Blog : Insights from our therapists

A Space To Call Your Own

A Space To Call Your Own

Everyone needs a space of her own. It doesn’t need to be big or elaborate, but having a space of one’s own invites quiet, the ability to think and mull things over, to consider various sides to a question or problem, and to work with minimal distractions. Many people are continuing to work from home due to covid-19, and have carved out workspaces – in the corner of a bedroom, at the kitchen counter or dining room table, in a closet or under a stairwell, or in a spare room originally purposed for some other activity. This has been necessary and effective for many people’s employment and productivity. But getting things done is not the only purpose for having a space of one’s own, although that is important too.

The kind of space of one’s own that I am suggesting you consider is the one that connects you to your inner world, a space that reflects your authentic self, your values… and from which your creativity springs, in whatever form it may take. This could include art making, contemplation, meditation or prayer, reading, playing an instrument or listening to music, dancing, yoga or other movement, burning candles or enjoying essential oils, writing, closing your eyes and letting your imagination wander, or simply staring out the window at a tree, a bird feeder or a garden, and daydreaming! And for those of you who might be saying to yourself that you do not have time for such pursuits, or that they are frivolous, there is a large body of research out there that shows that the above activities can contribute greatly to a person’s quality of work and productivity, as well as their overall health and wellbeing.

One place to start in designing a space of your own or in re-designing a space that you already inhabit but wish to make more congruent with your inner life, and is suited to the activities that are authentic, reflective, and creative expressions of you, is to think about the places outside your home where you have felt most ‘at home’, the most comfortable, the most ‘in your element’. What kind of place is ‘your place’? Is it a museum or an art studio, a concert hall or a piano bar, a tea room or a coffee shop, a busy mall or street fair, or is it in a park, garden or natural area – and if so, is it wild and remote, or cultivated and formal? What are you drawn to? You know this in your body as well as your mind. Let your mind and senses wander, and remember the atmosphere and the colors and the textures of the place that speak to your soul.

After you have identified the important qualities and features of this place, consider how you might recreate this place for yourself so that it will convey, when you enter into it, the essence of the place, the most meaningful aspects of it. This can be done with a few simple objects, and perhaps some paint or fabric. It could be a whole room, or a corner or alcove that you dedicate. Although it can be as elaborate as you like, it is not necessary to completely overhaul the space, but to make it inviting, safe and relaxing, and conducive to whatever pastime that is replenishing and reconnecting for you that you wish to pursue. When you enter this space of your own you want to feel a sense of authenticity, a feeling of being grounded, a being at home internally as much as externally. Ideally this space you are providing for yourself is a mirror of your internal landscape, and allows you to more fully express who you are. It will remind you of what you value and what you want more of in your life. It provides the space for you to nurture your creativity and to feel at one with yourself. As you grow into it, allow it to grow and change with you, as you evolve more fully into yourself over time.

Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.

Feeling Stuck? Try This Visualization!

Feeling Stuck? Try This Visualization!

Recently I created a visualization to evoke the memory of what it feels like to see possibility rather than limitation. This was based on an experience that I recalled having myself, many years ago. At the time I wanted to change several things about my life, including moving to another state. But I was feeling stuck. STUCK. The word itself is evocative for me of the feelings attached to it – weighed down, encumbered, restricted, limited. There were several factors contributing to my situation at the time, most of them external. But one afternoon I found myself considering things in a new way. I saw new possibilities opening up and I began questioning my perception of being stuck and the beliefs I had about my situation and myself that kept me feeling stuck.

It was not that the contributing factors were gone, not at all, but somehow I was looking at things in a new way, and feeling differently about my own capacity to meet them. One of the things that has stayed with me most of all about that experience is how this felt in my body and changed my outlook. I was thinking more creatively, questioning my beliefs, considering whom I might engage to help me, thinking out of the box (I had felt I was in). And my body felt lighter, more open, less constricted. Because I had been carrying these feelings around in my body and my body was reflecting feeling stuck and limited back to me, reinforcing the state I was in.

