Category Archives: art as spiritual practice

5 Ways to Have Fun in Recovery and Motherhood (with free Halloween ideas)

Like many recovering women and moms, “fun” often falls to the bottom of the to do list for me (if it’s even on there). Who has time for fun? I’m WORKING! I’m working being a mom, I’m working being a Psychologist, I’m working running a household!

However, all work and no fun makes … NO FUN! And when there is no fun, this is a set up: for burn-out, depression, relapse, cross addiction, cynicism, unhappy marriages, cranky kids, and wistful fantasizing about times when play included things other than matchbox cars and dressing up like Elsa for the five hundredth time.

Here are some FUN ideas that have worked in our house:

  1. Get Creative in Your Child’s Play by Being Silly Yourself.

(And create a Halloween costume other than Elsa or Star Wars)

If your child likes to dress up like Elsa, and you feel like you are going to throw up if you have to be her sister, Anna, one more time, be something YOU want to be! Put on black clothes, cut out little green dots and be a Black-Eyed Pea! (That is a free Halloween costume idea. You’re welcome. You can now have fun being something-other-than- yet-another-Star-Wars-Princess-Zombie-Superhero walking down the block on October 31st). You can now dance around singing “I’ve Got a Feeling…”

If YOU are having fun, your child will, as well. If they are laughing, that is the goal. Little ones laughing are the equivalent of liquid gold. And who says Elsa can’t play with a singing, hipster vegetable?

2. Have Fun with Literal and Non Literal

My husband came up with this one when he couldn’t take another 2 hours of matchbox cars racing around:11411714_10153358823245120_6846648671725484537_o

It’s a Traffic Jam 🙂

Another thing my little one and I have done is put letters around the house on things that start with that letter. You can play with puns like the letter “T” on the Tea box, and the letter “P” on the potty where your little one goes “Pee.” This can be fun for a few minutes during the witching hours. Every little bit helps.

3. Create a Weekly Ritual 

Our family has movie night every friday. I know some moms that have actually created theme-meals to go with the movie: “poison” (caramel) apples with Snow White or Pumpkin cake with Cinderella. Olaf eggs for Frozen. (More ideas. You’re welcome.) olaf

I myself am too f-ing tired by friday to do this. We order out and have it delivered. Permission to do this. And if you are in recovery and not a Mom, if you have a fabulous (or good enough) babysitter, then by all means go OUT to a movie!

4. Find a Special Place to Visit Regularly.
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It could be a redwood forest or a tree near your house. Whatever this place is, visit it regularly to connect with the-part-of-you-that-knows. This may not be fun in the traditional “Hey, let’s have some fun!” light-hearted kind of way. However, it is the ground from which all creative and fun energy arises. Your Soul/Wise-Mind/Intuition will appreciate having a regular place where you breathe, rest, and reflect. Find a Grandmother tree or create an altar in your home where you can be still. This is that quiet place that is under all the noise of Busy-ness. It is the ocean that all the waves crash back into. Let your mind rest there.

5. Connect with a Friend to Do the Fun Thing You Never Let Yourself Do

Take a moment to ask yourself what you really like doing, but never allow yourself to do. Now: create a date with a friend to do that. Whether it be collage-ing, making art, painting, dancing, yoga, or getting a pedicure, making a date with a friend will make you more likely to actually do it. This accountability can help give you both permission to take having fun more seriously 🙂 Do it before you reach this place, because when you reach this place, you are no fun:

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Many Blessings and Have Fun!

 

Adults must be accompanied by a child

Here is an art therapy exercise that I learned years ago which is FABULOUS to do with your little one. It only takes 5-10 minutes, but can have a profound effect of your child feeling seen and mirrored:

  • 1.Get a piece of paper and drawing stuff (markers, crayons, pastels, whatever you have).
  • 2. Divide the paper in half.
  • 3. Sit across from your child  with half the paper in front of you and half the paper in front of them.
  • 4. Mirror draw everything that they draw on their side on your side as they draw it. If you are a “good” drawer and want to level the playing field, use your nondominant hand.

Do Not comment (“I really like those scribbles/sun/house”), draw something else, judge (“This is BAD ART,” “I suck at creativity”), or interpret (“My child is a genius”).

