Monday, May 29, 2006

A Life Time of Tools

As I woke up this morning the title for this blog entry came to my mind. Last weekend I went to Joe Soll’s Adoption Healing weekend. It was embracing to the heart and a balm and salve to the soul. There were seven of us huddled around a coffee table for almost three days talking, sharing, and learning about ourselves and our experiences in this life circumstance we call adoption. In Joes small cabin by the lake we peered inward at ourselves and each other. The window was open to the soul and the invitation for our authentic selves to come and try out our truths. Joe’s healing tools focus on inner child work. This work became known and popularized from the work of John Bradshaw back in the early 90s, but according to Joe’s sources inner child work is not a new concept. The term inner child work might be however. I recommend this healing workshop for birth mothers and adoptees.

The question I came away with from the weekend was “What other tools have I used in my life to support my inner effort toward the reclamation of my self and my soul? This is what this blog entry is focused on and in a way it is the advent of looking inward once again as I traverse up and climb towards my authentic self.

I think that inner child work is a process of reclaiming those lost or stuck selves that have had to stay behind holding our memories, our pain, and our wounded selves. As adults we can reach back and hear, hold, and harbor those lost selves. This is the power of inner work.

The Native American’s call this work soul retrieval. Other therapies might call it reclaiming our unconscious memories. Whatever the term it is a process that heals and one that can take many forms.

What tools have I used in my life to reclaim myself and live in the world fully in my own empowerment and solidly in my authentic self? Granted this question makes the assumption that I am totally in this place and in a variety of ways I am, but there are still hidden doors to be opened and growth to be made.

Tools That Have Healed Me Through the Years of My Life:

1. When I was two and in an orphanage I remember being in a crib. It was night time and the moon was casting shadows of the crib bars on to the bed clothes and the floor. The light was silver and the night’s darkness made the room glow. I had been separated at this point from my mother, father, sister, and brother. I was alone. This dawning realization came over me as I sat there and my little mind was ablaze. I knew then in no uncertain terms that I was all I had and that my survival meant that I had to depend on my self. This is a big thought for such a little one, but there it is. I think back on this, as I have many times, in my adult life and know that there is a pure trueness in it. I think this was a thought from god. This presence that came to me in the night through the moon light stayed with me for all of my childhood. I felt guided by some unseen hand and presence. If you are abandoned by everyone and everything you know and a thought comes and says that you have your self and that with this knowledge you can move forward and survive then how could that knowledge not be from some other larger source? This strong little baby self in that crib is like the seed of the oak tree where all of the potential lies dormant and its only need is to find strength where ever it lands and begin to grow there. My first tool in life was the gift of my self and inner dependence and strength which included the strength of god for I was indeed a falling seed.

2. Therapy – This has been a life time tool. I began therapy work when I was 27 years old as a means to navigate through my experiences as a stepmother. The challenges in this arena were too great for me to handle on my own and so I searched outside of the family for assistance, information, and support. One-on-one therapy has truly been a life saver for me and has guided me through times when left to my own devises I would have devastated my life completely. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when I was in my 30s – which in my mind is a means to describe my inner experiences as an adoptee – do I have a chemical imbalance…perhaps…but I lean more towards the idea that the imbalance about my identity, place in the world, and belonging are what have kept me off balance and have created a need in me for most of my life to have an outside support and guidance system such as counseling. Tools such as guided imagery, cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, and art therapy have made all the difference in my finding a solid core and a stable sense of self. I have been fortunate enough to have women therapists who I worked with for 7 and 8 year stints allowing me to develop healthy relationships and consistent guidance where they knew my history and who I am. For this I am entirely grateful as family hasn’t always been capable of meeting the needs or passion for healing my inner world.

3. Prescription medication – I have tried many meds for bi-polar and interestingly enough my body developed adverse or allergic reactions to ALL of them. I was able to maintain Prozac for about 8 months which also brought with it an extra 50 pounds which I have never been able to lose permanently no matter what I do. I do not recommend medication before other types of assistance such as therapy or group therapy. However, I am aware that medication for those who have chemical imbalances is absolutely essential for moving to a healthy place of healing. In my case I have not had the success in finding out if medications would assist me and make life less of an inner struggle due to how my body responds. Currently I have been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and have been successful so far in taking the medication to address this issue. The most successful use of meds for things such as mood disorders, thought disorders etc. is medication and therapy. Having personal insight allows for healing and choices that create change to happen.