Although a very different situation existed for me back then when I had this experience, and this was the inspiration for the visualization, after creating it I began to think that it might be useful now, considering the external limitations many are experiencing currently due to Covid-19, and all the myriad ways this is affecting people’s personal and professional lives. The fact is, no matter what the external environment is giving us, this is always only a part of the picture. It is our inner environment – how we perceive our world, feel about ourselves, process emotions and ideas, sense and carry emotions in our bodies – that also matters, and affects how we perceive and then respond to the outer conditions.

The purpose of this visualization is to remind one of the cognitive and somatic experiences involved in the perception of feeling stuck and then unstuck, of perceiving limitation and then possibility. Because remembering this in the body will reinforce our perceptions, and we can choose to see possibilities where we saw limitations.

Visualization:
Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your hands resting in your lap or on your thighs. Breathe easily and naturally, preferably through your nose only, without forcing any kind of rhythm. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths and bring yourself to this present moment of sitting and being.
Rest in your body as you recall a time in your life when you felt stuck, unable to move forward or to create what you wanted. If something else comes to mind that fits your definition of stuck, then follow what appears for you. As you imagine this time in your life, picture yourself as you appeared then or describe it in words to yourself. Or do both if that feels natural to do.
As you recall how it felt to be in that place, continue to breathe easily and naturally as you tune into your body, and notice where this memory of stuck lands in your body, where it might have even been stored in your body. What sensations are present now? Continue to breathe gently as you do a brief body scan, noticing where the sensations of feeling stuck are remembered in your body. Choose a word, color, symbol, and/or shape that represents this for you.
Continue to breathe naturally as you shift your focus to recalling what shifted or opened for you that relieved your feeling that you were stuck. Can you recall the moment when you saw or felt that new possibility open up for you? How did it manifest for you? Where did the change come from? What did it feel like? Picture yourself as you looked then as you experienced this or describe it in words to yourself as you recall how this felt to you. Check-in with your body as you continue to breathe – where does this remembered sensation of possibility, (feel free to substitute whatever word works for you here), land in you now? Is there a memory of this sensation in your body as well? Choose a word, color, shape, and/or symbol for this feeling/sensation.
Take a few breaths as you ease yourself back to a full awareness of yourself sitting in the present moment. Slowly when you are ready, open your eyes. Before you get up and resume other activities, if you are able, take a little more time to contemplate your choice of words, symbols, colors, or shapes for each of the feeling states you just visualized and felt. How are they different or similar? What do they mean to you? Feel free to journal about any part of your experience, or make a picture – of/about it, or to find a movement that expresses it. There is no one watching, no one to judge. Find something – an action or an object – that will remind you of this experience.
This way of connecting with your experience can be a resource for you. You might want to share your experience with a trusted friend who can support you, brainstorm with you, etc. Perhaps you set aside 5 or 10 minutes a day where you brainstorm ideas with no censor or judge to address something specific. Or perhaps you simply allow yourself to enjoy the sensations and experience of remembering the feeling of openness and possibility and allow this to feed you, as an act of self-care.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.

Expressive Arts on the Go

Expressive Arts on the Go

“Without tubes of paint, there would have been no Impressionism.” Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I recently learned that prior to the mid-19th century, painters of outdoor subjects – landscapes and oceans, towns and ships and trees – did so mostly in their studios. After having sketched a quick study of their subject on location, to get certain details down, they would return to their workspaces and start the real process of creating their images. I imagine many of them might have preferred to paint outdoors – en plein air – at least when the weather was beautiful, but painting equipment was so bulky and impractical for travel – unwieldy easels and messy, poorly contained paints – that according to historians, most did not.

That is, until the invention of the French Box Easel, or field easel! The genius behind this portable studio is not known, but these game changers were designed from the beginning with telescoping legs and a built-in palette for paints. They were made light enough for hiking into the forest, up a mountain, or across a rocky coast – as far into the world as one might need to go to find just the right point of inspiration.

And in this briefcase-sized field box one could, by about this time but not before, bring along a nice stash of paint tubes. That’s right, prior to 1841, paints were usually carried around in animal bladders and syringes. So, paint tubes were not only an entirely more attractive form of storage, they were also better for preserving paint for reuse and, most crucially, allowing artists to bring along a greater variety of color. It’s thought that this invention alone gave rise to Impressionism, because it motivated more spontaneous and greater variety of color choices! And with much less wasted paint, they could afford to apply it more thickly!

