I’m back with your second episode in this special holiday series. And, as usual, I’ve got another encouraging message from your Future Self!
So….How do I know what a future version of YOU might say as she looks back at where you are now?…and how she may want to care for you in this moment? The truth is, I can’t know exactly. But I do have a pretty good idea.
I trust my words will resonate because I’ve been in such similar places, feeling similar emotions, experiencing similar events, behaviors, and memories. If you’ve ever talked with other survivors of narcissistic abuse, then you get what I’m saying… It’s often eerie how much we have in common. The details are different, but the abuser’s actions and our responses…. So. Much. Alike. That’s why community is such an integral part of this healing journey.
Now, Let’s continue together. Today we’re talking about an experience we’re all familiar with: When traumatic memories pop up. And, we’re reminding ourselves that we actually have power, control, and a choice.
Episode 13. SPECIAL HOLIDAY SERIES: You Actually DO Have a Choice
I know that this holiday season may be hard for you. From reminders of past traumas, to navigating difficult schedules with co-parents, to putting on a fake happy face for family and friends… the holiday season is anything but merry and bright for so many Overcomers of narcissistic abuse.
I can relate.
That’s why I’m bringing you a very intentional series of podcast episodes to help support you through this time of year. I’ll be posting short episodes every Wednesday AND Saturday, from December 7th through January 7th. Then we’ll regroup and get back to the regular format for the new year.
As hard as this season may be for you, it can also be a time of immense growth if you’re willing to take a breath and reflect…if you’re willing to do a little work to connect with all that is good inside of you. And I’m here to help with that.
I hope you’ll join me for this special month of Art That Overcomes episodes.
Episode 12. SPECIAL HOLIDAY SERIES: Find Safety Within Your Body
“….It is the opening of the up and out of here, [out] of being bogged down, down into the dumps, into the depths. Depths of despair and uncertainty and un-reality of caring. Caring for my wound. His wound.”
Narcissists don’t know how to truly engage with us emotionally, and that means sexual interactions with them are empty and abusive as well.
Emotional intimacy feels threatening to a narcissist, because it requires vulnerability, transparency, and trust. They can’t present themselves as perfect and in charge when they’re so intimately engaged…so they’ll avoid it at all costs.
And, in turn, sexual interactions with a narcissist are not emotionally intimate. Some narcissists may appear distant, like their mind is in another place, they’re especially short-tempered and judgmental when it comes to physical intimacy, or they avoid it altogether…coming up with excuses not to devote energy to this part of your relationship.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve experienced a narcissist who seemed hyper focused on sexual interactions with you. This might feel fun at first, but becomes demanding and objectifying, and again…devoid of true emotional connection.
At its worst, sexual interaction with a narcissist can become more overtly abusive…with rape and other forms of sexual assault not uncommon.
All this said, I think it’s very normal for survivors of narcissistic abuse to have a tremendous amount of emotions to unpack around their sexuality, femininity, and how to relate to men in various ways…including sexually. Just like all other aspects of our identities that get confused, enmeshed with the narcissist, or flat out lost altogether…this is one area that’s very important to explore.
On today’s episode of Art That Overcomes, I’m sharing a painting I completed a few years ago that really helped me integrate the sexual aspects of my identity into my general sense of Self.
Scroll down to view the art image, related free association writing, and Message From Your Future Self that I discuss in Episode 11: Integrating Sexual Identity After Narcissistic Abuse.
Listen and subscribe to Art That Overcomes on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, right now! Or go here to listen on the web. If you like it, give it a 5 star rating and review so that other Overcomers can find it too (all those listens and reviews bump it up in the algorithm).
Episode 11: Integrating Sexual Identity After Abuse
Before I worked on this painting the very first day, I stated an intention for my artmaking time. It was:
“I will explore that ‘ugh’ feeling in my gut. I will learn more about it. I will see what it has to say to me. I will listen to it.”
From my writing after the first day of painting:
“…in there in the middle of it all. Of the chaos and red and orange and green. The slashes, so many slashes and orange lines.
What are the orange parts?
