In my work as a therapist, I often see different personality aspects of self showing up in people's artwork. I have seen this same phenomenon in my own expressive art - especially my collage work. We all have aspects of ourselves that long to grow forward, while other aspects (still hurting) want to hold back.
The most important thing to understand when we consider doing "parts work" is that every part of ourselves is trying to help us in some way - even if it is to simply help us avoid pain by withdrawing from life.
I am collecting secondhand books on emotional healing to share and lend in my local therapy space. I love to buy old books, and once in a while I come across some real gems. Recently, I have been struggling with an intense conflict between two opposing parts of self as I move into a deeper state of personal power in my life and my career, and I came across a very pertinent book written 20 years ago written by Verlaine Crawford called "Ending the Battle Within."
She has a great integration exercise called "The Infusion Process" which I have translated into a written journal exercise for you here:
The Infusion Integration Process
- Identify Your Problem: Write down your problem. For example, you might need money, or not feel healthy. You might feel depressed. You might feel like you are not manifesting your heart's desires...and so on.
- Ask to Speak to the Two Parts in Conflict: Identify the two parts of you that are in conflict in your journal. One part of you wants to move forward. Another part of you is stopping you.
- Choose Hands to Represent Each Part: Using your left and right hand, assign a hand to each part.
- Benefits of Moving Forward: Ask the part of you that wants to grow forward to write a list of the benefits in moving forward in your life in your journal.
- Advantages of Holding Back: Ask the part of you that is creating your problem, or that is stopping you in some way: What are you doing for me? What are the advantages of experiencing this problem? Are you trying to help me in some way? Ask this part to answer these questions in your journal.
- Considering all Needs Met: Ask the protective part of you (that is holding you back) this question: What if all of your need and concerns were satisfied? Would you be willing to change your behaviour and and let me have the positive things I want?
- When Your Protector Disagrees: If the protective part of you cannot agree to the possibility of having all of its needs met, and really believes in its protective role, ask, "What else do you need in order in order to let me have what I desire?" Write your answers in your journal until you reach an agreement - a "maybe" will do - then continue.
- Visualizating all Needs Met: Imagine the creatrix in you (that wants to move forward) sitting in a room filled with golden light. Ask this higher creatrix to come up with at least three ways that all needs could be met and write them in your journal. Check with each opposing part to see if these feel like "win-win" solutions.
- Symbolic Hand Integration: Hold your hands up in front of you, about two feet apart, with the palms facing each other. In your mind's eye, see the two-parts-of-you facing each other. See the one that is wanting health, wealth, love, success etc., facing the one who has been stopping you.
- Bring Your Opposite Parts Together: Slowly bring your two hands together until they are touching. See your two aspects hugging and holding each other. Then, bring both palms, still touching to your heart. Move one hand over the other and rest your hands on your heart.
- Blending: Now see all the personality parts of yourself huddling around the two part that are hugging, sending love and blending into one.
- Higher Self Blessing: See your higher self sending love to all the reconciled parts.
- Walking Together: See the two-parts-of-you walking hand in hand, sharing concepts and ideas. Watch them discuss ways to work together in harmony.
- Gratitude: Thank the two parts of yourself for reconciling into a win-win collaboration. Let all parts-of-you know that you are available to listen to them, and work with them to accommodate their needs and goals in a supportive way.
Letting Go of Childhood Beliefs
Our limited childhood beliefs hold us back from growing forward. We all had good reason to shut down our light and power when we were young. When we are young we had to navigate how to best fit into our social structures.
In the above journal process, you will discover that your "protector" is holding onto very specific childhood beliefs that, at one time, seemed to secure outer safety, acceptance and survival.
As part of my inner integration, I often try to create a new "win-win" belief to live into, to dance into, to sing about, and to create expressive or affirmative art to meditate upon.
Below, I offer personal examples to demonstrate how I have integrated my positive belief work with the expressive arts.
Integration Using the Expressive Arts
In my childhood I decided that it was only comfortable for me to express my authentic self when I was alone. This had me creating a hugely imaginative inner life - but only when I was by myself. Until I was 40, this led me into a deeply-lived experience of the expressive arts - alone - in my journals. It did not, however, foster me enjoying my relationships with other people very much.
The Limited Childhood Belief: "I can only express my authentic self when I am alone" led to loneliness, social frivolity and a feeling of emptiness when I was with others.
The Win-Win Belief: "It is safe to express my authentic self in my relationship with others" is the integrative affirmation that has led me to share my creativity locally and internationally. Based on the healing of this childhood belief, I have since created many expressive arts and social groups where authentic expression is welcomed.
Dancing New Beliefs: The body, brain and nervous system needs to be rewired as limiting beliefs create tight constrictions in the body. Combining authentic movement with affirming new expansive beliefs helps the body to break apart stuck patterns. Try dancing to the inner words, "I belong. My authentic expression is welcome. I am free to be me."
Singing New Beliefs: Repeating new beliefs through an originally repetitive sing-song tune helps bring the new "win-win" beliefs into sharp focus. We have all experienced having a song "stuck" in our head. This process serves the purpose of inviting the new "win-win" belief to more firmly embed itself into our mind. Try loudly singing your new, empowered beliefs. Sing, "I love who I am! I love myself unconditionally."
Art Jounaling New Beliefs: "Affirmative Art Journaling" is very popular today. It involves writing all your negative beliefs on your journal page to release them out of your body. Next, the task is to paint, collage and write new positive affirmations on top of the negative beliefs. This process serves to help you see your negative beliefs in visual form, and then to create an antidote.
Before you cover up your negative beliefs in your art journal be sure to accept what you have written, and better yet, keep a record of your negative voices. Take a photo of your negative words so that you can deeply sense into the emotional needs that created these negative voices.
Covering up negative voices can be experienced as self-rejection by the body. For this reason, I often like to create a journal spread with the negative voices on the left and the positive voices on the right. I like to see and embrace all parts of myself!