For me, this intriguing bit of art history rings all the fascination bells.Though not a painter per se, I do in the course of my personal Expressive Arts practice frequently create visual images using various media – pastels, pencils, pens, charcoal, clay, textiles, and yes, on occasion, watercolor and acrylic paints that still come in those convenient little tubes. However, I also like to spend as much free time as I can outdoors. And so when I was first developing my art practice, I often felt conflicted between my desire for lots of art-making time and my desire for lots of outdoor time. Fortunately, my mental lightbulb switched on and I decided to pack myself up something even smaller than a field easel – a simple little go-bag with just pencils, a couple of pens, a small box of oil pastels, and a very small pad of mixed media paper, and head out – to anywhere.

My ultimate desire with any art-making though is for it to be multimodal – combining more than one art medium or modality at a time. Often for me this means doing some movement or dance before I make visual art, or “moving” the image once I’ve made it to bring out the depth of my experience. But, movement practices don’t often seem entirely practical in public spaces – the parks and piers and beaches I frequent don’t feel quite right to me for such vulnerable forms of expression. I have found though, that I can do a little meditating just about anywhere. I don’t even have to close my eyes, or pretzel my legs into lotus position. I can just breathe deep and use this technique for grounding myself in the present moment:

  1. Notice three things I can see around me, at or above eye level
  2. Notice three things I can hear
  3. Notice three things I can feel, physically with my body

A few rounds of this and I find I have come into the here and now, and that’s when I’m ready to move to my art supplies and paper. As always, I allow myself to gravitate towards colors that I feel are calling to me, and gestures and shapes that come naturally and without much thought. It’s this low pressure, unplanned approach to making visual imagery that allows my imagination to take the reins, and steer my mind and my mind’s eye to a place that is normally unexplored – a place of rich nourishment and valuable personal feedback.

Expressive Arts practice for me almost always involves writing in response to visual imagery – and that’s another thing that’s easy to do while I’m out in public. Just a few lines scribbled on the back of my image, starting with “I am,” “I feel,” or I need,” brings me yet more information about where I’m at and what my internal wisdom is offering me.

Finally, Expressive Arts on the go doesn’t need to be limited to plein air practice. I’ve taken my go-bag with me to museums, cafes, hotel rooms. I’ve even collaborated on some imagery with my niece, in my little tiny notebook, in the backseat of a car on the way to a family funeral. Trust me, it made that journey not only more memorable but comforting and enjoyable.

Legendary Expressive Arts co founder and therapist Shaun McNiff has talked about how, early in his career, he was so inundated with required business and staff meetings, that he began doodling and sketching as they were droning on. He found he was actually able to better hear into what coworkers were really saying, and his images gave him more insight into the issues and ideas being discussed.

For me, the insight with this topic is that – in the same way I know now that creative expression is meant for everyone, that every person in the world has unique creative ability – I have learned too that creative expression is meant for everywhere. Our creative selves are meant to be taken out into the world with us and made a larger and more real part of our daily lives. We don’t need to wait for studio time or spare time, because we can find ways, means and the time to make art here, there and – anywhere.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

expressive arts therapist, laura hensely

Laura Hensley, Counselor, LMHCThrough Expressive Arts therapy and personal practice, I find and make meaning, develop my own personal mythology, and gain confidence and connection to myself and others. I offer this same opportunity to Integrative Counsel clients by way of multimodal creative exploration of your intentions, goals, and heartfelt desires!

Time and Space Part 3 – A Room of One’s Own

Time and Space Part 3 – A Room of One’s Own

Author Virginia Woolf felt so strongly that writers need access to a dedicated physical space – a studio so to speak, from which to fully pursue their creative genius – that she titled her classic 1929 feminist essay just that, “A Room of One’s Own.” In it, she rallies and insists against a history of lost opportunities for women – to the world and to ourselves. Woolf inspires us to imagine not only the literature but all the art that was never engendered, because our need for, and even birthright to a life of personal expression has been left invalidated, certainly at the time by an unsupportive society, and often still by a lack of financial freedom – freedom that would otherwise give us the opportunity to find or make or build one room – just one – to call our own, where no further need or expectation exists than to let our own wheels spin as we cultivate our singular creative vision.