Just mirror and be in their world for a few minutes. Don’t worry about what it means. Just be a mirror. Reflect their light back to them.

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“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

-Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

 

 

 

Why I Love Expressive arts in therapy (and in life)

Creativity is the original anti-depressant.  -Andrew Brink, Creativity as repair: Bipolarity and Its Closure

It is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.  -D. W. Winnicott

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  –Pablo Picasso

 1. Art (re)connects with the authentic self.

 The well-respected psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the terms “True Self” and “False Self” that children develop as a result of their attachment to early caregivers.

As adults, the false self, the one that needed to be compliant as a child, can become maladaptive, stunting the power of the true self. One woman, recovering from an eating disorder that had her acting pleasing towards other people in her life while stuffing down her anger with food made the following images titled “The good girl” and “What’s underneath”:

mask

unmask

To see full article, click here:

http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/love-expressive-art-therapy-life/

“You must give birth to your visions…”

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“You must give birth to your visions. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity. ” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Vision:

1. the act or power of seeing something with the eyes
2. the act or power of seeing or anticipating that which will or may come to be “prophetic vision, the vision of an entrepreneur”

     Every year I make, and then facilitate others making, vision collages. What is a vision collage? It is just as it sounds- a collage of your vision. It is a visual representation of what you would like to live your way into.  It can be as literal and/or non literal as you would like. It may include very specific items (a new car or job) or how you would like to feel (safe, loved, free from anxiety). I usually focus on the year ahead to ground it: What is your vision for the next year? However, the Soul works in its own way and its own timeline. There is a 12-step saying about spirituality, which goes like this: God has three answers: Yes; Yes, but not now; and No, I have something better in mind.

Yes:

Although this may sound easy, it isn’t always easy to live your way into the yes of your vision. I often think of vision collages as a map of where-you-will-arrive-after-clearing-the-obstacles-to-where-and-who-you-already-are. For example, four years ago, I put on my vipriussion collage a brand new prius. That year, when my toyota corolla, (which had been going and going and going), died, I went to the car dealer and looked at possibilities. I looked at many cars, including brand new prius-es and another used toyota corolla. That night, when went home to think about it, sleep on it, and talk with financial advisors, I still couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, my husband who who had been talking about how much more long term financially feasible it would be to get the new prius when I was whining about “maybe I should just get another used corolla,” brought me over to my vision collage and said “IS THAT A COROLLA UP THERE OR A PRIUS?!” Suddenly, I realized it was my own fear of stepping into my vision that was the obstacle. The next day I got my prius.
Many years prior to the prius, I put a pregnant woman on my vision collage. At the time I was not in a romantic relationship and was a No-or-ambivalent-at-best on the question of having children.  I didn’t even know if I could have children due to having an eating disorder and the possibility of damaging my fertility earlier in my life. I wasn’t sure why the pregnant lady appealed to me and appeared on my collage, but I went with the intuitive process of putting the image on there without needing to know what it meant. I thought this was more about birthing myself in recovery and my career, which was true at the time and did occur that year.

Yes, but not now:

However, many years later, the pregnancy became literal. I am now happily a mom when I thought I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be.
Another Yes,-but-not-now expeIMG_2066rience was putting “Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist” on my vision collages. All through working at substance abuse rehabs, eating disorder rehabs, hospitals, graduate school, pre-doc, finishing the dissertation process, post-doc, post-baby, post postponing the first licensure exam, post passing the first licensure exam, post starting a private practice, and FINALLY passing the second exam, this was on my vision collages. There were many times I lost faith in the process, but just kept putting 1 foot in front of the other toward the vision and finally manifested it.

I have something better (or different) in mind:

Even before the pregnant woman, a blue-eyed “ideal partner” was on my vision collage. This never came true. I was ok with that. My husband has crinkly brown eyes full of depth. I had actually forgotten this was even part of my vision until a friend and colleague pointed out years later that my child has beautiful blue eyes. When I realized that, tears came to mine because of the mysterious ways that spirit brings our visions true. I never would have imagined that I was to become a mom, nor that my “blue eyed partner” was going to be created inside of me from two brown eyed parents.
Just in case you think visions always come true in exactly the way you wish they would, here is what I had on my vision collage the year I was pregnant:
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Well, he was comfy and dry for the most part, but “like a champion”is most definitely not how I would describe my baby’s sleep patterns the first year!
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The next year I was a bit more realistic about affirming the shadow side, difficulties, and imperfections of mothering (while still loving the miracle and privilege of it).
I didn’t go to Hawaii that first year, but this year we are going as a family.

