I’m an art therapist. I process my ideas in pictures, and help other folks do the same. I’m also a human being. I take my “work” hat off when I get home at night, and I eat pizza in my sweatpants. I struggle, get annoyed, become impatient. Sometimes the two worlds intersect. I use art every day in my practice, but I also use it to self-sooth, cope, and work out my own confusing life events.
The month of January was a rocky one for me, I experienced lots of “new’s;” new challenges at work, new challenges at home, new challenges in the world.
Could it be the weather?
Looking outside it’s grey and cold and sloppy. Things are dripping, things are forgotten about. My walks, which I treasure, are becoming burdensome. As a result, I’m spending more time inside. I live in Michigan, and late winter is a difficult time for mid-westerners.
So this AM I took to the page in an effort to refocus and untangle.
My weathered, drippy figures are doing their best to stay on target. Make an impact. Not explode.
Art journaling is one of many, many methods of introspection.
At Sanford House, residents are expected to complete rigorous introspection. This can come as a surprise. Although listening and note-taking are fine, good, and polite, we reach the dark and hearty stuff through inner work. Examining. Remaining curious. Being an anthropologist of our own minds.
To show up is simply not enough.
Myers-Briggs can be used as a tool for introspection. The test determines our place within a set of 16 personality profiles. It’s credibility is questionable; Myers-Briggs is used frequently in the business sector (think team building). It focuses on four major personality traits: how I tend to relate to others, gather information, make decisions, and organize my affairs. This information examines our perceptions, preferences, the way we move through the world. Not every item is accurate for every person, of course, but it starts the conversation.
For example, I’m an INFJ:
I’m an introvert, I recharge by spending time alone.
And I’m intuitive, I see the forest for the trees (and get carried away by poetic language and dreamy ideas…).
I feel and I value empathy over logic and rationale.
And I judge. I’m a planner.
Tests and measures (and taking time to question their validity) is just one of many, many methods of introspection.
WHY IS THIS USEFUL?
A better question may be, “When is introspection not useful?” If we aren’t consciously thinking about our decisions, aren’t acting deliberately, then what’s driving us?
From time to time I hear, “I don’t do the therapy thing. No way could I spend week after week talking about myself… I’m not that vain.” What could be more vain than floating through life… interacting with all of the other floating people… without considering our role in all of it? Our decision-making process? Our actions? Attempting to get our needs met without thinking about our value system? Our impact on others?
If we aren’t paying attention, then whose responsibility is it to pay attention? Improve? Tend to our inadequacies?
Maybe I’m biased, as a therapist. But I believe it’s crucial to pay attention. Absolutely necessary to focus on our thought patterns, interaction styles, ideas… And sometimes it takes a second person to engage us in that process.
I was in Wisconsin last weekend visiting a friend. We were both feeling burnt out from the demands of work, burnt out from the cold, from life. We had a moment, finally, to consider: What do I need? What’s missing? How have I been acting? The quietness and connectedness we shared- walking by the water, doing nothing in particular- thawed my jadedness, my attitude, and warmed me from the inside out.
In early recovery, as in life, isolation is dangerous. Healthy fellowship is just one of many, many methods of introspection.