Woolf’s assertions ring true for me. I have for a long time nurtured a daydream of having the domestic largesse to devote one entire room of my house to setting up an art studio/writer’s loft. Or just as well, having the disposable income to rent a studio space, a dedicated and sacrosanct place where expressive practices are my only aim. No competing demands in the form of piles of laundry, dirty dishes, to-do lists or TV. Ideally, this space would have high windows filled with dappled sunlight coming through the oak trees, as well as dusty shelves full of my favorite books, comfy old over-stuffed chairs, and a clean, uncluttered desk. Jo March’s attic in Little Women always comes fully to mind.

But let’s face it, for me right now and probably for many of us, procuring an idyllic art studio space – at home or out in the world – is not a realistic goal. At least at the moment. And Virginia Woolf knew this – knew that affording a literal, physical space would be a practical limitation for many who would otherwise not only relish the opportunity, but make great use of it. Accordingly, she rightly and perhaps even more enthusiastically expounds on the need for a figurative room of one’s own.

And so out of necessity, and with the ardent goal of deepening my Expressive Arts practice, I’ve explored my options for creating consistent, easy access to my own figurative art studio. I’ve asked myself – what is it about this fantasy room of mine that feels so inspiring? On reflection, is it really the room itself? Or is it the contained, relaxed yet focused feeling that I can so easily imagine? Or, perhaps more importantly, is it that in this room I feel I could confidently, unshakingly stake my claim to the territory of myself? That I could relish uninterrupted in the development of my flawed but full identity?

So, along with these questions, I’ve experimented and discovered a few things about my need for a room of my own: my little back porch is a fine place for personal art practice, as long as I’ve lit a candle and turned my ringer off. I enjoy it most when I’ve cleaned and straightened up a bit, but even that’s not necessary. Arranging some simple art supplies beforehand seems to bring a certain sense of hallowed stillness and expectation. Also, I must spend a few quiet moments before I begin, meditating in an informal way and taking some deep breaths. Stretching to relax my body helps too. These are the few activities that bring me all the way into the present moment, and even my porch itself does start to feel transformed, and completely set apart from its typical daily uses. With just a few adjustments, and for a couple of hours, it resembles and functions as my dream studio would, in all the most important ways.

Creative Prompt #1 – Consider what you want a creative room of your own to feel and be like. Spend a few minutes jotting down ideas and quickly drawing some of your favorite features.

Creative Prompt #2 – Make up a grab bag or box of just a few items that can help you quickly and easily transform an area of your home into your temporary studio, including, if possible one favorite feature from prompt #1. Include whatever feels most likely to help you establish a calm, reflective state of mind. The possibilities are endless, but a few ideas are – a favorite rock or knickknack, some seashells, a candle and matches, an inspiring book. I often put on music for mood and atmosphere and pair a small plant or vase of flowers with my objects. Voila! Easy to set up, easy to take down.

Creative Prompt #3 – Spend a few minutes reflecting in writing on what it means to you to have a figural room of your own? How does it help you explore who you are, and go out into the world with more confidence? How might it promote not only your well-being but your personal development and sense of independence?

Creative Prompt #4 – Find community support for building or enhancing your regular art practice – check out Integrative Counsel’s virtual Expressive Arts Groups, first Thursday of every month!

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

expressive arts therapist, laura hensely

Laura Hensley, Counselor, LMHC. Through Expressive Arts therapy and personal practice, I find and make meaning, develop my own personal mythology, and gain confidence and connection to myself and others. I offer this same opportunity to Integrative Counsel clients by way of multimodal creative exploration of your intentions, goals, and heartfelt desires!

One Magnet At A Time

One Magnet At A Time

I’ve rarely been to visit anyone who did not have something meaningful affixed to their home’s refrigerator. Whether it be memorabilia of places they’ve been or fantasy trips they want to take, pictures and accolades of and about loved ones, special events, important reminders, or affirmative quotes, it seems to be human nature to adorn one’s fridge door. I am no exception – I have a collection of magnets and images affixed to mine as well.

