When your body won’t let go of the stress.

Our emotions are deeply held and felt in our physical bodies. We cannot escape it. Fear, anxiety, stress, and trauma all manifest in chronic fatigue, pain, stiff muscles, headaches, sleeplessness, and more. Treatment modalities that engage our body as well as our subconscious mind are most effective. Through both the sensory qualities and narrative aspects of the art therapy process, we can begin to speak to this pain and learn to gradually release and find rest. And we can even learn to appreciate our pain for the wisdom it has to reveal.

The following is an excerpt from my witness writing after completing the first stage of this painting (above, left). The completed painting (right) shows my continued elaboration on the face image that had appeared, as I continued reflecting on my painful shoulders and their “wise eyes”.

“I painted the pain in my shoulders, in my neck. First blue, then white. But these colors didn’t speak to the pain. It needed red. The red is a flame of fire in my neck and coming out of my body onto the page. It is inside of me. A part of me, always. It loves me and I hate it. I want it gone. But it needs me, more than I think I need it.

It grows into wisdom, though. Into knowing. Knowing how to get out, how to be free and me and given the chance it will show all of you. Show you what I’m made of. A temper outburst tantrum in the gulf, in the trees inside of me. The trees of knowing. Of shame. Of unashamed. I am me in the middle of this all.

The knots in my shoulders became anchors for my eyes. The truth and wisdom that I need to grow, to find meaning and freedom from this — all this in my body — all the pain and uncertainty and disdain for my own body. The hatred for it all. The fatigue and pain. I want to float above it, to be like the tree and not like me; the me that I know underneath. I want to be the me that I know I can be.”