Recently I checked out a pop-up art installation in San Diego called Wonderspaces. One of the exhibits was Not Myself Today. It consisted of a wall of buttons with emotions written on them. The instructions invited participants to choose a button that showed how they felt at the moment. (I picked the "Awkward" button and wore it upside down, just to be cheeky.)
It got me thinking, what would it be like if we literally wore our feelings on our sleeves (or lapels)? How would we treat one another if we knew the other person was feeling sensitive or stressed that day? Would we be curious if we saw they were feeling proud? Would we be envious if they displayed their Zen status every day?
If you're someone who doesn't usually pay attention to or understand your own feelings (or even if you do), try this as an experiment: Each morning when you wake up, write down what you're feeling. You can use a journal or your phone or even a scrap of paper. If you want to, write more about what your feeling looks like, tastes like, sounds like. Get to know it and understand it.
There's no guarantee your feeling will change if you want it to, or that it will remain the same if you so desire. What you might discover, though, is you may have some feelings about your feelings. Maybe you judge them as good or bad. Maybe you judge yourself as good or bad for having certain emotions. Just notice this. Think about how you would treat someone who was wearing that particular feelings button. Would you judge them or want to help them? Perhaps you would seek to understand and connect with that person. Or maybe you'd want to give them some space. What would happen if you took this same approach with yourself? Try it and see...
To schedule a free, 10-minute consultation with Rachel Moore, MFTI, and find out how she might be of help, please click here.
Canadian artist Janelle Hardy interviewed me for her podcast, Wild Elixir, awhile back. The episode was posted over the weekend, and it was a lot of fun to revisit our conversation. Our chat included musings on creativity (music in particular) and an in-depth discussion of my favorite fairytale, Beauty and the Beast. Enjoy the listen!
You can find out this and more by reading my latest blog post for the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma — Dumplings, Parrots, and EMDR: What Do These Things Have in Common? Here's an excerpt:
"When I was growing up there was a crow in our neighborhood named Jake. Jake would occasionally chase around kids on their bikes and squawk loudly at them. Luckily for me, I was never one of those kids. But let’s say an adult former victim of Jake decided to seek out EMDR therapy to reprocess the trauma and reduce her current level of distress. How might that work? ...
"EMDR can help the different parts of the brain talk to one another through the creation of new neural pathways. The executive part of the brain, for example, can connect with the other more reactive parts and in essence reassure them that the client is an adult now and has many more resources to take care of herself. Through this process, Jake the crow, who had dominion over the neighborhood way back when, no longer terrorizes the grown-up client now."
Check out the rest here. And be careful around those crows. ;-)
Six years ago I was making art with a group of people. Toward the end of our time together one of them asked how I'd decided on the colors for my mandala. I said I didn't know and it was pretty much random. The inquirer was skeptical of my choices: "Do those colors really go together?" When she said this I felt self-doubt and then justified it by remembering I've never really identified as a visual artist, anyway. So there.
Then the person next to me said, "Wait a minute," and pulled out a catalog she'd brought with her. She turned to a page with a colorful shawl displayed on it. The shawl for sale contained the same "random" color scheme as my mandala. Everyone at the table was now impressed by my artistic brilliance.
What happened there? The same colors on shiny magazine paper and worn by a stunning model instantly gave validity to my amateur crayon scratchings. Nothing had changed about my mandala, but now people liked it.
'When you create something of beauty, people aren't doing you a favor by liking it. You are giving the world a GIFT.'
I was recently talking to my good friend Kypris Drake about art. Kypris participated in a few Artist's Way courses I facilitated when I was a creativity coach. She said she'd been thinking about the "Artist's Way" book and our work together and this insight came to her: "When you create something of beauty, people aren't doing you a favor by liking it. You are giving the world a GIFT."
