Tag: resources

Find your inner creator and heal your art scars

My father Jeffrey was in the 5th grade in the 1940s. Christmas was coming and his class prepared to sing carols at the school Christmas concert.

The teacher stood at the front of the class and told all the children to close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks. She said she was going to walk up and down the rows. If she touched their head, they shouldn’t sing or they would ruin the concert.

Jeffrey listened to the teacher walk and then felt a tap on his head. Jeffrey stopped singing. In fact, Jeffrey almost never sang again.

At every church meeting, his children asked why he didn’t sing. He would tell the story of being asked not to sing and assure us he was terrible.

Finally, Jeffrey was the bishop in his church and sat in front of the congregation weekly. His grown children didn’t just encourage him to try singing, they badgered him. Bravely, Jeffrey did something unusual, he took a risk and sang.

Admittedly, when I heard his first attempts, I wanted to say, “You’re right. Please stop Dad!” But somewhere in his wobbly tones, there was a buttery voice and potential, so we smiled and he continued to sing, every note and every song just a little better than the one before.

No one who hears him today would think he had ever felt so much shame about his voice, that he had been silent for over 40 years.

Brene Brown, the author of “Daring Courageously,” said 85% of adults she interviewed remembered experiencing an event in school which was so shaming it changed their lives forever. 50% of those people shared the shame wounds were around creativity. Brene called these wounds, “Art Scars,” in her podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert on “Big Strong Magic.”


My father had a deep and painful Art Scar. But unlike most of us, he chose to risk being creative and sing. In taking the risk he has healed.

Do you have art scars? 

We have learned the human heart and brain are beautiful things, able to change and heal. Trauma survivors, wired for anxiety and stress can rewire their own brains by learning healthy “go to” ways to cope involving creativity and movement. But for many victims the thought of sharing their innermost feelings in a tangible way is terrifying and creates a fear of rejection, inflaming old art scars.

Many years ago the person I loved the most told me my writing and painting were foolish wastes of time for a young mother. Overcome with grief, and believing this older man, I put the toys of my youth away. Gradually something inside me began to grow. It was an unmet need, painfully growing until I recognized the importance of self-care and dusted off my paint brushes.

by Shannon Symonds, High School Years

Writing my book was a wonderful, private experience. I enjoyed every minute of it until I decided to take it to the next level and risk ridicule again by publishing.

I remember filling out the online book submission form and staring at the send button.  You could have sliced my fear of rejection with a knife. The triumph was hitting the send button. Success or failure, taking the risk was a moment of healing and personal growth.

Is there a dream, a wish, a creation waiting inside your heart?

Some survivors share their art scars or fear when I talk to them about letting go of addictions and filling their lives with healthy coping skills like writing or artwork. Do you doodle all day, but dream of creating a masterpiece?

Shannon Symonds First Watercolor

 

Brene Brown went on to say she used to believe there were creative and non-creative people. But after her research, she understood there was no such thing as creative people. She said, “There are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t…unused creativity is not benign.”

Find your inner creator!

It never occurred to my father, even after years of repeating his story, that maybe the tap on his head was just a mean boy sitting next to him playing a prank. If you have ancient art scars, speak as kindly to yourself as you speak to others. Take another look at your story and give it a happy ending.

Displaying your creation is not necessary for healing. The process is powerful enough.

It is my belief we are all children of the greatest creator of all time, our Heavenly Father. Everything we do is worthy of a magnet and space on our own personal refrigerator.

Creating can be a spiritual experience in a lifetime of consuming. Creation is our chance to organize our thoughts and share our feelings in a tangible way.

This week, if you have a buried desire to create, take a risk. Don’t compare your first steps to world class musicians or feel pressured to share your beginning work with anyone who isn’t safe. Safe, as in has your back, will laugh with you if you hit a sour note and cheer you on for your courage.

 

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How to avoid being eaten by a bear

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good life really is.”  Marianne Williamson

Today I leaned into the joy!

It all started when I found five dollars during my morning run. I thought to myself, it’s a sign! Today is going to be great! Then my morning coconut milk, mate tea was free. My punch card was full and I thought, see! Today is going to be great!  I leaned into the joy instead of thinking all my fun tickets were spent and any moment something would go wrong, maybe even a random bear attack.

As a trauma survivor, I remember living for years with the fear that someone or something else was going to jump out and hurt me. Then one day I decided to take my life back. I remember the exact moment.

Choosing to change my thoughts

It was a summer day, I was 28, a mother of five children, in the middle of a two and a half year divorce. I was on the phone for hours with the gas company, insurance company and well you name it, struggling with everyone and everything while my children played joyfully in the yard.