But… when was the last time you actually read that great saying or gazed at the picture you have that you so thoughtfully and intentionally hung there? If you’re like me, it might have been awhile. In fact, it might be that soon after you cut out and hung that quote, or purchased that pretty magnet, or put up that postcard, you stopped really seeing it. It blended into the background, creating an overall pleasing effect, but losing its real impact… the reason you put it there in the first place…. as a reminder of something or someone important to you.
This is what I noticed and started thinking about the other day as I was hanging out in my kitchen waiting for some toast to pop up, and glanced at the side of the fridge where my collection of pretty images, reminders, and pithy quotes are arranged. For the first time in a while I realized, I was really seeing them. They came alive for me again. I was reminded of ideas and concepts that have meaning and value for me, which is of course why I had put them there in the first place – to inspire and ground me, and to remind me of the possibilities.
The magnet that caught my eye first, while waiting for my toast, was an image of a mermaid-like figure with a big crayon drawing herself, with the words “color outside the lines”. It’s a colorful image and an obvious choice for an artist and art therapist like myself. The words do seem a bit basic and straightforward though, right? Just another way, an artistic way perhaps, of saying ‘think outside the box’, right? Maybe for some. But here’s why I love it and find it so useful: As a perfectionist it’s easy for me to judge my creativity rigidly – to call it “not good enough”, to measure it against unreasonable standards. “Color outside the lines” reminds me to play, to have fun, to break rules (who made those rules anyway?), to be inventive and daring, to take risks in my creativity and in my life; in short, to circumvent the perfectionist judge, resulting in more joy. And I sure don’t mind more joy in my life!

Just reading the quote all by itself, without having taken any action while remembering it, brings me a sense of joy. What’s really interesting about this is this quote and image, this little reminder that I chose to put where (I thought) I would notice it often, produces joy just by reading it. I think that’s because it resonates with something I already know deep within me – that my creativity happens away from the watchful eye of the perfectionist and outside of the manufactured constraints of limitations and ‘lines’, (unless of course, I choose to introduce them myself!), and this is simply my reminder; which I intentionally chose to put there so I would remember!

So how might I remember more often? How will I remember to really look at what, until recently I see without seeing? This morning when I woke up, after I put the kettle on for my morning tea, I gazed at my fridge. My eyes rested on another image and quote. The answer seems to be 1 magnet at a time. It felt like a great way to start the day…..

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.

Soothing Anxiety

Soothing Anxiety

This is a challenging time for many people. There is much to fear and to grieve, there are many losses both personal and global – of life, of health, of economic well being, of social interactions – the list goes on, but there are also opportunities for self-care.  Especially now, during times of Covid-19 when we are feeling limited by our external choices – of where we can go and who we can see, it’s important to be reminded that possibilities for our own self-care are internally determined and directed.

Both friends and clients are talking about their anxieties. Anxiety is not experienced as pleasant or welcome, but it is an important sensation in the body to recognize. The problem comes when anxiety becomes a constant state rather than a message to the self to act on. Originally anxiety was a sensation designed to provoke a fight or flight response. A response system meant to be temporary. Once the response occurred the sensations and impulse for seeking safety receded. Feeling anxiety at this historic time seems to me to be one of a number of reasonable and expected responses to the virus and its continued effects on our selves and our world. There are tangible threats to our wellbeing, as well as unknowns.  What’s not healthy is when those feelings of anxiety become the predominant emotion or state of being and take over.

In addition to doing all the practical things we can, that we ourselves have control over, there are ways of being and actions one can take that can counteract this, that can help us regain our perspective about the sensations we might feel that we perceive as anxiety, and to both calm and reduce them. Although the usual knee-jerk reaction to feeling anxious is to try to make it disappear through avoidant behavior – such as eating, watching movies and series, being on electronics, or other distractions – unless you are truly hungry, are really loving that show, or have to answer a specific email or text, my very first suggestion is to get closer and more familiar with your anxiety, not to move away from it.

Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for 10-15 minutes. Breathe easily and slowly through your nose, counting to 4 on your inhale, 4 to hold, and 4 to exhale. If this feels too short, feel free to use a 6 count, if too long, try a 2 or 3 count. The breath should be relaxed and not forced, and not rapid. After a few rounds of breathing and you feel comfortable with the rhythm of the breath, scan your body to relax any places you notice may feel tense and send your breath there. Where is the sensation of anxiety in your body? How strong is it?  Has that changed since you began your breathing? Does it have a color? A shape? Are there other sensations in your body right now?  Do you want to continue to rest where you are, or does your body want to move? If so, what gesture or posture would your body like to take? Can you allow yourself the freedom to explore this? It’s easy to feel self-conscious even by yourself if you are not used to doing this kind of freeform moving, but with practice, it can be freeing, and healing. Feel free to put on music and move to it, allowing whatever expression your body wishes to make.

If you choose not to take this into movement, or even if you do, another avenue might be to use pastels, colored pencils, crayons, or other media to put the color(s) and shape(s) and any other imagery that came to you to paper. There is no judgment allowed in any of these activities, these are expressive processes designed to help you become familiar with your bodily sensations and honing in on what you need to feel calm, to release the energy associated with feeling sensations of anxiety, and to get to know what soothes you.

Another addition or alternative is to write in a journal about what you experienced, reflecting on what you felt, and what you understand about how you experience anxiety. Perhaps you have had some insight into what precipitates those feelings and how to reduce their occurrence, for instance by limiting your exposure to listening to the news only once a day, or planning a walk daily in a natural place that you know relaxes you.

Whatever avenue of exploration you choose, it is my hope that in knowing more about the sensations you experience and allowing yourself to express them, you will enjoy new possibilities of providing better self-care and healing, not just at this time, but for your lifetime.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.

Procrastination and Perfectionism

Procrastination and Perfectionism

I agreed to do this blog over a month ago, more than agreed – volunteered – said I wanted to, and that I like writing and would like to do more of it. And I did feel exactly that. I want to. So why has it taken me all this time to sit down, with my deadline now upon me, to begin to write about this topic of my choosing? You guessed it… see title above!

I have been a procrastinator most of my life, to the irritation of my parents, my teachers, my ex-husband (no, that’s not why we are no longer together); and for most of my adult life, especially to myself. There are endless things written about procrastination both online and in print – what causes it, how it manifests, psychological states associated with it (higher rates of anxiety, low-self esteem, depression), the detriments, and even some benefits of it, and how to overcome it. And there are many, many quotes, some amusing, some pithy, and many designed to expel procrastination and to inspire action in its place. One that struck a chord for me is from Alyce P. Coryn-Selby: “Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” and this one from William James also hit home: “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task”.

My awareness of this attribute is long-standing, and I’ve been managing it for years, one might say successfully enough since I have achieved many of the important things I’ve set out to do. But when I look back at how long it took me to do some of those things and how much time I wasted avoiding action, well, that’s another story. These days I don’t dwell on that terribly much – the judgments of my past procrastination choices don’t serve any current actions I wish to take, but reflecting on them might impart some useful information. The reason it’s more on my mind these days is because of how it has been manifesting for me during our recent and still on-going circumstances of self-quarantine.

When we first went into ‘stay at home’ mode, I was anticipating and imagining all the time I would have to get into my more ‘meaty’, involved, time-consuming and neglected projects, and how quickly I would accomplish them. The 2 most important of these projects to me were art-making – particularly watercolor painting, and sifting through some belongings for which I have some deep emotional attachments. But as one week led into the next, I noticed I wasn’t doing those things, I was doing the less important, short-term, easier to complete tasks, the easier to feel satisfied tasks, the ones that didn’t challenge me emotionally or remind me of my lack of skill or abilities. And what I noticed was subtle but it got my attention.

I noticed that I did feel just satisfied enough with those easier tasks completed to ignore the bigger tasks, but only for so long and that there was a niggling feeling of incompletion in my day and a feeling that I was, somehow, selling myself short. So then I planned that the next day I would paint and several days went by with that scenario… not painting, doing little easier things, feeling just satisfied enough until the end of the day when I said once again “why didn’t I paint today?”, and then I would once again decide…. tomorrow for sure! This process was not new to me, but I believe the lack of external and social activities and distractions made it so much harder to ignore. Clearly, being too busy was no longer the reason I could blame for not getting to it!

