For most of my life, I was ashamed to talk about the mental illness, alcoholism, and the dysfunctional family dynamics I grew up in. Alcohol and drug use became part of my own coping strategy during adolescence and continued after I left home at eighteen. I discovered the false confidence of booze and its power to loosen my inhibitions. When I was under the influence, I was able to put words to the pain I’d kept hidden but longed to express.When we do not feel safe to be ourselves, we hide from the world in a protective mask that comes in various shapes and sizes such as drugs, alcohol, makeup, clothes, titles, accomplishments, and more.
Once I removed liquid courage from my life, I was left with the raw emotion and confusion. I felt like a hot, fiery mess much of the time. Luckily, writing and painting helped me get through until I found a series of helpers who could really support my healing journey. A wise mentor helped me understand that my past experiences had programmed me to see myself through the broken lens of trauma. Toxic shame shaded my perspective and determined the way I treated myself and lived my life.
The Not Good Enough Trance
“When we believe we aren’t good enough, we see a world that’s not good enough and create a life that’s not good enough,” my mentor said. It was comforting and frightening to see how true that was for me. So often, nothing in life seemed right or good despite how much I achieved or how much better my life looked from the outside. Fast forward through years of healing and continual acceptance of the experiences that helped shape me, I can still catch myself slipping into the “not good enough” story. Now, however, I’m better equipped to recognize when I’m “replaying the old tapes” and reliving the old patterns that dampen mood, motivation, and overall levels of satisfaction.
Thank goodness for healthy coping strategies, but…
Mindfulness and practices like yoga, breathwork, and other movement forms help me create new healthy patterns and develop stronger connections to myself and my body. But there’s an important caveat: no amount of formal meditation practice nor committed yoga routine could take away the pain of childhood trauma. I needed specific help healing the original wounds caused by growing up without secure connections and a sense of safety.The healing process isn’t linear. It took a long time for me to find the spaces and healers I felt I could trust. Shame had colored the world and made it feel unsafe for me, my feelings, and my true self. Life experience filters your view of the world and influences your perceptions, sensations, emotions, and connections…or lack thereof. Stripping down to your truest nature takes time. It’s an ongoing process of tuning in. As I continue to recover from childhood trauma, I experience more forgiveness, grace, self-compassion, and, best of all, love…
I don’t mean romantic love or even self-love, but the original state of pure love that flows when you rewrite the old patterns of self-hate, criticism, and punishment. With compassionate awareness, I can notice when I start to slip into an unkind thought or behavior which I call the “not good enough” trance.
As great as mindfulness and yoga are, the power to let go and make new, healthy choices didn’t come from years of child’s pose or savasana. For me, healing came through therapies and coaching specifically focused on my story and my particular needs.
Beyond Healthy Coping Skills
Self compassion didn’t become part of life thanks to meditation that cleared my mind or warrior poses that gave me strength.
I found deep, healing love when someone without any personal bias loved me for just being myself. I started to become whole again when I opened up to someone who could handle the decades of pain I had carried. A professional without any attachments to outcome can help you see recurring patterns and defeating behaviors. They can take you to the heart of the issue and help guide you back to your true self.
If you’re someone with a history of trauma, it’s not easy to confide in a therapist. The ability to trust was compromised long ago, and it’s hard to make that leap even when you want help. But, as hard as it is, to recover from complex trauma, you need to feel as if someone has your back until you can learn to offer yourself that kind of support.
We must experience healthy love in order to give it freely to ourselves and others in a safe and healthy way.
Movement, breath, and creative expression have all supported my healing journey. I can’t imagine healing without these supportive coping skills, but they were not the destination. The ultimate goal – for me, for my clients, and for everyone recovering from trauma – is to find safety and comfort in being your most authentic self.
Do you find yourself longing to feel more comfortable in your own skin as your true and authentic self? Stuck in the not good enough loop? Are you struggling with unresolved pain from the past? We can help.
Integrative Art Therapy is a holistic practice using an eclectic blend of evidenced based therapies including the Expressive Arts such as visual arts, psychodrama, movement, nature, Eco-Art, music, and creative writing combined with mindfulness, yoga, meditation, nutrition, and exercise.
Our team is dedicated to helping you unearth your natural strength and innate wisdom. We walk beside you as you uncover the joy that comes from listening inward, following your heart, and becoming your truest self. At Integrative Art Therapy, we also offer child, adolescent, family, couples, and group Art Therapy as well as health coaching with a specialty in expressive arts.
Think you or a loved one could benefit from the powerful benefits of Art Therapy? Schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation to learn more.