Suddenly it hit me. The sun was streaming through the windows, the kids were waiting and I was letting the person, the trauma, the things that had hurt me poison this moment. The banks had closed. The courts had closed. Anyone who had traumatized me was far away and yet I was allowing them to consume my thoughts like a hungry bear.

That’s it! I thought and I took back my life. I decided I was not going to give them one more minute of this beautiful day. I opened the door, stepped into the sun, put the kids on their bikes and went for a run.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple, but that day began my personal struggle and journey towards taking back my life.

A few things I have learned along the way

Trauma and adverse childhood events change our brains. If you have a pulse, there is a better than good chance you’ve experienced trauma, and it’s rewired your brain. You may even spend some of your time on high alert waiting for something else to go wrong.

The Adverse Childhood Experience study reports that one in six adults have experienced 4 or more childhood traumas and two-thirds of adults have experienced at least one.

What happens to your brain if the bear lives at your house?

Nadine Burke Harris, explained in her Ted Talk, “… imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says, “Release stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so your heart starts to pound, Your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. And that is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear.

But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging. … High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”

The good news

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― Brené Brown

We now know we all have something called neuroplasticity. To put it simply, we can change our brains.

Dr. Amen in his book, “Change your brain Change your life,” said, “Most negative thinking is automatic and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to your situation, it’s being chosen for you by bad brain habits.”

Today is a good day to make new thinking habits and to stop waiting for the bear in the woods to jump out and eat you!

Here are some ways to change your brain and your thinking habits:

  • Practice spending time in the moment focusing on things that bring you joy
  • Set aside time to do things to fill your emotional bank like gardening, writing, walking or listening to music
  • Recognize what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control
  • Look for beauty in your home, the world and the people you choose to spend time with
  • Choose friends who think positively
  • Invest in hobbies
  • Learn to meditate, practice yoga or find a prayer that quiets your mind when you feel anxious
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you do others

It is my hope that you allow yourself to be happy because joy is one of the few things we are entitled to. We are entitled to find joy, feel joy and create joy whenever possible.

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Will they kill?

The risks survivors of domestic violence face are very real and can be deadly.  Abusers can affect more people than the intended victim.  Recently Fox 12 Oregon reported,  “A man walked into his estranged wife’s elementary school classroom in San Bernardino and opened fire without saying a word, killing her and an 8-year-old student before shooting himself in a murder-suicide…A 9-year-old student also was critically wounded. He and the boy who died were behind their special-education teacher, Karen Elaine Smith, 53, the target of the man she had married months earlier, police said.”

The day after the deadly assault in California, according to Fox12 Oregon a woman in Oregon contacted police to say her husband and two daughters were missing. She reported, he was suicidal and had threatened to take her 8 and 11-year old girls. When police located the man, he was shot after setting his SUV on fire. The children were found dead inside the vehicle.

Domestic violence and the surrounding traumatic events touch friends, family, witnesses, co-workers and first responders. Even the strongest first responder is impacted when a child is murdered.

Whether you are a survivor of abuse, or know a survivor, learning to recognize the red flags which indicate an abuser is capable of murder may save a life. Learn how to reach out to professionals and create a safety plan for the survivor, yourself, schools and other locations like work or church.

If you are a survivor of abuse the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you find resources where you live.   A trained advocate can walk you through a risk assessment to help you determine the level of danger you may face.

The Battered Women’s Justice Project describes a risk assessment. They say, “…risk assessment tools in the domestic violence field have been developed to assess both an offender’s risk of re-offending and a victim’s risk of lethal assault.”  Click here to look at the Lethality Assessment Model Maryland First Responders Lethality Assessment and take their test.

As an advocate, I have been trained to provide an evidence-based lethality assessment. When there isn’t time to take a test, and I am working with survivors, there are three questions I always ask:

  • Has your abuser ever threatened to kill you or your children?
  • Has your abuser ever threatened suicide? Did they have a plan?
  • Has your abuser ever strangled you or threatened you with a weapon?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please reach out and get help. These are signs you may be in serious danger.

A trained advocate can help survivors of domestic violence create a personalized safety plan. Here is a sample safety plan from the National Coalition Against Domestic Sexual Violence

If you are a relative or friend of a survivor, learning this information could save a life. However, be very careful about the way you share it. The abuser may be tracking their victims every move and keystroke. Keep local hotline numbers in your cell phone and link survivors with professional advocates.

An advocate who has lost a victim to murder will remember that last conversation forever. They may remember seeing the signs, and even though they may have done everything they could, they will always wonder what else could have been said or done.  Family members and friends of victims wish for just one more chance to do anything, just something different. We are willing to answer your call 24 hours a day, we are willing to go out in the night to pick you up because we never know when our words will be the last words you ever hear.

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