Once I saw this pattern in operation, I felt I was left with no choice but to confront it. My desire to paint and to sift through those belongings were beginning now to demand my attention and I knew I had to make a change in my approach and in my understanding. It wasn’t just simply ‘doing it’, as much as I would like to tell you that it was that easy. If it were, I would have followed through all those days I had planned to. I knew there was something powerful operating below my consciousness that was subverting me because after all, we are talking about something I was really wanting to do, not an onerous task that it would make sense I might like to put off.

So, I began to do some processes to help elucidate it and make it conscious. I went to my journal first, and after imagining myself painting and how it felt, and what transpired when I did, I then began just writing whatever came to me, about the act of painting and my experience of it. And what became abundantly clear was my discomfort with being a beginner, and the frustration that often came with my attempts that ‘failed’. My perfectionist streak, that trait that has no business participating in any creative endeavor, was motivating my avoidance. It’s the perfectionist who labels my attempts as ‘failures’, the perfectionist who becomes so easily frustrated, the perfectionist who needs to be an instant master.

With this knowledge, I was able to plan an art-making session that allowed for managing the perfectionist inner dialogue and to pre-empt frustration. I planned to do some art-making that was not product-oriented, in other words, I decided that I would simply ‘mess around’ with materials, in this case, watercolor paints, with no goal in mind, no specific image I would make – I would simply play and experiment -with brush strokes, with colors, and see what happened. The purpose of this was to make it almost impossible for the perfectionist to have a leg to stand on because by nature she must have some ideal to compare to. If I were not making anything specific or ‘important’, there would be nothing to compare or judge. This session was successful, in that it reminded me of the pleasures I receive from painting, and it was enough to quiet the perfectionist judge and thankfully to get me started again. But it’s been a very conscious practice – reminding myself each time I enter the creative space that I am here for pleasure, not product, and that judgments about my ‘progress’ or ‘abilities’ are not welcome. But the joy from simply engaging in it is!

I will close with my friend Donna Starr’s quote to me as I think she sums it up beautifully: “Perfectionism based procrastination is about thinking there is only one way – the right way and a wrong – built on faulty perceptions of self-worth. Whereas passion-driven endeavors are based on the process, not the outcome, and self-worth is based on engaging with exploration and experience.”

As for writing this blog, the perfectionist also does not belong here. Yes, I want to do the best job I can, but truly, more than doing this perfectly, I want to share something of myself and my experience, as I believe it may be useful to others, may open a door to another possibility.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.

Time and Space Part 2: Deepening My Creative Practice During Quarantine

Time and Space Part 2: Deepening My Creative Practice During Quarantine

Who knew that the hustle and bustle most of us knew as a way of life – rushing from one appointment, one activity to another – would suddenly shift to a far less scheduled and necessarily domestic routine? In varying ways and degrees, most of us have been affected by the retreat required by COVID-19, from the world at large to the perimeters of our homes.

About two months in, the sudden shock of quarantine gave way for me to a more subtle sense of slowing down. The shut-down came to signify, among many other things, an opportunity to appreciate time and space in a way I couldn’t have imagined even a few months ago. I’ve been able to watch the changes in daylight as the sun moves across not only the sky, but the rooms of my house. I notice birds more, and the sound of breezes moving and shifting through the oaks and palms outside my house. Days and nights have seemed to stretch out, and not in a bad way. This feeling of open-ended time, with less to do and far fewer places to go, is something I don’t think I’ve experienced since I was a kid. Summer in the 1970s had a languid, long quality, and it was that set-apart kind of time that allowed me to daydream, muse, and freely spin my own internal creative wheels.

Creative Prompt #1: Have schedule changes brought by the shut-down reminded you of another time, when you felt less hurried and had more time to think? If so, jot down a quick description of this memory.

As an adult, I notice these unpressured wheels continue to turn most smoothly when I make enough time for my personal Expressive Arts practice. I find that when, not everyday but often enough, I carve out a couple of hours with even basic art supplies and a simple Expressive Arts process, I’m able to travel to that land of unhurried self-discovery and secret inspiration.

Creative Prompt #2: With a piece of paper and an art medium of your choice, first take a few deep breaths and then while basking in your memory of unhurried time, make a quick visual image.

