Healing Journey SeriesAn artist's exploration at the deepest, darkest, most intimate and sacred parts of herself. Emotions, spirit bared on this gruelling journey.
16-piece collection of Solveig’s emotional journey of the soul
My journey began while sitting at home watching a flatmate. She had become very internalised and suffering badly by the way she was overthinking her situation. She was making up stories in her mind about how bad it could be. I watched her for a while and while I couldn’t help her, I could see the stress all over her face. I could see the way everything was impacting on each of her features.
In my artistic observation, I could see very clearly a portrait of stress made up of very distinct and characteristic lines. The shape the eyebrows took, the scrunching of the eyes, the tautness of the mouth, the nose, the cheeks. Everything could be captured and described with basic caricatured lines.
1. Portrait of Stress
I went to my studio and painted a portrait of stress using the features I had observed in my flatmate. I wanted to really capture that feeling, the vibrational, staticky energy. Everything contracted, pursed, thoughts racing like grey whirlwinds in the middle of her forehead. I stood back and became inspired and motivated to capture more negative states of mind.
2. Portrait of Hostility
The next portrait I did was hostility. For some reason, I had a problem with hostile people, especially men. I was afraid but resentful and resistant to them so they were an issue for me. I acted out in the mirror to get an idea of what hostile looked like. I turned myself into an aggressive animal and sketched the lines that gave me that look and captured that emotion on my face.
3. Portrait of Abuse
The next portrait presented as abuse. As a therapist, I had seen many women come to me with this look. This look was wide eyed, having seen horrors of which they cannot speak. Secrets that must not be shared. Surrendered suffering, timid, afraid, overpowered by something traumatic.
I was finding it fascinating that these portraits could happen so minimalistically, with so few lines representing the feeling. I was enjoying this quintessential capturing of emotional states.
4. Portrait of Withdrawal
Next was withdrawal. I was observing a person in my life who was distancing and dissociating themselves. They were becoming less emotional and more withdrawn, moving into a kind of psychopathy. All the lines on her face, all the expressiveness just disappeared and smoothed out and became insignificant on her face. Her eyes were downturned, a simple, small inexpressive mouth, a slight cock to the head, and then vacant. So I tried to capture that flat-lining emotional expression.
5. Portrait of Anxiety
Then came anxiety. A friend visited me and couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t stop her brain from working overtime. She couldn’t stop fearing every single little thing and life was stretched beyond and she worried about it. She was worried that she was worried. She was tight and all her muscles were unable to get blood into them because everything was held in this rigid frozen moment of fear. And so I portrayed that.
7. Portrait of Jealousy
Another friend I had been observing was so eaten up and resentful about a relationship that had gone awry and lost their partner to another. She was so jealous and so disdainful, and so pissed off that she gave me yet another portrait. The portrait of jealousy where everything is pursed and disdainful and superior in the way one is thinking about it.
6. Portrait of Despair
Having got this far, I looked at the mirror again and let my face do something emotional. “What emotional negative do you have left Solveig?” All my face just collapsed and the lines headed towards the ground, my shoulders stooped, my chest caved and suddenly I was in an old familiar feeling, feeling despair. Not knowing what to do, not feeling resourced enough, and I just collapsed into that feeling of downward spiralling that was familiar to my life.
I had painted seven negative emotional portraits and I said to myself “What else?”. But that was it. That was as many as I could think of. I thought there has to be more but then realised that these were my seven. These were the negative emotional states most concentrated in me. These were the ones I needed to look at and do something about.
Because I wasn’t clear how they all fitted together inside me my next painting was going to be about “What was my real issue or problem that these seven states were incorporated into?”. And what came out at that point shocked me. Shocked me with how intense and self abusive and how weird my issue with myself was when my subconscious mind gave me The Mask with its symbols and way of expressing that as a composite.
8. The Mask
What came out was I was full of female rage. I had had a difficult relationship with my father, I had lots of resentment and chemistry built up about that. Because the relationship with my dad was bad, I had low self esteem. I had not had grounding in knowing and respecting myself. I was self sabotaging. I wore a mask to ‘meet the people that I meet’, a pretty little face with a smile of a young girl but inside I felt like an ancient old demonic being, full of worms and snakiness, ready to poison and scratch or self destroy. It didn’t matter how I expressed it, it had to go somewhere.
As I said, this shocked me. This told me a lot about myself. It showed me I carried ancestral rage as well as my own. It showed me I was not in a good place in that I could not be authentic or true to myself. I felt compromised into being what anyone else needed me to be while I resented it like hell underneath. So that was a very interesting painting to sit in front of and be informed by.
9. Primal Scream
The next painting had the brief of “There’s the problem, what do I do about it?” What did I have to go through now to bring in healing and resolution and lessen the suffering? Primal Scream was my subconscious mind’s response.
Primal scream is a picture of an archetypal being. Snake-like at one extremity with the ability to incorporate flight should I care to develop it. It was vicious and full of horror and terror and pain and suffering that only a baby or a small child can experience. Completely undefined but horrific. Terrible to your sensitivity and offensive.
