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. 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 if you are considering doing "parts work" is that every part of yourself is trying to help you in some way.
I enjoy collecting secondhand books on emotional healing and I came across a pertinent book about healing conflicting parts of self, written by Verlaine Crawford called "Ending the Battle Within." Crawford developed 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, not feel healthy or be experiencing intrusive thoughts. You might feel depressed, anxious or pulled back into a painful relationship you know is unhealthy. 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 will be wanting to move forward. Another part of you will be 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 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? Write the answers to 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 needs and concerns were satisfied? Would you be willing to change your behaviour 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 to let me have what I desire?" Write your answers in your journal until you reach an agreement - a "maybe" will do - then continue.
- Visualizing all Needs Met: Imagine the creator in you (that wants to move forward) sitting in a room filled with golden light. Ask your creator 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 inside of you huddling around the two parts that are hugging, sending love and blending into one.
- Higher Self Blessing: See your higher creator 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
We all had good reasons for shutting down our light, authenticity and power when we were young. Adapting to our family and social structures is a part of early life. Yet, adaptive childhood beliefs will hold you back from growing forward as you mature.
In the above journal process, you will discover that your "protector" is holding onto very specific childhood or teenage beliefs that, at one time, seemed to secure outer safety, love, acceptance, security and survival.
As part of my inner integration, when I find a new "win-win" belief to live into, I dance into it, I sing about it, and I create expressive or affirmative art to meditate upon to anchor.
Below, I offer personal examples to demonstrate how I have integrated my new positive beliefs through creative expression.
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 childlike belief led me into a deeply-lived experience of the expressive arts - alone - in my journals. It did not, however, foster an ability to enjoy my relationships 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 in connection with others.
The Win-Win Belief: "I can create safe places to express my true self in connection with others" is the affirmation that has led me to share my authentic 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 because limiting beliefs create tight constrictions in the body. Combining authentic movement with affirming, new, expansive beliefs helps the body to break apart stuck patterns. I danced to the words, "I am free to be me."
Singing New Beliefs: Repeating new beliefs through a repetitive sing-song tune helps bring the new "win-win" beliefs into sharp focus. You have likely experienced having a song "stuck" in your head. The song that I sang over and over in my healing process was, "I love you just the way you are."
Art Journaling 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. The next stage 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.
It is important to consider, however, that covering up negative voices can be experienced as self-rejection by the body. For this reason, I like to create a journal spread with the negative voices on the left and the positive voices on the right.
If you choose to paint over your negative beliefs in your art journal be sure to fully accept what you have written, and, better yet, keep a record by taking a photo of your negative words so that you can better sense into and remind yourself of the emotional needs that your upset is expressing.