The Body Mapping Project - Episode 4: Symbols and the Self
Art credits: (Left to Right) 1) "Jellyfish" by Perdita Sinclair; 2) "The Human Body" by Kelly Andersen; 3) "Papilarnie" by Janusz Jurek.
Symbols and art have been used since the beginning of time as a means of expressing the inner human experience, communicating what we feel, what we don't feel. We create, live, and influence our experiences through auditory, visual, tactile, and spatial/mobile means. We are constantly organizing and reorganizing our sense of self...our integrity...our structures to best navigate the experiences of our lives.
When sensations in our physical body, or pain, become deeply complex and overwhelming, it can help to recruit symbols, and forms of art, in order to restore meaning and order to the chaos we feel. In bodywork, using imagery, colors, and textural descriptions can be incredibly impactful when learning to identify, differentiate, and integrate the variety of sensations that we have the capacity to experience. I am constantly learning from (and enjoying) my clients' creative discoveries and descriptions of their bodies!
If you feel that this would be a helpful approach for you, please reach out and book a consultation to talk more!
The following written excerpt and art work tell the story of a fellow Philly colleague/healer and her experience of grief in the body.
Some of these pieces of art and writing share memories, moments and descriptions of explicit content such as human anatomy, adult relations, child labor, emotional or psychological distress, and physical pain. The following content is not intended as erotica, or to promote sexual arousal, nor to activate any psychological harm to others. If any of the above content feels unsafe or you feel sensitive to any of the above topics, I truly hope you will take care of yourself and not take on unnecessary pressure to read on. We are all processing a lot, and it’s ok to not have the energy or bandwidth to deal with how you currently feel.
Let's learn more about our bodies and healing through art and language!
The Red Spot
When I was four years old I used to throw temper tantrums. A child psychologist said I was frustrated with my inability to express myself. It was a short lived phase, but noteworthy.
The psychologist asked me to draw what I was feeling. And so I drew a rudimentary self portrait with a bright red spot right in the middle of my belly.
According to my mother, I named this “the Angry Spot.”
Fast forward thirty plus years later, and the Angry Spot has resurfaced. Same same, but different.
My brother-best-friend died a few years ago, and six months after his death, I developed chronic abdominal pain that doesn’t have an official diagnosis.
It’s pretty clear to me that the origins of this pain are emotional. And given what I now know about anger usually being a secondary emotion (meaning not the root, actual emotion), I wonder. . .
Is my Angry Spot actually angry? Or is she grieving? What is she asking me for? What does she need?
In this painting it’s pretty clear that the rest of me is alright. Sometimes I have a feeling in my body that I’m partially here on Earth and partially on the Other Side with my brother. Maybe that’s just some sort of dissociation? I’m not sure.
But my body still feels grounded. Maybe that’s one of the functions of the Angry Spot. She keeps me here, oriented to the present and my grief. She also keeps me partially oriented to the past, and a part of me that existed when my brother was alive.
Maybe that’s part of purpose of the Angry Spot- she wants me to remember. Given what I know about optimal health being so closely linked to fully living in the present moment, I realize this:
My Angry Spot may be asking me to create other ways of remembering and honoring my brother. Ways of expressing and processing this grief outside of my body.
Once again she’s calling me to express myself instead of internalizing my emotions.
Do you have an Angry Spot? Where does she live in your body, and what is she asking of you?”
What does it feel like in my body right now?
The Body Mapping Project is a blog series curating art, poems, songs, and writings from individuals in our community who lovingly, and vulnerably bring you accounts of their bodies. Each person has responded in their own way, to the question: "What does it feel like in my body right now?" I hope you will find inspiration, self acceptance, and hope through these individuals’ incredible works. Enjoy!
**If you would like to contribute your own piece, you can submit your art or writing to Meredith at email@example.com.
*Please respect the creators! Keep all responses/comments to the works respectful in language and intent. It is an act of vulnerability and courage to share such personal experiences with others, and this space is meant to cultivate healing, love, and acceptance of ourselves and others. Some individuals have requested to remain anonymous, and others, share their identities openly.