In a bibliotherapy group facilitated by Marythelma Ransom, nine of us came to believe that one of the most effective techniques for dealing with trauma would be some form of artistic expression accompanied by a written analysis of this art’s symbolic meaning. Since many of our members had not experienced horrific trauma, we focused on developmental trauma viewed through attachment theory, right hemisphere function, and an understanding of subjective experience. It is a structure for thought that is both profound and simple.
Our resulting art projects symbolized unique experiences of personal history, the resulting protective False Self, and the perceived True Self. We have found four things crucial to our process: 1) understanding what happened to us in our lives, 2) creating art that tells that story, 3) writing an explanation of our symbols, what and why they make sense to us, and 4) sharing that art so we can experience the healing power of being understood. These four things together are far more powerful than any one of them alone.
The self understanding we were experiencing was so exciting we invited others to join us. Adding another dozen or so to our group, we met bi-monthly to assess how we might develop an educational program for the public.
We decided upon an exhibit, utilizing the most important of human needs: relationship. In September of 2016 we staged a highly successful exhibit of our art and accompanying catalogue at the City of Albuquerque Special Collections Library.
Subsequently, the True Self Project became a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation with the goal of providing information and structure for thinking about one’s developmental trauma. The True Self Project has since developed other exhibits as well as conducted courses.
My project expresses the three dynamics of my True Self journey: True Self, Pain, False Self. My journey of understanding these dynamics is a process, just as the process of beginning to learn pottery has been. I arranged the pottery in predominantly 3 hues of glaze. Pastels are a reminder of my False Self. The dark maroon/green glaze is expressing my Pain. The black/white bright glaze (Midnight Star) is representative of my True Self. Arranged in an intertwined cascade of pottery, this is how I experience these phases of my life. I wish they were in neat, separated “cubes” where I could easily distinguish between them. Instead, they often roll around in the same situation, experience, and/or relationship. While I might wish that my life were strictly the look of the Midnight Star glaze–this would not represent reality. So here they all are: all in the picture, and all of them–works in progress. It is only in the Process that the Midnight Star takes on its fullest meaning: “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.” (Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man)