The orange is the heaven in there. It is the opening of the up and out of here, [out] of being bogged down, down into the dumps, into the depths. Depths of despair and uncertainty and un-reality of caring. Caring for my wound. His wound. The dirt…
There’s so much fire! Blue and orange…
What are they?
The helpers. The believers…”
On another day, later in the process, I wrote:
“This feels chaotic. The end of known time. This is unknown realms up in here, up in the air. What will I do with it? I don’t know. I can’t. I can’t anymore today….
The dark part is coming and I like it and I don’t…
What are you teaching me?
TO BECOME…. She took shape like the other one (referring to a previous painting). The orange one found meaning and light through her form — the light. The light that made me feel uneasy.
But I found I had to go through all the orange stuff to get to her. She was more beautiful, initially – in a way. Now oh so much more complex. Ugly in places. Not making sense. But every part is there….all underneath and in between and fighting and together and beautiful and unwarranted and wanting and needing and lusting and calling and coming out alive in the dust, and the ridicule of losses and gains and ins and outs of wanting. I love her…in all of me…
Will she come out?
A Message From Your Future Self
“What parts of you feel wrong today?
Where do you feel like you’ve messed up, fallen short, or failed to be enough?
I want you to hold those thoughts and feelings. Hold them tight, for just a few moments. Ball up your fists, imagining that they’re tangible objects you’re grasping in your hands. Press them tight…and count to five…1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Relax your hands and imagine those failures, mistakes, feelings of guilt and the weight of never measuring up…they all just float away. You watch them…floating…floating….moving farther and farther away into the distance, until they’re only tiny specks. Then…they’re gone completely.
Look down at your empty hands and envision then filling up with light, beauty, love, compassion, confidence, creativity…so much worth.
I’m here with you.
I’m your Future Self, waiting to unfold the fullness of who I am, hour by hour, day by day. It’s in these little moments of letting go, and filling back up, that you move toward me.
It doesn’t *always* have to be complicated.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of being present, and willing to let go.
“…what if the trial you want me to overcome is my fear of truly being me…my creative self…totally putting myself out there for all to see? What if my flaw is not in failing to be practical enough, but in failing to JUMP…fully into the waves, trusting your love will catch me there. There’s love beneath the waves.”
I’m sharing with you in real time today, Overcomer.
I’m not sitting up high on a pedestal of self-actualization, condescending to share my knowledge with you. I am a survivor…an Overcomer…of narcissistic abuse, still very much on this journey of healing and redefining my identity.
I’m here to share some tools and skills with you that I’ve learned along the way, and to show you how I am STILL using them to become more and more of who I am meant to be.
On today’s episode of Art That Overcomes, I’m getting super vulnerable. I invite you to hear what aspects of my identity I’m currently struggling with the most. I’m feeling tension between two different parts of my Self, and still wrestling through it.
And as always, it’s my art and writing process that is helping me uncover what I need along the way.
I hope you’ll listen in…
Scroll down to view the art image, related free association writing, and Message From Your Future Self that I discuss in Episode 9: Who am I, anyway?.
Listen and subscribe to Art That Overcomes on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, right now! If you like it, give it a 5 star rating and review so that other Overcomers can find it too (all those listens and reviews bump it up in the algorithm).
“It’s flowing, it’s bursting and bulging. It’s open.
Is it? Is it open?
Its’ open through the backside. I can see through it. Like how my other painting was going, flowing, through the ocean, through the wall. This is moving THROUGH – through me. Coming, reaching, into the unknown. Into you (God)- my divine source of all that’s REAL, not surreal.
You are the real deal, the coming and going. You make it happen. I have to connect, here in the ether, here in this space in between the chaos of thoughts and mind, beyond the paper. You’re there in the inside, the deep trenches of it. You MOVE. And I want to swim in you. To fully grasp this picture I have – this sense of me in you, the version of me (the realest, truest version) that is inside you and you inside me. Like in all the recesses of that circle.
I want to go through it and dive right in and tuck my head, my face, right inside. To never come out to see the “light” of day – the everything else that’s around and distracting and pulling me out. I want you. I trust YOU.