     For 2014,  I had “Recovery Mama’s” vision statement on my collage. It included guest blogging, creating affirmation cards for new moms, writing my book, and supporting moms recovering from eating disorders in my psychotherapy practice.
The book proposal is being edited, and stay tuned for my newly coming guest blog next month!
Here are the affirmation cards: www.drlindashanti.com
I feel truly blessed to work with the clients I see and witness their growth in recovery and motherhood. It is literally a labor of love and the work I feel called and honored to do.

What are your visions for 2015? There is no wrong way to make a vision collage. Sometimes people I work with use all words, sometimes they use all pictures, sometimes they use a board and sometimes colored paper. Often they will choose magazine images that speak to them intuitively that they don’t necessarily know why. And sometimes they will choose very specific images. One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Eckart and says:

“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” 
That is my wish for you!
To learn more about vision collage workshops, go to:

Using Soulcollage to Re-find Wisdom in Your Body

The body has been made so problematic… that it has often seemed easier to shrug it off and travel as a disembodied spirit.

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born

Who among us in this culture of busy-ness to get-things-done, has not consciously or unconsciously thought life would be so much easier  if we didn’t need to tend to this human body with all of its needs, desires, and dis/comforts?

A Mother’s Body, The Earth’s Body

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I am the small, furry animal in your heart. Please slow down and listen to me. Get down on my level. Listen to the drumbeat that I follow.

Yet the body, our human bodies, the earth body on which we live, are what give us life and sustain us. We all come from, grew in, a body, a mother’s body and we all return to a body, this planet’s body, when we die. Coming back to this body, these bodies, are essential to fully living the original duality of life: we are all born, we will all die. The body remembers the past and creates the future. The body, every person’s body, your body, is actually made from the stars of the cosmos, starts that collapsed in the past:

Every single cell in our bodies contains elements created in the burning center of a collapsing star — from the iron in our blood to every bit of calcium in our bones and keratin in our hair. That’s because in the very early days of the universe that followed the Big Bang, only the simplest elements existed, like hydrogen.

In the words of the celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson  “We are not just figuratively but literally made of star dust.” 1

And yet so many of us walk around thinking of our bodies as a slow burden to carry our minds around. As a Psychologist, I have compassionate awareness for people who have experienced trauma have a tendency to avoid felt-sense in their bodies. There is good reason for this: trauma is painful, we are not meant to experience that much pain, and to survive we often leave our bodies during the pain. Learning to re-enter the body and feel safe there is a journey that requires fiercely compassionate attention, often with a safe (therapist) guide assisting the process. Women and men recovering from eating disorders often have sensitive dispositions that, if not “leaving” or numbing feelings in the body through eating disorder behaviors, require building up the capacity to tolerate distress in the body. People who find themselves “living in their heads” can also find that re-entering the body actually brings a sense of peace that accomplishing “more” can never provide.

Finding Animals in Your Body

What? No, I’m not talking about parasites. I’m talking about a fun way to return to, explore and invite what your body has to say to you, without judgement. That is the beauty of expressive arts work- it uses the right brain to invite the body back in while bypassing the left brain’s “gatekeeping.” Expressive art can be a vehicle for you to come back to your body in a fun, playful and safe way.

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I am your headache in your third eye. I wan to fly away. Release me.

Soulcollage(R) is an expressive arts process developed by Seena Frost, MFT, in which you make a deck of collage-d cards, each card representing an aspect of your multifaceted self.  Finding an animal, in the soulcollage process, includes being guided in a meditation through the different energy centers in your body to see what animal being lives in each of them.

When doing the process of finding an animal in each of the chakras in the body, it is not a literal, but an imaginal process. Because of this, it can be a fun and inviting way to curiously explore wisdom in the body.

When I work with women recovering from disordered eating, who often hate their stomachs, they find wisdom and joy again when they find an animal in their solar plexus. “I hate my stomach,” after discovering a tiger, becomes “I own my power, hunt for what feeds me, and am  fiercely clear about my intentions.