Kypris' words struck me deeply. I had never thought about creativity quite like that. How often do I ask for someone's opinion about something I've done with the expectation they will say they like it and then I will feel good? (Answer: Often.) How often do I feel like I'm doing someone a favor by saying I like something they've created? Are we really doing each other such a favor, though? Do our opinions really matter, or is something else going on here?
If creative acts are indeed gifts, who do they belong to? My dad always taught me that after you give someone a gift, it no longer belongs to you. The receiver can think about and do whatever they want with it.
'Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.'
Creativity in its purest form has a natural flow. In the "Artist's Way," author Julia Cameron says: "Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God." (If the G-word is problematic for you, it can be amended to "the universe" or "life.") Maybe I picked up on something that day when I was coloring and those hues desired to be expressed, not once but twice. This isn't as hoity-toity as it sounds. In my experience, it's simply the mysterious way creativity operates (Julia Cameron might call it "synchronicity").
For me, the flow often goes like this: I have something I want to express. I find a way to communicate it, maybe through photography or writing (or even crayons). I might not fully understand what I'm trying to convey, but I feel compelled to put something out in the world. I offer up my gift, and how the world then decides to respond to it is none of my business...
...which is easier said than done. Sometimes I feel dependent on positive responses. When this happens, it usually means I'm stuck somewhere. Maybe it's grief, anger, jealousy, or fear. I may decide to look at the places that feel sticky. Or I might choose to wallow in the goo for a while.
Creativity can feel scary because it shows us who, what, and where we are. We can decide to listen to what it's telling us or wait for it to visit again at a better time and place when we're more open to accept a gift of vivid colors flickering in front of us for a moment, and then gone.
I was recently preparing for an uncomfortable conversation when a spontaneous thought came to mind: How old do I want to be in this discussion? It hadn't occurred to me before that rather than reacting out of fear and from an adolescent (or earlier) instinct, I could choose to use every year of my well-earned experience. And it WAS a choice. If I wanted to speak from a child's perspective I could do that. I also had the option of approaching the situation with the wisdom of an adult. In this particular case I chose the latter. And that, as they say, made all the difference.
Are you ready to take a look at your habits and how they may or may not be serving you? Contact Rachel Moore for a free 10-minute chat to see if therapy would be a good fit: rachelmoore.acuityscheduling.com
I recently wrote a guest blog post for the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma, where I work in private practice. It's about a time in my life when being creative taught me about what it means to be authentic. You can find the post here, and I hope you enjoy it: Your Voice Is Waiting For You
P.S. Please contact me if you are interested in being added to the mailing list for information about our next Artist's Way Workshop therapy group, which begins February 2017.
My dear clients,
I hope this letter finds you well. This is an open letter because I also want to address those who are considering therapy or are already involved in it. My message is simple: It’s OK to talk about religion, sex, and politics in session. Really, it is. We are taught in our culture to avoid these particular topics in polite company. In general, this is probably good practice. In therapy, however, everything is on the table, polite or no.
There also seems to be a perception therapy is only about one’s inner experience or interactions with close family or friends. Anything that affects you affects you, however, whether it comes from your mother or a member of congress. We live in an expansive world with a lot of input from many different sources. All of this is valid to discuss in therapy.
Another misconception about therapy is therapists are only interested in things that happened in the past. It’s true a client’s growing-up experience is often a good place to start. It’s not the only place that deserves attention, however. In EMDR, the modality I use most often, we are trained to work with the past, the present, and the future. What happened to you in the past? What is occurring in your inner or outer world right now that bothers you? How would you like to handle it differently in the future? Focusing on each of these areas is important to good mental and emotional health.
When you come to session I hope to foster a safe and open atmosphere where you can feel free to talk about anything. If I fail to do this, I apologize and will seek to do better. My intention is to meet you wherever your heart and mind are in the moment.
Take good care and please let me know if you have any questions. I’m available to listen to what you have to say.
Many people are feeling strong emotions this week after a contentious presidential election. Some are joyful and others feel distraught. If you fall into the latter category, this post is for you.
