Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art Therapy Exercises for Working with Self-Talk

A client's image for her Perfectionist voice

Thoughts help shape our future. Self-talk is how we habitually talk to ourselves. Sometimes it is kind and other times it can be harsh. We all have different styles or ways in which we talk to ourselves.

1. The Worrier:  The self-worrier often anticipates the worst. She may create grandiose images of potential failure or catastrophe. She is always vigilant, watching with uneasy apprehension for any small symptoms or signs of trouble. To help the worrier, access a part of you that is compassionate so you can reassure the Worrier within you that all will be okay. Take your sketchbook and draw your Worrier. Try to think of three things that would help her feel less tense.
2.   The Critic:  The self-critic is the part of you that is constantly judging and evaluating your behaviour. She is often good at pointing out flaws and limitations. She compares you with others and emphasizes your weaknesses. To help the critic within you, remind her of how unique, successful, brilliant and creative you are. Take your sketchbook and draw your Critic. Try to think of three things that would help her feel more secure. 
3.  The Victim: The inner-victim feels hopeless and helpless. She believes that nothing will change and perceives insurmountable obstacles between you and your goals. To help the victim within you, make a list of all the people who support, believe in, and love you. Take your sketchbook and draw your Victim. Try to think of three times you were successful and/or times when you turned a negative experience into a positive one.
4.  The Perfectionist:  The inner-perfectionist pushes and goads you to do better. She sees your efforts as not good enough.  The inner perfectionist pushes you into stress, exhaustion, and burnout in pursuit of its goals.  She has a tendency to try to convince you that your self-worth is dependent on externals such as acceptance from others and money. To calm the inner perfectionist try using the mantra “I am good enough as I am.” Draw your perfectionist. Try to think of three times that you felt good about yourself in the last week or month.

When we are hearing these parts of us, we often lose sight of our objectivity and our whole self. Be aware of situations that are likely to trigger these parts or voices and stay Present with yourself instead of dropping into or becoming emerged in one of these parts.
Any time when you are depressed, anxious, discouraged, and feeling guilty, ashamed or embarrassed can trigger these thoughts. Disrupt your train of negative thoughts by taking some deep abdominal breaths. Stay Present and compassionate with yourself and try some of the exercises above.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Art Therapy Exercise: Reversing Sensory Overload

Is listening to the news bad for your health?

I usually don’t listen to the news, but lately I have been. I am struck by how the words and images stay with me. People who live with T.V. or radio news constantly on in their homes must either develop defences against the ongoing bombardment of negativity or feel continually stressed. It cannot be beneficial for the health of our children. The article Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet  by Rolf Dodelli makes a compelling argument for why we should not listen to the news. I feel that it’s like most things in life we all have different levels tolerance, on different days. I work as an Art Therapist and counselor so it is too much for me to watch movies with violence and trauma. I have to be very aware of my sensory overload. Sensory overload means that your body/mind is over stimulated and needs to retreat. Powerful and moving images, loud noises, pungent smells and constant touch can cause sensory overload in adults and children. It is good to know what you are sensitive to and when you reach your sensory maximum. We have all seen children exploding in the checkout aisle of the grocery store when they reach the limit of their sensory tolerance. It may be the bright lights, all the interesting items on the shelves, the constant noise, touching all the food items, or taking in all the food odours. We all have different sensory limits. What is yours and how do you calm down your system when you need to?

Quick ways to calm your system:
1.    Take a 15-minute nap or quiet time.
2.    Drink glass of water.
3.    Do a 15 to 20-minute meditation or visualization.
4.    Sit in a quiet, dark, room with a soft blanket. 

Reduce sensory input to one: smell, sight, touch, and noise.
Art Therapy Exercise for Sensory Overload:

Relax and do some deep breathing. Think of one color that feels really relaxing right now and slowly visualize it filling your inner body. Start at the head and work your way down the neck, shoulders, chest and stomach. Pause at the stomach and let yourself breath in the color deeply. Then watch that color gently wash through your hips, legs and down to your feet. Now, pick one smell and let yourself breath it in deeply. Notice how you are feeling. Next, shift your attention to one image that really resonates for you and sense where in the body it gravities to. Sense into your hands and let yourself image touching  something that would feel calming for you right now. Take one deep breath and let yourself hear one sound that feels soothing to your ears. As you bring this exercise to a close, think of one word that expresses how you are feeling. Take a piece of white paper and express what you just experienced. Focusing your senses on one strong image, smell, touch or sound helps reduce sensory overload. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are you Grounded?