I am a snake in your belly. If you listen to me, you will own your power. If you don't, you may destroy yourself.

I am a snake in your belly. If you listen to me, you will own your power. If you don’t, you may destroy yourself.

But what if I don’t find an animal, find more than one or find one that I don’t like?

There are no wrong ways to find or not find an animal. Because this is an imaginal process, it is in Rumi’s mystical field “beyond right doing and wrong doing.”  When I was guided through this meditation in the soulcollage facilitator training, we were directed to find an animal in our fifth chakra, the center of expression located in the throat. I found a horse in my throat. First there was a hummingbird, then it flew away, then a horse appeared. Now, I don’t have anything against horses per say, but I really didn’t WANT  to find a horse. I would have preferred the hummingbird. Hummingbirds are beautiful magical gems flying through the air and humming! Horses are clunky, big, and snort. But because this was an imaginal process that was fun, I was able to let go of baggage/judgement about a horse vs a hummingbird. I got curious and asked what the horse had to offer and why it appeared. Turns out that it had a wealth of wisdom to offer me about letting my intuition lead the way in my life. This horse told my anxiety-mind that was obsessing over a particular Psychological licensing obstacle at the time: “Let go and trust that I can get you there quicker.” It basically told my mind to get back onto and into the “horse” of my body and relax.

In my training as an Imaginal Psychologist, we learned that “psyche” comes from the Greek word meaning soul. And so psychology is actually about the soul, bringing the soul back. The soul lives in the body, as well as the mind. There is no mind-body split from this perspective. There is an invitation to return to the place where your mind, body and soul are aspects of a unified YOU. I love this quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her wisdom of what returning to your body can bring:

I saw again what I had been taught to ignore, the power in the body. The cultural power of the body is its beauty, but power in the body is rare, for most have chased it away with their torture of or embarrassment by the flesh… the wildish woman can inquire into the luminosity of her own body and understand it not as a dumbbell that we are sentenced to carry for life, not as a beast of burden, pampered or otherwise… but a series of doors and dreams and poems through which we can learn and know all manner of things. In the wild psyche, body is understood as a being in its own right, one who loves us, depends on us, one to whom we are sometimes mother and who sometimes is mother to us.                                             

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run with the Wolves

References:

1 “Every cell in your body is infused with the collapse of a star,”   May 21, 2014.

2  “The Seven Chakras for Beginners” Mind Body Green, October 28, 2009.

Resources:

Soulcollage.com

DrLindaShanti.com or email Linda@DrLindaShanti.com (for soulcollage workshops!)

Compare and Despair

Identifying, Naming, and Taming the inner critic

I am your Critic: I protect you from vulnerability, but I feel alone and uninvited.

I am your Critic: I protect you from vulnerability, but I feel alone and uninvited.

Many women compare themselves to others. Women recovering from food, weight, and body image issues and, often, new mothers, have often honed this skill to an excruciatingly sharp pointed edge that goes right back into the self. As a colleague of mine has put it “an eating disorder is an over-developed superego,” and “Supermom doesn’t exist, but we all keep desperately trying to be her.”

Some common self-judgments for women in eating disorder recovery that I often hear include:

  • If [insert body part such as stomach, thighs, or arms here] was different, I would be more successful in my career, lovable in romantic relationships, and not have these feelings (ex: anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, shame).
  • If I were not eating this [insert “bad food” here], then I would be “better,” “good,” not feel this way (see above list).
  • “She’s thinner, and therefore more attractive, lovable, worthy, than me.”
  • “She’s sicker than me, and therefore deserves treatment/to get better more than me.”
  • “She has a real/valid reason for an eating disorder (ex history of abuse) and I don’t.”
  • “There is something wrong with me that can never be fixed or healed.”
  • “She’s in a romantic relationship and therefore more lovable than me.”
  • “None of my romantic relationships have worked, so none will ever work.”
  • Her eating disorder (whether it be starving, bingeing, or purging) is more dangerous than mine. I don’t deserve to tend to my recovery and self-care because it’s not that dire or important.
  • I’ll never be a Mom if I can’t even take care of myself.

