I was at my therapist the other day and I asked, “If I’m feeling blue, how do I know just to let myself feel it and when I should do something to try to make myself feel better and pick myself up?”
I’m not someone who has a hard time feeling things now, generally speaking, so I can let feelings flow pretty easily. At least, most feelings. Anger, not so easy. Needs work for sure and enjoying the experience of working on it.
Knowing me fairly well after a few months of working together, he said, “Well, if you’re going to go home and watch Netflix and eat ice cream, then you’re likely going to fall in but if you go home and explore the feeling of blue, that’s okay. Feel it but don’t fall in”. He suggested making art, finger painting, writing, playing with clay, going for a walk, finding a way to experience the feelings.
When I heard this I was like “AHHHHH YES! Of course. Feel it but don’t fall in!”
It reminded me of the many times I would go to my room as a teenager and cocoon myself. I couldn’t express how I was feeling, already being labelled too sensitive and living in a home where learning to avoid any conflict or upset was my number one priority. There was already too much turmoil and trauma as it was. I would tuck myself away and try to contain what I was feeling. I could safely feel everything in my room but the act of containing it really led to me falling into it. I couldn’t externalize and process and look at what was painful which led to me trying to numb out in a variety of ways.
After I moved across the country, there was a time in my 20s where I was unbuttoning my tightly buttoned former corporate and hyper controlled self and I painted that shit out. I found ways to express, after my 27 years, all that I’d been holding in, containing, keeping a lid on.
I slathered my body in paint and I stamped myself on giant canvasses. I had no idea why I was painting like that but I needed to. I felt free. And, then I had an art show and crumpled up all my journal pages and threw them around the gallery to be read and picked up by anyone. Looking back, I see I wasn’t so original but at the time I felt pretty rock n’roll. This expression eventually led me into creating a comedic character I performed, a character earnest in her desire to please and entertain yet unaware of her lack of true talent. Who knows where that character came from but she was funny. I needed to express myself and show myself and take myself out of hiding.
That’s just it. When we FALL INTO our pain, we are going into hiding. For me, it’s akin to hiding in my room and travelling those well worn neural pathways of feeling that painful loneliness again. My body and mind go into mental time travel instead of uploading the current data about my life and my circumstances. That’s what unresolved trauma is really. The past still feels present.
I think trauma recovery requires expression that bypasses the rational mind and comes from inside us, our bodily sensations, our buried SELF, our tucked away in pain teenager self that needs a way to finally express what wasn’t safe to be felt and shared. We need to find ways to externalize our shit sometimes, purposefully, not in the unconscious ways so many of us do.
I’ve had a creative drought for many years. A creative writing course I took at the University of Toronto led to few short stories I think are pretty alright but I didn’t stick with it. A few years ago, I took a live nude sculpting class, took a comedy writing course and performed in recital talking about my first colonic (oh, yes I did) but I haven’t found the groove again, consistently making art or performing just for fun. And, I’ve been an expressive, creative person a few crucial transitional points in my life. Sure, I am creative in the way I do my work, pull research together, coach, maneuver through the world of owning a business and creating my own approach to movement. I can apply myself creatively. But, it’s not the same as pure creative expression. It’s no surprise that I’m surrounded by artists of all sorts both personally and professionally.
Last night, I went into our craft and art drawer, well stocked with paint, pencils, pastels, sketch pads, clay. You name it. The closest I got to making something was cleaning out the drawer and organizing it. Instead, I went for a long walk on the summer solstice and soaked up some sun. I walked along the Rail Path in Toronto, shared moments of connection with people and filled myself with gratitude for the beautiful neighbourhood I live in. I cranked music that moved me from the inside. I took in the outdoor art in the Junction Triangle.
I FELT but I didn’t FALL in. I felt but didn’t fall.
I’m still waiting for the pull. That thing I HAVE to paint, make, perform, say, write.
Maybe my work is my ultimate creative expression
Maybe this is a start.
Just writing this.
If you want to learn more about the things I’ve learned along the way both professionally and personally to improve my own emotional self regulation and to recover from my past traumas, I’m about to close registration on my Recover Your Warrior Webinar program that’s about to finish. Next one will be offered in September!
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