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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Deep Diving Into The Why Of Self

Sometimes your creative process gets put on hold as you take a closer look at why you do what you, creatively, socially, in relationships, in your self-talk. In my last post I talked about how I have cut alcohol from my life as a means to explore every aspect of my life minus the impact of ethanol washing over my brain. I wanted to see what, if anything, would change about the way I do things, and if doing so would lead to other considerations, revelations or personal insights.

The Genesis Of The Inquiry

I got bloodwork done to see if years of social drinking had caused my liver any damage. Happily, it did not, but some other things popped up. Yay. Not. But this is what happens when you open yourself up to a reinvention process. You will encounter things you will consider doing in other ways to create a different pathway through your day to day life. You'll do it for physical, emotional, spiritual and relationship health.

I immediately adopted a diet much lower in carbs, my all time favorite food group. Newer research indicates doing so is a heart healthy choice. Yeah, so goodbye noodles, muffins, taters, tortillas, chips, bread, crackers, cookies, grains and any and all pastries. Sob. Deep into my opting to eliminate a lot of old favorites from my life, I simultaneously decided to add something I've never explored before: therapy.

The Lasting Impact Of Early Trauma

I was reading books about how old trauma can impact one's brain development and wreak all kinds of havoc. In how you relate with yourself, with others, with circumstances, the whole gamut of human experience. I took an ACEs test and discovered my start in life was way worse than even I understood. I got a 7 out of a possible 10. They consider a 4 to be a high score that will lead to troubles ahead. You can take the test for yourself here. It is a relatively new tool being adopted by therapists everywhere.

I was keen to find out why I starting to develop indicators for heart trouble ahead. I supposed the way I handle stress might have something to do with it. I was absolutely correct!

The Adverse Childhood Experiences, or “ACEs,” quiz asks a series of 10 questions about common traumatic experiences that occur in early life. Since higher numbers of ACEs often correlate to challenges later in life, including higher risk of certain health problems, the quiz is intended as an indicator of how likely a person might be to face these challenges.

The drawing on the left shows me as a child negotiating the traumas of those times.

The drawing on the right shows how I am able to conscientiously redraw old memories to take away their negative power.

New Help With Old Stress Coping Mechanics

We know that heart issues are highly heritable but that changing your diet and how you handle stress can have a positive impact on your chances of developing illness. The 'handle stress' part was what I decided I needed help with. The last year has been hard on just about everybody. We've all been swimming in stressors. From all the repercussions of Covid-19 to personal challenges associated with what's going on all around us these days. There's plenty of worrying factors to get lost in.

We talk about ways to reprocess relationships to achieve healthier ways to cope with setbacks.

Drawing On The Power Of The Subconscious

I'm about a month in with my therapist. She is a bilingual Mexican woman who exudes warmth, kindness and competence AND she's also an Art Therapist! We meet up on Skype. We're all so much more comfortable with these video calls than ever before, aren't we? Sometimes she gives me an art assignment to help me tap into my subconscious for information.

This most recent one is for me to make a drawing of how those old traumas felt at key ages throughout my life. I have never done anything like this on purpose, though I confess stuff does show up in my work I've never really understood. If you've followed me for any length of time you know I love color, but this assignment specifically suggests I don't use it for these drawings. I understand why. Color can be a distraction. Black and white images often show their heart more clearly.

I'm not going to go into all of what I'm discovering about myself right now. But I think you can see stuff is coming to the surface in new ways. I will say this, dogs and the spirit of Dog has played an important role in my life from the beginning. This went on the include horses and finally manifests as unicorns, all of whom have appeared in my images for decades.

Me at age 2 surrounded by the wounds of my childhood and those from my ancestors that accompany me.

Me at age 10 when things were less stressed but coping mechanisms were already firmly in place.

I'm Open So Others Can Find Their Own Strength

I promise not to turn this blog into a pity party or an ugly recap of old hurts, but I do want to demonstrate how being willing to explore old issues can have a positive impact no matter how old you are. And as an artist working with an art therapist, it only makes sense that discoveries are going to show up in my output.

People have told me 'you are brave for sharing this stuff'. But I'm not. I'm 63. I do not care if these truths and inquiries clank off of some people's sensibilities. Likely they're just not ready to dive into their own stuff. And that's perfectly ok. But, I am connected to many people who wish to live their best lives and I believe it is with the sharing of experiences, especially the not pretty ones, that we generate some of the best outcomes with our connections.


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Jun 07, 2021

First, let me say you're such a wonderful writer. Thank you for the link to the ACEs test - I scored a 5 which is basically what my own therapist told me about my childhood. I'd love to know about what coping mechanisms you are letting go of - I have a huge list of my own. Also if you have discussed "fawning" as one of them. It's at the top of my list and has impacted me in untold negative ways. P.S. my little granddaughter is filling up the pages of your first giant coloring book and loves it.

Jun 07, 2021
Replying to

Similar, yes. It's a newly-realized fourth fear response in the "fight, flight, freeze" realm.

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