OUCH! Obviously they all fall into the categories of Great-Palace-Lies and Cognitive Distortions such as personalizing, emotional reasoning, and globalizing. New moms, like women in early eating disorder recovery, are also in the terrain of developing a new self identity. Growth periods such as these are often when the critical voice is loudest. Below, I have named a few of the many critics that attack many moms internally:

  • The ecological critic: That mom has never used any kind of plastic in her child’s lunch, even if it is BPA free. All her food has been made from scratch and the vegetables have been grown in her organic backyard garden. If I use plastic, have anything not made from scratch in my child’s lunch, I suck as a Mom.
  • The Body-image critic: She lost the baby weight sooner (or at all) and is therefore a more attractive, functional, lovable successful career woman/mom/wife.
  • The stay-at-home-mom critic: I am mommy-tracked and my skills are not valuable/outdated/my sleep-deprived brain-body doesn’t remember how to have a career. I can’t move ahead with my career, because people won’t take me seriously anymore.  
  • The work-outside-the-home-mom critic: My kid(s) are more attached to the nanny than me. I should start saving for therapy now, as I’ve probably already damaged them with abandonment issues/insecure attachment.
  • The Attachment-parenting critic: I stopped wearing and co-sleeping with my baby, and therefore they feel traumatized and insecure. I should breastfeed at all costs for the first three years. Moms who leave their kids in daycare are bad.  
  • The Feminist Mom critic: I should be able to bring home the (vegan organic) bacon, fry it up in a pan, while simultaneously playing with my non-screen watching child after writing an updated introduction and research study on The Second Shift and presenting it to the National Association of Feminist Sociology conference.

OK, so I have an overdeveloped Superego (Critic). What do I DO about it?

Here are some strategies for combatting the critic and assist yourself in arresting the Compare and Despair Trap.

  1. NOTICE IT.

In eating disorder treatment, it is often encouraged to notice “ED” (the voice of the eating disorder). You can also think of this as “Inner Critic.” Although this can be painful (it is not a kind voice), it is important to notice that this part of your self is just that- PART of you, not all of you. And as you start to notice it is not all of you, you can then begin to cultivate other parts of you that are more fiercely kind and compassionate rather than shaming and harmful toward you.

  1. NAME IT.

Naming the “ED” or “Critic” voice can be helpful in continuing to separate and dis-identify from it. It can be fun to make a collage, picture, or funny character name for it. Though this may sound silly, it can actually help take some of the power away from it. Sometimes I think of my critic as a Spikey haired teenager: it looks fierce, but really it is a soft mollusk inside and the spikes are trying to protect its vulnerability. This allows me to invite the scary-looking critic back into my larger Self rather than try to cut off from it.

  1. GET SUPPORT

It can be hard to develop a fiercely compassionate voice within yourself to assist in combatting the critical voice and making peace with/tolerating distressing emotions. Sometimes a wise therapist, person further along in recovery or motherhood can be helpful to verbalize kind, discerning support until you can cultivate strengthening this voice within yourself.

  1. IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMPARE, BE FAIR.

For example, if you are a newly postpartum mom, when you wear a bathing suit, it is NOT fair to compare yourself to an airbrushed image in a magazine or even a woman’s body who hasn’t given birth. Your body is different. If you MUST compare, then compare to another newly postpartum mom (though my recommendation would be to talk about what is really going on regarding the stress of being a new mom!)

  1. FIND AND CULTIVATE A REGULAR CREATIVE AND/OR OR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE 
I am your Heart. If you listen to me, your critic will soften.

I am your Heart. If you listen to me, your critic will soften.

Fighting the critic needs to include rather than cuting off from your feelings and your body. This can be sitting meditation, moving meditation, writing, collage-ing, art-making. It is usually an activity that includes the right (creative) brain and somatic (body) awareness such as movement or following the breath. You will know that you have found a practice that works for you when you discover (usually after the fact when it returns) that your inner critic was quiet for a time. Cultivate that activity, whatever it is for you. Keep returning to that Big Mind, Big Self, Coonected-ness again and again. Your critic will start to lose its power when it is invited into a larger, more spacious creative and enticing place to be. I will end with an affirmation borrowed from 12-step program reading: Just for today, I will not compare myself to others. I will accept myself and live to the best of my ability. Don’t compare—identify. Don’t intellectualize—utilize. To keep it, you have to give it away. You can’t give away what you don’t have. May the growth continue!