Primal Scream work is about getting to the core of all those feelings, of going back to a childhood event or state that allows you to connect with that essential energy that is stored and to express it. From the depths of my being I needed to do my scream, to connect with the event and the core of the onion of all my pain. I needed to scream that out and, after this painting, I went down to the beach on a windy day and did exactly that. I sat. I connected. I wept. I wailed. And finally from a deep place, a great wail came up and it screamed out of my body into the wind. Once finished, I felt like a crumpled leaf on the ground.
10. Razor’s Edge
When I came back to my studio from that event I asked “What else? What else do I need to know? What else do I need to be informed about?” And the next painting to emerge was Razor’s Edge. This was just a statement of fact, a picture of the ‘what’s so’. In order to be who you are, in order to be free of whatever binds you, you need to accept that life is a journey. It is not guaranteed safe or pain-free. It has dangers that lurk and you cannot lose your balance. You cannot take your mind away and be distracted because anything could happen. So despite where you find yourself, you must ride that razor’s edge, navigate the journey, and use the flow to your advantage to get where you want to go.
This painting exhilarated me. A lot of people see the blood coming out of the feet and go “ooohhh”. But I see the blood coming out of the feet as a little sacrifice for the reward of where this is taking me. And I felt up to the job, confident for the first time, felt cleared enough to think “Okay lets jump on this edge and let’s go”.
11. River of Tears
I was keen for more and out came River of Tears. This was a very passive part of the healing. Having felt so exhilarated and enthusiastic about pushing forward, what came next was water, cleansing water, welling up from every part of me and weeping. I went into a crying jag. It was fantastic because I knew at the time it was a cleansing release but I was also amazed at the amount of tears that I had to shed, the depth of the pool and ocean of emotion within me that now just came spilling out, almost like a waterfall. And it flowed back to source, out of my body, cleansing and overflowing, taking it all out of me, diluting and carrying it away. It was beautiful but as I watched the tears go, I felt all their origins, where those tears had come from, I felt the connections and the people and the places and circumstances that had caused those tears to reservoir inside me and to become such a huge dam of feeling held back and stored. This left me exhausted, lying on the sand, like a fish out of water.
The next painting was Attachments. I was washed clean and feeling light and wanting to spread my wings and get high, get up there off the ground, out of the mud, out of all the damp and the wet. I wanted to fly high with the eagles. To feel the joy of open space and boundlessness. And then this picture showed me that while that may be my desire and my intention, I had attachments. I had reasons why I couldn’t go. I had duties and responsibilities based in love of why I couldn’t abandon myself to this kind of flying away feeling. Some of these attachments could be broken free of. I could endure small pains to become free and flighted and take off. But some attachments are much more fixed and steadfast and to try and break them would be damaging to yourself. So in the end I learnt from this painting that true freedom is a state of mind. It is a state of compromise within your own psyche that you give yourself flight and you also accept that you are tethered, that you can’t fly away completely but that within your life your attachments can give you a large space to operate in until you do break free or they let go of you. Attachments are part of your journey and part of your teaching as well.
13. Taming the Beast
The next piece to arrive was Taming the Beast. This was a very relaxed and healthy attitude that was starting to form. I was observing how I had felt so attacked inside and at odds with an enemy within. Going through other adjustments and ways of releasing damaged feeling, confronted me with that beast that I had fought so badly against and hated so much. I realised this beast needed acceptance not rejection. It needed to be loved, and be embraced as part of me. It was not wanting to be taken out. When I started to feel this way and started to direct more loving compassionate understanding feeling to the gremlin within, the gremlin softened. The gremlin almost rolled over on its back for a tummy rub. The gremlin came forward and wanted that embrace, wanted love, acceptance and approval like all of us. And when I gave it that, it gave me the promise of never being that enemy again, of being my friend, an ally and strength, an ingenuity and a wildness. This one made me weep because this is when I really knew that this whole journey was having an effect. I was able now to embrace the demon within and to make it my friend and to love and respect it and to give it a new name. Convinced that the healing was in process, I asked “what next?”
14. State of Grace
Next was State of Grace. This was a beautiful feeling of being in nature, one with nature, a natural being. Of being so cleansed and so devoid of all the worms and nastiness and hurt and shame and bitterness that had been stored within me, and now vacated. I felt at one with peace, with the moment. I was enjoying myself, feeling so much more intensely the positive things in life. And I felt as though I was no longer solid and opaque and impervious. It was like I was more transparent, as if the light could shine through me.I felt like I could now channel light heartedness. That feeling of a frequency above the line filled with love and white and clean and uplifted and noble and honest and in integrity.
15. Natural Self
I realised how much the journey had changed me. It had washed me to a great shore where I will happily live my life. And the outcome to that journey is my Natural Self and Shaman Self.
My natural daytime self allows me to be in nature fully and uninhibitedly. Feeling the relationship on my skin, breathing it into me, joining with all the other natural beings. Being in the energy of everything that is healthy and balanced and beautiful and evolved.
16. Shaman Self
At night, when I look within, seeing into the darkness, there is no threat there, there is a warmth and a welcoming and wisdom and stories and wonderful healing experiences. All that is now available. I am fully expressive without and within. I am unloaded. And this journalling with paintings has taken me there.
I am so glad that I did the first painting because one after the other my subconscious mind just spilled out the journey of my recovery. Step by step I embraced every facet of my personal need to resolve and here I am today, not fully evolved, still on my journey but a hell of a lot further along and benefitted by the exercise of externalising myself through my paintings in this Healing Journey.