 What does it mean to be well grounded? It means that you are aware of the ground beneath your feet and you feel connected to it. In these times of earth quakes and tsunamis, it is important that we stay well grounded. When we are lost in thought, we are often not grounded in the moment and aware of our bodies and the other people around us. Being well grounded helps us stay present and energized. If you 'out of your body' a massage, breath work and/or a quick walk often helps ground you. When you sit, rock your feet back and forth to get a sense of grounding. Walking in nature usually helps. At your desk, or at home in a chair you can imagine roots coming from the bottom of your feet into the ground to firmly tie you to the core of the earth. Yoga and tai chi are wonderful practices to get us grounded. Being grounded is good for our mental, physical, emotional health. 

1. Do you get lost easily getting from point A to point B? Yes/No
2.  Is it difficult for you to pay attention in the classroom? Yes/No
3.  Have you been called a space cadet, airy fairy, or similar? Yes/No
4.  Do you lose time? For example: Do you ever find yourself in places -strange or familiar- but don't remember how you got there? Yes/No
5.  When asked to wiggle your toes, do you have to make a conscious effort to do this? Yes/No
6.  Do you spend a lot of time dwelling on past situations, finding it difficult to move out of those thoughts and live in the present? Yes/No
7.  Do you avoid putting yourself in situations that require your full attention? Yes/No
8.  Is it difficult for you to concentrate? Yes/No
9.  Are you prone to accidents? Yes/No
10.  Do you have difficulty staying on topic during group conversations? Yes/No
11.  Do you feel that you are more often 'out of body' than 'in body?' Yes/No
12.  Are you often scheming or daydreaming about the future because you are unhappy with the status quo? Yes/No
13.  Do you tend to trip over your own feet while walking, or bump into furniture while moving about in your home or office?     Yes/No
14.  Do you believe that you might be addicted to having astral flight experiences? Yes/No
15.  Do you retreat to the bedroom, choosing excessive sleep, in order to avoid uncomfortable life circumstances? Yes/No
16.  Do you routinely display bursts of anger or frustration in front of others? Yes/No
17.  Do you duck for cover --energetically or physically-- when things get ugly in life situations, preferring not to get caught in the crossfire? Yes/No

Monday, March 14, 2011


When we feel resilient in our lives we feel that we can handle our life situations and can stay present to what is happening in an empowered way. Resilience is the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Resilient people overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and can thrive under extreme, on-going pressure without acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways. The most resilient people recover from traumatic experiences stronger, better, and wiser. Focusing can be used to increase resiliency as it increases out ability to bear witness to or be with ourselves and our life situation in a kind, compassionate way that allows us to stay present.

Take this quiz created by Al Siebert.
Rate yourself from 1 to 5 on the following: (1 = very little, 5 = very strong) 

1. In a crisis or chaotic situation, I calm myself and focus on taking useful actions.
2. I'm usually optimistic. I see difficulties as temporary and expect to overcome them.
3. I can tolerate high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty about situations.
4. I adapt quickly to new developments. I'm good at bouncing back from difficulties.
5. I'm playful. I find the humor in rough situations, and can laugh at myself.
6. I'm able to recover emotionally from losses and setbacks. I have friends I can talk with. I can
express my feelings to others and ask for help. Feelings of anger, loss and discouragement
don't last long.
7. I feel self-confident, appreciate myself and have a healthy concept of who I am.
8. I'm curious. I ask questions. I want to know how things work. I like to try new ways of
doing things.
9. I learn valuable lessons from my experiences and from the experiences of others.
10. I'm good at solving problems. I can use analytical logic, be creative, or use practical
common sense.
11. I'm good at making things work well. I'm often asked to lead groups and projects.
12. I'm very flexible. I feel comfortable with my paradoxical complexity.
13. I'm optimistic and pessimistic, trusting and cautious, unselfish and selfish, and so forth.
14. I'm always myself, but I've noticed that I'm different in different situations.
15. I prefer to work without a written job description. I'm more effective when I'm free to do
what I think is best in each situation.
16. I "read" people well and trust my intuition.
17. I'm a good listener. I have good empathy skills.
18. I'm non-judgmental about others and adapt to people's different personality styles.
19. I'm very durable. I hold up well during tough times. I have an independent spirit underneath
my cooperative way of working with others.
20. I've been made stronger and better by difficult experiences.  I've converted misfortune into good luck and found benefits in bad experiences.

80 or higher very resilient!
65-80 better than most
50-65 slow, but adequate
40-50 you're struggling
40 or under seek help!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Learn Focusing at Valley Ridge Art Studio

Come to beautiful Valley Ridge Art Studio to learn Focusing and Expressive Art Therapy

Learning Focusing to Help Free the Artist in You, Level One Focusing

Do you want to learn how to:

  • Be a better listener to yourself?
  • Make clear choices?
  • Be calm and compassionate to yourself?
  • Support yourself through change?
  • Feel relaxed and less stressful?
Focusing helps you learn how to be Present and listen to yourself so that you can move ahead in your life in an empowered and safe way. Focusing brings you closer to wholeness and allows you to access your inner wisdom. This helps you move in the direction of your potential. It can help you move beyond blocks and get in touch with your goals. Focusing is a gentle and powerful way to develop a deep interpersonal healing relationship with yourself.