Resources:

Self-Help: Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way By Rick Carson 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder By Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb Creativity and Spiritual Practice: Women, Food and God By Geneen Roth The Artists’ Way and The Artist’s Way for Parents By Julia Cameron Soulcollage Evolving: An Intuitive Collage Process for Self Discovery and Community By Seena Frost Sweat Your Prayers By Gabriel Roth Buddha Mom: The Path of Mindful Mothering By Jacqueline Kramer Humour: Shitty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us By Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner Ketchup is a vegetable and other lies moms tell themselves Robin O’Bryant

Free Gift: Mother’s day Affirmation card

Recovery Mama’s sole purpose is to provide inspiration and hope to women recovering from Eating Disorders, Body Image difficulty, Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, and “New Mommy boot camp.” In celebration of all mothers, your mother, you as a mother, you re-mothering yourself, I am offering the following affirmation for anyone that signs up to follow this blog!   Please email your snail mail address (contact form below) so I can send you (and/or your mother) a hand-made customized affirmation card. It is ok to request a card for yourself, even if you haven’t given birth. We all have the Great and Good-Enough Mother archetypes within us.

Heart-Mother, LS McCabe, All rights reserved

Heart-Mother, LS McCabe, All rights reserved

 

 

I listen to my intuition.
There is a still, small light in me. It is the part of me that knows. It has always been there and is an intuitive awareness. It doesn’t come from books. It is inside me. I have a Mommy-intuition. It is based on connection with myself, with the part-of-me-that-knows. When I listen deeply to that connection, I know. I know what to do and not to do. I know the next right step.
I listen to my intuition.

 

lightofintuition, LS McCabe, All Rights Reserved

Light, LS McCabe, All Rights Reserved

 

When filling out the form below, Please write which image you would like

(Heart-Mother, Light, or Blue-Mother) and if you would prefer I write “Happy Mother’s Day” instead of the affirmation.

Many Blessings,

(Dr) Linda

 

 

Blue-Mother, LSMcCabe, all rights reserved

Blue-Mother, LSMcCabe, all rights reser

 

 

 

 

But I don’t want to make a card about that!

SoulCollage® as a means of fleshing out the voice of wisdom in postpartum and eating disorder recovery

When women develop their voice (and with it their sense of self) and when they flesh out those parts of themselves that have been sacrificed to the Body Myth they can then move from…emotional emptiness…to the fully-grounded substance of their lives. Instead of changing their bodies so that they can change their lives, women can accept their bodies and get on with and celebrate their lives.

–Margo Maine, The Body Myth

What is soulcollage® ?

A kind of collage in which you make a deck of collaged cards (no limit on the amount) for yourself, each card representing one aspect of yourself, it is a collage process that images the multidimensional parts of one’s Self.  You can then create your own deck of wisdom from which to ask a question and find answers. (To read more, go to Soulcollage.com)

How I discovered soulcollage®

I discovered SoulCollage® as a new mom, finding it to be an expressive art modality that I could fit in between naps and breast-feeding. I had heard about it for years, but being a Psychologist who has been trained in so many expressive arts modalities, I thought SoulCollage® wouldn’t have anything new to offer. I was delightfully wrong!

The first card I made was to honor the generational legacy that I was spanning with my parents, grandparents, and now my own child. It imaged the lineage my parents had travelled, new appreciation of the difficulties of parenthood, and awareness of my own parents’ mortality. As I had already discovered with other expressive arts modalities, the images uncovered, expressed, and held multidimensional emotional aspects of myself that words alone could not have spoken.

The next card I made was about accepting my postpartum belly. I wrestled with body image postpartum and didn’t have a forum for discussing the feelings underlying these changes. Being a new parent was a liminal time, a rite of passage that included not only

muffin topa new body, but a whole new identity. Making this card of my postpartum “muffin top” helped me quiet my body image critic, honor my newly emerging mommy-self, and acknowledge both the grief and joy involved in being a new parent.

soulcollage® and Eating Disorder Recovery

For the past decade and a half, I have worked with women recovering from starving, restricting, or stuffing their voices. This shows up as “disordered eating.”  And yet, when I brought soulcollage® into working with these women, it became absolutely clear that the “disordered,” or not yet given a voice, parts of the self have a LOT of wisdom to share (and very little of it is about food). Just like new parenthood, eating disorder recovery is a rite of passage time in a woman’s life during which vulnerabilities and sometimes formerly unwanted or not-yet-voiced parts of the self show up with incredible wisdom.

