Saturday, March 17, 2012

Changing Face - moving freely through the years

Why do we, especially women, attach so much meaning and value to how we look?  Why for many, is our self-confidence connected to how we feel about our physical appearance and why do we fear the changes our bodies undergo? I'm not talking about declining health as we age or being struck with a health condition as we age, but why do we fear the wrinkles, the gray hairs, and the other physical changes that are a natural process of aging? One way to move through the aging process is with creativity.  Is there a way to use art to build a healthy relationship with our changing appearances? In the UK, a group called "Look at Me," invited women to take part in an art therapy group to support women and help them gain insight and develop a healthy outlook on their changing appearances. Here is a link to the youtube video of this process:!

Recently, a friend of mine shared that she is very upset about turning 40 soon. Her white hairs are a sign midlife is just around the corner.  She pulls the white hairs out to extinguish the reminders of her aging body.  I suggested, she might want to save some of the white hairs she pulls, and glue them to black paper and dialogue with them. Give the white hairs a voice and allow them to speak back to the voice that is so fearful of aging. If you prefer, draw an image of the white/gray hairs on a black piece of paper and do the same exercise. Get to know the white hair; be curious about your changing hairs that are sprouting among the black, brown, blond, and/or red field. What do these new hairs represent to you? My friend sees them as representing a "dead end;" An indication that time is running out and it's all down hill from here.

She is not alone. Our society places much more value on the young than the old or, for that matter, the middle-aged. Young is good...old is bad. That is why so many women undergo cosmetic surgery and Botox.

Here is another exercise to try.
Use any drawing material you have and on a piece of plan paper, color or white, on the left side of the paper draw an image, as best you can, this is not an art class, of yourself with a young face.  You can also collage this exercise. Make it as simple or abstract as you wish. Now, along side that image, create an image of yourself at the age you are image of how you experience yourself at your current age. What changes? What remains the same? Notice the feelings that come up. Notice if you talk to or experience yourself differently. I would also suggest you write in your journal about any feelings or thoughts you have. If you find you are being judgmental or critical of yourself, I want you to try and use a loving and kind voice with yourself. Practice that new voice daily and see what happens. If that loving voice is a challenge, try being neutral - not rejecting or embracing...stay in the middle where no judgement takes place.

You are always welcome to write me about any questions or experiences you have. I will write more about this subject in posts to come.