still have some more internal healing to do and I look forward to the interactions. Perhaps, most importantly, to me, is that I know that from the first twinkle that was my existence…I have always been worthy of love!
Inspiration: I was inspired to paint this picture by a sudden realization that came to me during an EMDR session on May 9th. I was struggling with three major challenges in my life, as well as the (lingering) challenges prior to. I wasn’t able to “settle down” enough to paint. So, when this painting came to me, it was compelling…and indicative of feeling more settled.
Process: As I had come to know, therapy and EMDR can be powerful and so very telling. During this particular session, Jeff was helping me to address painful feelings associated with a place I had spent many years and interactions I had with the people in my life. It was during this session…looking at the days past that I thought about the present day. Thoughts raced through my head. Conscious and Subconscious Mind…Fragmented, Dependency, Affirmation and Self-love. In an instant, I saw all my previous paintings and the lessons and value of each. I suddenly realized that over the last several months I had been living my life (for the most part) as I had prior to learning a more productive and healthy way of life. Now granted, I had lived many years living another story, even still I realized that I have to “live the lesson” every day, even when facing life’s challenges. Reflections. With all this in mind, I set down to lay out the image I had in my head. At the same time, I was trying to organize the flood of thoughts, feelings and emotions…to decipher the message. As I drew out an image of myself, I found myself creating a reflection of that image…and when I put the two together, side by side, I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I knew I had the picture that represented my experience.
Therapeutic Value: I love working with paints…manipulating the medium to create the expression. It is therapeutic in itself. As I worked the colors, I contemplated the order and relevance of the image. I wondered about the physical and emotional response I had to placing the images side by side and then deciding to leave the space between the two open. I thought about Awareness and Acceptance…Love and Trust. I thought about two who are actually one, becoming someone different…a collective of the two. I covered the entire canvas with color and set the painting on an easel so that I may view it and determine if I was “done”. Immediately, I experienced a huge wave of emotion and I knew it was complete. However, what I did not know immediately was my subconscious added to the expression in an incredibly significant way. Between the two…there is another. And that person is: My True Self. The person I am becoming through Awareness, Acceptance, and Love. Wow! Looks like tomorrow will be an exciting day!
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