It may seem strange to talk about grief outside the context of death. Yet loss comes in many forms. Some people in the U.S., especially those who have been historically marginalized, are feeling the loss of a sense of safety, normalcy, or hope. Whatever you or others may think about the validity of these responses, it is important to have tools to help you move through feelings of loss if you are experiencing them.
Although Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' work was important to an early understanding grief and loss, we have moved away from the traditional Five Stages of Grief model. When I worked as a volunteer counselor at hospice we were encouraged to help our clients move through William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. The tasks can occur in any order. They are:
Task #1: To Accept the Reality of the Loss
You may have thought the world was one way when you went to bed on Election Night and then woke up to find it quite different than you expected. Shock and denial are normal responses when the unexpected or unthinkable occurs. You may want to hold off on facing reality for a while. Eventually you will understand and accept the situation. For now, take care of yourself.
Practical suggestions: If others try to push you to talk about things you’re uncomfortable with, kindly and firmly let them know you’re not there yet. My friend Jennifer McCabe of Pluck With Purpose uses this phrase: “That’s a no for me.” Another option is to say: “I’m not available for that right now.” Listen to yourself and take baby steps toward acceptance if you're not there yet. You'll get there.
Task #2: To Work Through the Pain of Grief
When your emotions come, they may be stronger or different than you expected. It’s important to allow and accept them. Name your emotions: anger, fear, rage, defeat, disgust, sorrow, empathy, compassion, resignation. Remember, feelings are inherently neutral. Healthy emotions are meant to be felt and then released, not necessarily acted upon in the moment.
Practical suggestions: Get a journal and write down all the things you are feeling, no matter how wild or inappropriate you think they are (burn the pages afterward — safely — if you like; this can feel cathartic too). Talk with a friend you trust and let them know you want to express yourself without judgment. Cry, scream, paint, dance, or sing your emotions. You may feel silly, and that's OK.
Task #3: To Adjust to an Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing
This task is about returning to your day-to-day life. Although your sense of self may feel shaken, you are still here. And your values are probably still intact. You may need to adjust your internal, external, or spiritual worlds going forward. Perhaps situations that worked before don’t seem to fit anymore. This election might have sparked a new or buried sense of purpose for you. Loss can transform you and stimulate growth.
Practical suggestions: Take an inventory of your values. Write them down, then rank them according to importance. Connect with others to get support. Examine your home, your job, and your relationships and see if there are any adjustments that need to be made. (A word of caution: It isn’t advised to make rash decisions when you feel overly emotional. Put major life choices on hold until you complete Task #2.)
Task #4: To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased While Embarking on a New Life
Don’t forget what you have lost, while also moving forward with a sense of hope. Remember what is important to you. It will feel tempting to think you can’t do anything in the face of major change. You can. We still need diverse voices in the world from all sides.
Practical suggestions: Consider volunteering for or donating to organizations you care about. Speak up for individuals or groups of people who are vulnerable. Reach out to communities in need and offer your skills and knowledge.
Wherever you land on these tasks, honor where you are and accept it. You feel this way today. Tomorrow may be different. Others may criticize you or try to shame you for having an emotional response to the election. They are allowed their opinion. You can decide in the moment whether you want to engage or move along. Take care of yourself. Have courage, ask for help when you need it, and be well.
Note: It's important to know that grief and depression can look similar. Grief usually comes in waves. You may feel OK one moment and then unexpectedly not OK the next. This is a typical response to grief. However, if you find yourself waking up every day feeling hopeless and despondent, it may be time to reach out for help from a professional. If you are in crisis, please call 911, or (for San Diego residents) the San Diego Access and Crisis Line: 888-724-7240
Rachel Moore, MA, MFTI is a Marriage & Family Therapy Registered Intern in San Diego, CA. Rachel helps writers, artists, musicians, and other creative types overcome anxiety and depression. She is trained in EMDR therapy.