4. Books or as some might say…Bibliotherapy…has always been present in my life. In high school I began reading on Plato, Socrates, poets, Aynn Rand, Mary Baker Eddy, Mister God this is Anna, and others. My reading moved on to Shirley McClain, UFO, Seth, Aurthor Ford, Ruth Montgomery, Theosophists and Madam Blavatsky, Ramtha, The Gospel of the Essenes, Past lives and reincarnation, Wayne Dyer, UFOs, ghosts, numerology, astrology, tarot, intuition topics, psychic energy, life after death with Dr. Moody’s work, Michael Newton, Deepok Chopra, and on and on and on…always the search for our purpose our soul connection and my identity beyond this physical form. If I couldn’t connect as a human being…then perhaps I could find some connection as a child of god and unravel this mystery and the coiled up pain that seemed to live inside of me. There is so much to read now…and so little time to read them. However the search continues. My focus now as an adult is through more grounded feelings and issues. When I was younger they were wide open thoughts and information. Now they are more specific readings…how to garner tools to live in this moment in this day with real people and with myself.

5. Group Therapy – I have been a part of the twelve step programs in regards to co-dependency, sexual abuse group therapy, group art therapy, and women’s group therapy. I highly recommend group therapy and support groups. Not only do they lend the intimate feeling that we are not alone in what we are experiencing, but they connect us to others who offer empathy and compassion and VALIDATION.

6. Healing Workshops – Going to workshops that focus on healing has long been an activity that I have invested in. I have attended workshops for forever. Topics have been on drumming, past lives, hypnosis, healing through chakra work, healing through physical challenges and safety found in obstacle course and outdoor activities, and many more.

7. Intuitive Guides, Psychics, and Healers – I have been guided by a variety of individuals who work with what many might refer to as the 6th sense. I have worked with a shaman for over 8 years, an intuitive seer for 7, and have sought out Native American medicine men, psychic readers, and intuitives for guidance for many years. These have helped me in deep ways. However, I have never given up the choices, directions, or decisions in my life to these supporters in my life. They are guides and assist in gaining insight into my life in a way that I could not do on my own.

8. Native American Teaching and Ritual – for many years I worked with (and still do) a group where we journeyed through the Michael Harner method. We incorporated Native American traditions in drum guided meditations that gave voice to my internal world and images. The body and organic system that we all have is always speaking to us as a means to heal and create the prime potential in us. This tool of journeying assisted me in hearing and seeing my own internal world and responding to and with it. The process of soul retrieval is also part of this work and many split parts of myself were welcomed back to my life. In trauma parts of ourselves can pull back and it is like losing a part of our identity as a means to survive the trauma. This work allowed me to begin true reclamation of my self.

9. Art. I am an artist and the symbols and images that flow onto canvas, paper, and photography have spoken deeply of my truths, shadows, and healing. I have found that paintings and drawings have come to me and I did not understand them in the moments of creating it; might even hate it upon completion only to find several months later that it held clues, signs, and symbols of healing and emerging truths to come. Art has readied me. Art has taught me of my inner world. Art has spoken to me of my soul and my authentic self. You don't have to be an artist to delve into what your own personal imagery can show and teach you. You just have to be willing to put pen, brush, or collage to paper. Jung spoke of inner symbols and their power of healing. I believe he was right on. There is in each of us an organic movement to reach our greatest potential. Your inner world of images will be the ferry that will take you there if you give the process time and attention.


Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

Gwendolyn--I haven't been to your blog for some time, but I've been shortchanging myself. You offer a treasure trove of "tools" and insights for introspection and healing. So much of what you post are signposts for others, things we can read revist and apply to our own lives. There's a lot to ponder here. Beautiful stuff. Thank you.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Daughter of 2 women said...

That is an amazing post, just amazing.

8:27 PM  

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