The following is a SoulCollage® reading (shared with permission) by a client recovering from an eating disorder. This client was quiet in group, often restricting her authentic voice. She had an overdeveloped critical voice that constantly attacked her and tried to separate her from her authentic voice. During her reading, I was so inspired to finally hear her wise, authentic voice finally speak its truth, I almost cried. Her question was around how to maintain her sense of self when she went back to school after being in treatment for her eating disorder.

Card #1:
I Am One Who is desperate for connection, will take on the experiences of others, in doing so losing my sense of self. Although I think this is for safety, it leads me into an internal battle and brings about much pain. Stay true to yourself. Getting lost among others will ultimately never bring you the connections you strive for.

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Card #2

I Am One who is determined, even in the face of much adversity, even when overwhelmed with sadness, hopelessness, and solitude. Continue fighting for your passion, even in the most intense moments of isolation. You are never alone. You will always have somebody by your side to get you through the day.

 

 

Card #3

I Am One Who can overcome the odds. My internal force born within me can push me through even the most disheartening of IMG_2527situations. I have a well of support from which to draw. This will keep me going, even when there seems to be nothing left.

As evidenced by her reading, this woman clearly had incredible access to her own strong, fierce wisdom and power when given a modality that encouraged her to go within and listen!

As a right brain process that can bypass the critical parts of the self, soulcollage® can access the wisdom held in formerly judged parts of the self. Parts of the self such as disordered eating, postpartum bellies, chameleon-like parts,and  isolated parts begin to have a voice. Instead of being parts to avoid or silence, these parts become a source of wisdom and guidance. By doing this, they can illuminate the way in and through liminal times in a woman’s life such as disordered eating recovery and new parenthood, showing us that we always have a voice, and offering fiercely compassionate guidance we didn’t even know we had.

Dr. Linda Shanti McCabe is a Clinical Psychologist and SoulCollage® Facilitator in San Francisco.  To see current soulcollage workshop offerings, click here: soulcollageworkshops

Vision Collages: Guidance on Creating Your Vision for Your Recovery, Your Life, and You

I’m re-posting this as we are appraoching the halfway mark of the year. That means you have the opportunity to re-assess your vision collage or, if you didn’t make one, do it now!

2014 Vision collage glimpse

Every year I make my own as well as facilitate a workshop on creating your very own vision collage (also called vision boards, treasure maps). People often ask me what is vision collage? A vision collage is just what it sounds like: a collage of your vision!  When making this collage, you can be very specific with putting what you want 1-year-from-now, you can choose images that make you feel good/appeal to you without knowing why, or you can do both! You can also make sections of your collage for different areas of your life such as family, health, career, and spirituality. Another option, my most favorite, is just glue your images on the paper as you like and trust the process! There is no wrong way to make a vision collage.

How do I pick the right images?

Trust your gut and your right brain.

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This image wanted to stay on my vision collage 2 years before I had a baby when I was still in the “No children” camp.

You do not need to know why something resonates for you or speaks to you. Listen to your gut. Many years ago I put an image of a bunny in a vision collage I was making. I did not know why this little bunny rabbit was wanting to be put in the collage, and my left brain wanted to cut it out amidst all of its other visions and goals for that year. But I trusted my gut and made a space for it. Later that year, as I was deepening work around forgiving and loving my father for not being there for me emotionally in some ways that I needed growing up, I remembered a small bunny rabbit he had brought home for me from a work trip he was on when I was a child. This was a cherished gift from my Dad that opened the window to the love that he did bring me, all the ways in which that love was truly enough, that my unconscious psyche had remembered and stored.

What about specific goals and intentions?

You can also use your vision collage to image specific intentions and goals. Be sure to surrender the timeline and the way these come to fruition.

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My baby was comfy and dry, but rarely “sleeping like a champion” during the night for the first year!

It is ok, even fabulous, to have specific goals and intentions for the year ahead. A goal is a realistic, tangible and measurable outcome. An intention is a desire and a deep orienting of the self toward a direction. Both are important.

