I was once – when some of this art was created – a survivor of various types of sexual abuse. Before that, I had been a victim of it, ignorant of my own victimhood. It was my willingness to confront my victimhood – which had manifest in the profound mess that I called my life – and my willingness to confront the abuse in as head-on a fashion as I could, that allowed me to attain the self-administered title of Thriver.
Here’s the thing:
The feelings – whether you can identify them specifically or not, need to come out. That has to happen before anything else can happen.
And precisely because the feelings are often so nebulous, so difficult to pin down, so intertwined with each other, making art is one of the best ways to do it. It’s certainly not the only way, but WORDS don’t -can’t – adequately express the inexpressible, so art is definitely the most efficient way.
Here’s the formula:
First: barf up as much raw feeling as you can on paper, canvas, whatever.
Second: if at all possible, burn it with some attendant quality or ritual.
Third: if you know how to do Sleep Magic, do it.
You will come, by this method, to a place where there feels as if you have barfed it all up (trust me, you haven’t). At that point, when the unidentifiable ineffable has been addressed and let go in a ritualistic fashion, you can begin to make art around specifics, specifically, the specifics of the abuse.
Yes, go there.
It will not be easy. It may feel as if the process is returning you to the previous step. It is. This is part of the process. You can only do as much as you can do at a given time. Your precious mind – which is the end result of your precious body, where all your cellular memory of the abuse lives – can only let go of what it is comfortable letting go of. To force it to do more might break it. Seriously. It has, after all, been holding onto (suppressing, actually) these feelings for quite some time in an effort to get you through the days – and the nights – without you actually breaking down completely.
Going slowly, making art, making more art, ideally doing Sleep Magic to help restore to you who you really are, will allow your body to finally process everything that it has been holding onto. The reason abuse makes crazy lives is because none of the information that is being carried around has been processed, and that is a problem.
The whole thing is a bit like the digestive process. First you ingest the food, then – and this is key – you CHEW it. If you don’t chew it, you will likely end up with a) a stomach ache as your stomach tries to do what was supposed to happen before it got there and/or b) bowel movements that are way too interesting/troublesome to go into here.
Making art about the abuse you’ve experienced, about how it felt to you when you were deep in it, is like allowing your body to ‘chew on’ the experience; it’s preparing the raw material of your life to be processed so that you can, in time, and as nature intended, let it go.
I began making this art because I had to. I had no plan; I had no guidance. What I had was an irrepressible urge to get the feelings I was dealing with out of my system. Art was what happened. It was when I looked back at the last twenty years of the work I had created, from the place of exquisite peace where I now live, that I began to understand what I had done.
To be a survivor is a blessing, but it is also a burden, for the survivor carries the wounds of their abuse, albeit proudly. The thriver no longer carries the wounds that made them who they are, because their wounds have become openings through which have grown wings that allow them to view all of life from a very different angle, and just being alive becomes a celebration.
I did not go through this journey unaccompanied. I had a supportive husband, an amazing therapist or two and a boatload of wonderful alternative therapists of all sorts. I was dead broke at the time, but I had my arts, and I was fortunate enough to draw to me people who were willing to trade with me – for my healing skills or my paintings. I am convinced that what you need comes to you if your heart is ‘pure,’ which is to say, if your intentions are unmarred by expectations or by what might be termed negative energy.
I wish you WELL.