Awareness of sensations in the body can be blocked through habits of dissociation and repression. This is because the sensation maybe uncomfortable or painful, and we are not trained to focus on this inner knowing and awareness of the body. Transformation of energy involves the acknowledgment, and information of the inner movement of sensation. This energy and awareness is essential to reconnect what has been fragmented by life stress, injury or trauma.

In this workshop we will work with:
  • artist's blocks
  • money issues that we may have around our art
  • time issues that we may have for our art making
  •  why we can’t get into the studio
Instructor Karen Wallace
What is Focusing?
Focusing is "direct access to bodily knowing." It is a practice that takes a person towards a state of conscious perception that goes far beyond knowing something on a mere conceptual level.

As with Somatic Experiencing, Focusing refers to this bodily knowing as a felt sense. As the Focusing Institute's website explains, "You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings." Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed murky zone which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge. This murky zone "opens" as you learn to stay with it longer. Being with it increases the ability to sense feelings behind words or images, even when those are not yet formed. Eventually, you can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. It is a subtle process, hard to define in words. Focusing was developed by the philosopher Eugene Gendlin in the late 1960s and early 70s, while he was working with the famed psychologist Carl Rogers.

You will learn the skills of and receive credit for Level One Focusing by taking this workshop. You can continue to take Level 2 to 4 with Karen or another Focusing Teacher after this workshop.

 To Register: Valley Ridge Art Studio

Learning Focusing to Make Inner: Finding Inner Peace, Level Two Focusing

Would you like to learn how to use Art Therapy and Focusing to:
  • Invigorate your creativity?
  • Be calm and compassionate with yourself?
  • Access more of your imagination and creative potential?
Having acquired the skills of Level One Focusing, you will be ready to deepen your understanding and ability to use of this process to work with creating inner peace for yourself and others. Focusing and creating art helps you learn how to be Present and listen to yourself in order to move ahead in your life in an empowered and safe way. It can help you feel more integrated and whole.  Focused Art making is a gentle and powerful way to develop a deep intrapersonal healing relationship with the self.

In this workshop you will work with:
  • Learning how to guide yourself to have peaceful inner dialogue
  • Finding forward movement and feeling empowered to create
  • Taking responsibility for your own healing
  • Focusing in on your emotional behaviour and language
Humans are creative beings. Sometimes the creative flow gets blocked and Focused Art making helps a person learn how to be Present and listen to themselves in order to move back into the creative flow. Focused Art making is a gentle and powerful way to work with your personal stories and to move away from feeling constrained or trapped by them.
Awareness of sensations in the body can be blocked through habits of dissociation and repression. This blocks the creative abilities and life force. Transformation of energy involves the acknowledgment and information of the inner movement of sensation. This energy and awareness is essential to reconnect what has been fragmented by life stress, injury or trauma. You will work with releasing emotional, physical, and intellectual beliefs and stories through Focused Art making.
Participants will receive Level Two Focusing qualification. To take this workshop participants need to have completed Level One Focusing.

To Register:  Valley Ridge Art Studio


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scribble Drawing and Thinking Lightly

 Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote: In my family there's a saying that is good for those of us who are sensitive... It is, if you listen deeply enough, you will always hear the negative. Sometimes we have to allow people around us not to catch our analytic spirit and just bless down hard on them and then walk on.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I ‘think’ and how easy it is for me to find the negative, and get caught up in my habitual ways of getting stuck in the drama. I appreciate those who can witness themselves and their life experience with humor, lightness and curiosity. I strive to do that myself and sometimes I succeed.

I have talked before about scribble drawings and how useful they are in Art Therapy. I have created a new art therapy exercise using this technique. Start by doing an attunement or grounding exercise. Move yourself into a state of Presence. Now think about what is bothering you and as you focus on it, start scribbling. When reflecting on the strongest points of irritation, make the scribble line deeper and darker.
Now reflect on what would help you move away from or lighten this area. What would help you feel less attached to these heavy feelings? Often these deep feelings reflect a pattern or habitual way that we react to life. We fear that in certain situations we will lose power, get hurt or shamed. What is the underlying fear that this present situation is triggering? Now create a new scribble drawing still staying with the irritation or problem that you are exploring, but stay lighter on the paper, observing your feelings and slight detachment from your habitual response.
What is different? 
Scribble drawing


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