If you are like me, your left-brain is a bit obsessed with accomplishing goals. I had the goals completing the doctorate and getting licensed as a Psychologist on my vision collages for MANY years. Due to the obstacles internal and external as well as the nature of these goals, it took MUCH longer than 1 year to accomplish these. And it was important to keep setting the goals, again and again, for as long as it took. When I was pregnant and approaching my first year of motherhood, I had a sleeping baby displayed largely on my vision collage. This was an intention. This didn’t happen for either myself or my baby very frequently the first year. But it DID happen, and I took action steps again and again to orient toward that intention.

My critic has lots of derogatory opinions that block me.

Make a place for your critic and your obstacles AND do not let them run the show.

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When I was in the midst of anxiety around buying a new (prius) car, and thinking “maybe I should just stick with getting a used corolla,” my husband brought me over to this image on my collage to challenge my small thinking. “Is THIS a corolla?!” The next day I bought my first new car (a prius).

When I facilitate collage workshops, I invite people to pick an image of a chair (literally) and place it in an actual chair to make a space for their critic. The critic (that part of the self that is incessantly judging the self) will be there. It will have many opinions about how you/your collage/your goals and intentions are “not good enough, not able to be accomplished, not realistic.” When the critical voice gets louder, that part of the self is afraid of your growth. As Marianne Williamson so eloquently said, “it is not our darkness but our light that we are most afraid of.” It is important to acknowledge this voice without letting it be a dictator holding you back from who you really are and are becoming. Many years ago, in my first few years of eating disorder recovery, I vision-ed what it would be like to no longer have an eating disorder. I didn’t think it would be possible for me. I also thought that I needed my eating disorder to be a good artist. When I finally did Iet go of eating disorder behaviors, I completed my masters degree and held my first painting exhibition of all the paintings that had poured out of me once the eating disorder was no longer blocking my creativity. Listen to your fears, but do not let your critic or your obstacles run the show. Use their voices as information that you are on the right track and keep moving directly into them. If this part of the self doesn’t think it is possible to recover from an eating disorder (or whatever your obstacles are: addiction, debt, financial solvency, depression, relationship difficulties, loving your body the way it is), then go directly toward that fear! This part of the self needs to be directly confronted with opposite experience. As they say in 12 step program, FEAR= False Evidence Appearing Real and the solution is to Face Everything And Recover. Which leads me to

Isn’t it magical thinking to make a collaged vision and then expect these visions to happen in your life? 

No. Let yourself dream big. And then, TAKE ACTION on it!

There is a famous quote attributed to Goethe, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” I like how the words dream and do are both here. Dream, and then DO. Obviously you have to take action to make your visions come true. But image-in-ing it is often the first step towards becoming bigger. What is most threatening, fearful and truly exciting to imagine yourself accomplishing, having, being? You have to imagine it is possible before you walk your way into it.

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Licensure as a Psychologist and Presenter at IADEP: Accomplished!

My first year of motherhood, I had presenting at an international conference for eating disorder professionals on my collage. I was desperate to not lose my professional identity as a new mother. I quickly wrote and submitted an abstract and got rejected. Though I felt devastated, I still needed to image this vision to begin to believe it possible to grow that big. The next year, I wrote another proposal. I looked up current research in that topic area, I gathered my own experience, I consulted with colleagues and I hired an editor in the submission process. This one got accepted.

But what if the vision of my life doesn’t look like my collage?

It’s not about the collage. Let the vision turn into the imperfectly beautiful surprise of your life.

For many years, I wanted to be in partnership with a loving, respectful, soul mate partner. I wanted to be married. Early on

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YOU are the vision you are creating.

in our dating, when my husband saw my massive vision collage on the wall of my home (with an attractive, respectful soul mate partner on it), he was a bit scared and taken aback. He shared “there is no way I can live up to that.” I told him, “that’s ok- me neither! We now are living (mostly) happily ever after in what Anne Lamott calls “the church of 80% good enough.”

What’s your vision? If you haven’t made your 2016 Vision Collage yet, now is the time!

 

Dr Linda will  be facilitating a Vision Collage workshop in San Francisco on July 10, 2016, If interested in registering, email her at Linda@DrLindaShanti.com

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