Can I trust you?
Can you? What has time shown?
Yes. A resounding yes. The truest most consistent thing is you. You and me, me and you. My artist self is all in you.
What is the yellow?
You (God), and my muddy circle is diving in to greet you and live in you and be”
Writing from Day 2:
“You look like a flower. Are you a flower?
I’m loving and warm and thick and juicy. Tactile. Full. rough and smooth. Little divots and bumps and whole places and empty spots.
I’m drawn to that shape in the middle(ish). Like it’s a little piece that I can grab and tear. Put one finger along the edge and rip. Rip this circle open. DIVE IN. Put my face and chest through that circle-flower-shape and feel the warmth of that yellow background and feel fully alive.
It’s like that thickness of the oil pastel on the surface is beautiful and smudgy and luscious and I like it, but it feels like it’s so…on the surface. It’s the top coat, the finished part, the presentable piece.
The respectable part?
I don’t know. The easy part, maybe. Pretty and easy.
What’s back there once you go through, rip through?
Just so much more, and I’m not sure yet but it feels right. It feels open and alive and I’ll figure it out. I’ll keep stepping into it. But I know it’s something I stand firm in – a place I stand firm in, no matter what is outside, no matter what job, what other circumstances, what other people or influences. It’s still strong. I’m still strong in this fullness of who I am.”
A Message From Your Future Self
“This journey can be so confusing. So frustrating. So full of obstacles.
You long to speed things up…to jump through a few months or years of this pain and adjustment and doubt…
You wish you could leap to where I am now; so much more trusting and self-assured in the future.
I want to remind you, today…
You are in exactly the right place, time, and circumstance. All the strength and power and knowledge and skill that you need to reach me is within you now. And you ARE uncovering it…one small piece at a time.
Rather than envisioning this process of Becoming as a building of bricks one on top of another…a system of adding and adding more and more…
Consider this image:
You are a painting, a piece of art created by so many others.
One layer from your mother…your father. Another from your siblings. A layer from your work, and schooling. One thick and muddy layer from the narcissist. And a heaping smear of confusion on top.
There’s nothing that you, or anyone else, needs to add here.
This is an uncovering.
It’s time to peel back the layers of who they created you to be. It’s time to gently, with caring attention, tend to YOU…the real and true You that lies beneath.”
I was so inspired by the women who participated in my Summer 2019 Hearts Made Visible workshops. Their bravery, vulnerability and insight were truly a blessing for me to witness. One of the areas of identity we explored together was “femininity” — a loaded term in our culture today.
Here are some thought-provoking and often polarizing words and phrases that came up during our intro discussions:
Gentle, Subtle, Weight, Depth, Curves, Unique, Difficult, Identifier, Limiting in workplace, Strong, Lots of hats, Not subservient, Deep conversations, Appearance, Vulnerable, Delicate, Empathetic, Power differentials, Expectations, Specific “right” way to be, Norms?, Children (bio, adopt, choose not to, losses), Single vs Married, LGBTQ vs Heterosexual, “Emotional” = bad/wrong, Old vs New, Nurturing, Creative, Freeing, Limiting, Boldness, Less-than, Comforting, Slavery, Ideal vs Reality, Radiance, Softness with firmness/inner strength, Beauty, Leader, Intuitive, Personal, Changing/Transformation, Hidden strength, Endurance, Solid, Always evolving…
What comes to your mind when you hear the term “femininity”? Is it largely positive, negative, or filed with contradictions?
In the coming weeks, I will be announcing new, monthly workshop dates for 2020! Contact me through the Connect page to ask questions or to be added to my email list so you can receive updates.
“This painting began as a hallway. A door. A traumatic memory. I turned it upside down. Literally on it’s head. That’s what it needed. My ground. My rock. My starting place. Bubbles floating and growing and going. And going. Everything opening. It feels so full. Growing. Blowing – but not away. Up and up. Like fire.” (excerpt from my reflective witness writing, done right after completing the painting)
The art-making process allows us to make new meaning from dark places. Through attaining a sense of control over the materials and images, we gain control over our emotions and responses to traumatic circumstances.