Mari Andrew, Donald Winnicott, and How We Artfully Mend

 Permission to post  @bymariandrew

Permission to post @bymariandrew

It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.
— D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality

Mari Andrew shares words and illustrations that resonate to many. Her relatable messages are so resounding I had heard mention of Mari with the endorsement that her work offers snapshots of sentiments, sensibilities, and sharing of experience that could be helpful during heartbreak and on the path of healing. When I looked at her @bymariandrew page on Instagram I too felt how her simple doodles slip right in, stirring the spirit, soothing the heart, and providing affirming often funny fresh perspectives. On her website she candidly shares she began drawing during a difficult time because she "[...] needed a new fun form of self-expression."

This need, not necessarily to draw rather to creatively express with freedom for fun...play...is something we all share. It is crucial for our development and key to mental health and healing traumas and hurts. Clinician and influential theorist in the field of psychology, Donald Winnicott, said “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” He also poignantly proclaimed, “It is a joy to be hidden, and disaster not to be found.” 

Working as a pediatrician and psychoanalyst with children Winnicott saw how creativity is crucial to our development, and, how accessing it has everything to do with ones faith and security in being found. That is to say, when a child experiences what Winnicott has called living "in a circle of love and strength" there is the security and space to explore, express, tryout, change, be a witness, and be witnessed. 

A depth, analytic, or psychodynamic approach to therapy understands that the relationship between the clinician and client can become like that circle of love and strength Winnicott speaks of. Room for authentic, playful, generative, finding, sharing, and discovery happens. Healing happens. There is recognition that as terrifying as it is to be seen it is by far more agonizing going unseen.

When we find truly fun (meaning genuinely enjoy), truly safe (meaning overtime trust has been established), relationships and/or activities where we can truly feel (meaning laugh with love and weep with sorrow as well as hangout in a range of whatever emotions arise) we are also found. We are given opportunity to heal, strengthen, and continue our self discovery and emotional development. I thank Mari Andrew for her courage of showing and telling and encouraging and supporting others in her messages. I believe creativity is a relational process of connecting to oneself and to an-other, and it shows us that we are, each and because of others, artists. 

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
— Pablo Picasso

Happy Pride, this June 2017 and Everyday!

June, chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots, is a month of honoring, advocating for, and affirming sexual and gender diversity. Though I knew I wanted this blog to be about Pride, specifically the revolutionary act of self inquiry along with speaking out socially, I was myself having a hard time finding my voice and struggling with what to say. It was helpful that also throughout the month of June I've been participating in an online course through the San Francisco Zen Center with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel.

Manual expresses the importance of living with our whole self, our tender self, with our emotions and embodied experience present. She describes how it is in this place we access relatedness and how interrelationship is at the core of Buddhist teachings. She explores aspects of her book, The Way of Tenderness, which offers an invitation to awaken within the challenges of race, sexuality, and gender. She gets to how this radical personal act is also socially relevant and revolutionary. 

Self-inquiry and integrating our emotional experience is part of both wisdom traditions and depth psychology. This process and practice is full of paradox: experiencing surrender along with victory; being both brave and vulnerable; feeling humbled and empowered. Manuel gives voice that we must not silence, bypass, or steer away from our embodiment and conditioning in all of this. Indeed when we are safe enough and supported and able to speak, delve into, and turn to face these aspects of ourselves we are given access to so much.

I have grappled a great deal with issues around my body, gender, and sexuality. I’m also aware (and at times undoubtedly unaware) of how my presentation as a white, femme, cis-gendered person, has meant my path, though not easy or entirely straight, has had certain shelters and paved ways. What we look like, what we desire, what we’re able to do, is full of feels and friction for us all. We are each challenged to explore and express our embodied experience. For our own psychological wellbeing and for our larger social wellbeing it is paramount we give voice to the hushed, quieted, suppressed, and persecuted.

Audre Lorde, the writer, activist, and poet who famously warned, "your silence will not protect you," also promised "[...] the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you.  And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” May we speak and may our voice benefit and heal our own selves and ultimately offer benefit and support to all. 

Therapy

In this inaugural post I wanted to name a few of my intentions with beginning to blog: it seems a wonderful way to share and chronicle resources for clients, colleagues, and the passerby; I appreciate the process and practice of writing; I like that it gives relational continuity to those I already know and prospective clients a sense of me and my approach. 

Writing is also challenging. Something we all know, and a reality psychotherapist and client must grapple with in every session, is how words can be both maddeningly limiting and incredibly liberating. Fitting the experiential, so full of paradox and physicality, into a symbolic language structure is a gift we humans get to bear. 

I appreciate how poetry offers us a space large and containing enough to unwrap this gift for ourselves and others, and play. Poetry has been a great source of solace when I've most needed it, provided me a sense of connection when I've felt alone, and given me a voice when I've had none. I wanted to share a poem new to me that when I read recognized as indeed therapy. 

Poem by: Nayyirah Waheed

the hard season

will

split you through.

do not worry.

you will bleed water.

do not worry.

this is grief.

your face will fall out and

down your skin

and

there will be scorching.

but do not worry.

keep speaking the years from 

their hiding places.

keep coughing up smoke

from all the deaths you have

died.

keep the rage tender.

because the soft season will

come.

it will come.

loud.

ready.

gulping.

both hands in your chest.

up all night.

up all of the nights.

to drink all damage into love.

- therapy