And so the shut-down, for all its grief and fear, has given me this one silver-lined cloud – of the experience of expanded time. I’m able to connect on a weekly basis with others in virtual Expressive Arts groups and open studios, and also savor these unfettered alone hours of art-making, because they mysteriously, and surprisingly but unfailingly, leave me feeling better connected – to myself, my world, and all the people in it.

Creative Prompt #3 – Take a moment to observe your image and write a few words or lines, starting with the words “I feel…” Consider giving your image a title.

I’m not sure yet how I will, someday soon or later, transition back into a more hectic world. I’m trying to figure out how I want to, how I can without losing what I have come to really like about this slow time. I know for sure though that keeping at least some easy hours in my week will be a priority, and practicing Expressive Arts at home is simply the best way I know how.

 

Creative Prompt #4 – If you’re unsure how you’ll be able to fit an extensive art practice into your schedule, consider finding and spending just 90 minutes per week to create and rejuvenate. Would one all-in session work for you, or 30 minutes three days a week? Or anywhere in between. Great thing is – there’s no right or wrong way to go about making art.

Stay tuned for Part Three of Time and Space for Expression – “A Room of One’s Own – or at least a Nook and Cranny” We’ll discuss how to create a peaceful atmosphere for practicing Expressive Arts in even the smallest abode. Additional Creative Prompts will be included!

To read part one of Time and Space for Expression, click here!

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

expressive arts therapist, laura hensely

Laura Hensley, LMHC. Through Expressive Arts therapy and personal practice, I find and make meaning, develop my own personal mythology, and gain confidence and connection to myself and others. I offer this same opportunity to Integrative Counsel clients by way of multimodal creative exploration of your intentions, goals, and heartfelt desires!

Time and Space Part One – “Finding My Way”

Time and Space Part One – “Finding My Way”

By chance, it almost seemed, I found myself in an upstairs room above a bookstore, a converted attic filled with overstuffed chairs and well-worn sofas, comfortably messy and refreshingly informal. Here I was, at my first Expressive Arts group event, a workshop venture I’d stumbled upon while surfing the web for group therapy opportunities. About ten of us had convened and were milling around, getting settled, and introducing ourselves to each other. I didn’t know anyone, but felt strangely at home and among new but like-minded friends.

At the time, I barely knew what Expressive Arts was. I think it was the workshop description that had gotten me – something about meditation and art supplies and self-exploration – and I was sold. I was already in, and though it wasn’t til later that I found out more, so much more, about this curious and dimensional art practice, that day I got my first taste of something deliciously fun and soul-inviting. After a guided meditation, I created a collage of construction paper and magazine clippings, and when instructed to spend some time reflecting on my image through writing, I was surprised how insight into my own personal experiences began to flow like water.

“I am searching far and wide. I feel both constrained and supported by my circumstances. I long for wide-open freedoms of movement.”

Like I said, I was hooked. In the months and years to come, I developed a consistent personal Expressive Arts practice, and learned a great deal more about its fundamental principles, including:

  • It is intermodal, meaning not only do we engage in more than one mode of expression (visual art, sound, movement, drama, meditation, writing) at a time, we combine them in the same sitting. Doing so engages the whole person – body, mind and spirit.
  • Expressive Arts practice is for everyone. Creativity is the birthright of every individual, not the exclusive purview of naturally skilled or trained artists.
  • In a group setting it fosters community, and allows our unique creative expressions to be witnessed and accepted without judgment or critique. In turn, we can offer this to others.

Several years later, I continue to attend both virtual and in-person Expressive Arts groups on a pretty consistent basis, and have even become a facilitator (check out Integrative Counsel’s virtual Expressive Arts Groups, first Thursday of every month!). And my personal home-based practice has turned out to be, for me, like a weekly mini-retreat, relaxing and engaging as well as a way to reflect more deeply on both my past experiences and my way forward (try out a mini Expressive Arts exercise, quick and easy to do at home, in Part Two of Time and Space for Reflection – Deepening My Creative Practice During Quarantine).

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your leadership creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

expressive arts therapist, laura hensely

Laura Hensley, Counselor, LMHC. Through Expressive Arts therapy and personal practice, I find and make meaning, develop my own personal mythology, and gain confidence and connection to myself and others. I offer this same opportunity to Integrative Counsel clients by way of multimodal creative exploration of your intentions, goals, and heartfelt desires!