Let’s switch up the negative names of our new Coronavirus reality to something slightly more life affirming. We have been told to hunker down and quarantine (the word hunker is defined as to squat or crouch down low). Before we switch up the names though, we might need to re-imagine what we are doing. Can you use the metaphor of a caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly to mark your current experience of being stuck at home? Please try this project to muster some resilience.
Please find some paper in your home, or just use your imagination to conceptualize this creative angle on our strange situation.
Please divide your paper up into three sections.
In the first section, please create a caterpillar. If you are not feeling the creativity urge, maybe just jot down a list of things you were doing a few weeks ago that might represent a less robust version of yourself (for all of us who were stretched thin, this might not be too hard to imagine). My list would probably include drinking too much coffee, not completing projects, not returning phone calls, etc
In the second section, please draw a cocoon or chrysalis (chrysalis is the technical term any third grader might remind you of, should you refer to the metamorphosis of a butterfly using the word cocoon). Again if this is too base or juvenile for your liking, please use this space to jot down a list of enjoyable and life affirming things you might explore during this home time.
In the third section, please draw a butterfly to represent a new and improved version of you who might walk out of your home when this is all over (yes- it will end). Imagine yourself reconnecting with the outside world in a new way with wings or something cool like that. A fresh perspective which is just about the same as new wings. We will all be different. Social isolation is not in our genetic makeup, so reconnecting with our species will probably be pretty spectacular. Again, if the butterfly metaphor is a bit pedestrian for you, perhaps just jot down a list of how you might envision reconnecting with the world.
More than two billion people are currently on lockdown in their homes on the planet as of this writing. That number might actually go up, as experts have warned that this week is going to look pretty grim. This unprecedented experience is perhaps the first time in human history that such a massive number of people are all essentially doing the same thing. The quest to stop the transmission of Coronavirus is being called a variety of ominous things such as shelter in place, lockdown , quarantine, social distancing, self isolation, and other negative things. In some cities, this experience is being enforced with harsh punishments for violations, with soldiers in the streets. What would happen if we changed the languaging to conceptualize this as something more palatable to the human experience? Could we call it cocooning? hibernating? pausing? resetting our compass? Slowing down? Respecting our elders and fragile fellow humans? Being a great Homo sapien?
How we conceptualize this whole thing will really determine our mental health throughout this experience. If we shift our experience to call this cocooning, we will be emerging from this quarantine as a completely different person, community, world, and species. Things could go wonderfully or terribly in this process, but there are some theories being kicked around that this might be a jump in consciousness caused by a radical shift in re-evaluating our values, and a radical appreciation for life we might have ignored just a few weeks ago. Stay safe and be well.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by technology and underwhelmed by sincere communication these days? Today we will explore this growing predicament. Please find some real paper and a real writing utensil. Think of someone important in your life and carve out a chunk of time to write this person a real letter. As you write, maybe even take a risk and share personal feelings in the letter to this person, or just recount your day, current activities etc. How does it feel to communicate this way? Can you find a stamp, the person’s address and mailbox and follow through these tedious steps to communicate? Before you mail it, hang on to the letter for a day. You might want to add more or just admire this form of communication before you send it away. Be aware of your feelings as you do this exercise… How does it feel to use your time to acknowledge someone else? How does it feel to reveal your handwriting to a loved one? Are you anticipating how the recipient will feel to find this letter in their mailbox? Good Luck. Maybe you will receive a hand written letter in return!
Yesterday’s project: How is your attitude these days? What type of inclement weather did you place yourself in and how did it feel? Did you draw yourself with things for protection against the elements such as an umbrella if it was raining or gloves if it was snowing? This art exercise can reflect our attitude of how we drew ourselves in the situation. If you created yourself unprepared and then complained about it, is there something you can do about it to alter this by adding some protection and thus improving your attitude? Can you take responsibility of the person in the image or do you blame someone or something else for the predicament of being outside in inclement weather. Does this image reflect your attitude in your life? Art making is often quite revealing because we have no experience of putting up our “defenses” in what we create, so the truth is usually right in front of us when feelings and attitudes are drawn rather than spoken. If this exercise revealed a part of yourself that needs further exploration, please find a loved one to share your feelings with whom you trust.
How is your attitude these days? Really, attitude is everything, and according to people like Viktor Frankl who have spent their career thinking about this topic (author of Man’s Search for Meaning). Attitude is the one thing we have full control over in our lives. Today’s art exercise will explore this element of ourselves and if done honestly, might provide insight into our current satisfaction with things around us. Please find paper and writing or drawing material. Draw an image of yourself outside in some type of inclement weather. Add some word balloons describing what you might be saying or thinking. Don’t worry about creating a masterpiece. The goal of this exercise is to get the information on paper.
Yesterday’s project: So, can you make a mistake? This exercise of blind contour drawing is a challenging one, especially because it forces us to give up the control we seem to have over many elements of our lives. For people who hate making mistakes, this is a very healthy exercise to get out of one’s comfort zone. Conducting an art therapy group on this topic in an in-patient psychiatric setting has proven to be the most powerful and painful activity, forcing participants to come face to face with an honest assessment of themselves and dealing with the very common and real fear of making mistakes.
When you look at your contour drawing of yourself, can you make any honest observations of emotions, mood, attitude? Can you identify how you were feeling as you made it? Art making like this can be quite revealing, and the best way to initiate change in oneself is to make an honest assessment of our current situation. Blind contour drawing is often a very sobering exercise in which we come face to face with a very honest/current assessment of ourselves. The word “current” is quite important here, meaning that this assessment is really temporary, and can change quickly if one puts the work into it.
Can you identify how it feels to have made something less than perfect? We are our own worst enemy and often the barrier preventing us from succeeding. Fear of failure or making a mistake is the fuel for remaining sedentary. If this is a topic in need of exploration in your life, please spend time journaling or sharing your feelings with a loved one.