I’m not sure if you have been keeping track or not, but this is the fourth blog post of describing the awakening and healing that took place in just one semester of grad school! It was a lot to integrate, but hey, my soul was obviously ready for it. Today I will be sharing the process of owning my suffering, and then what I presented, for the Bearing Gifts to the Feast final. If you haven’t already read the previous blog post, Bearing Gifts to the Feast, I recommend you go do so! It briefly explains what this model is that was created by Stephen Levine.
At residency, the professors were explaining what to expect throughout the Spirituality in Art Therapy course. Then they gave their own presentation of Bearing Gifts to the Feast, to show the depth that it carries, and that this will be our final project. Right then and there I received an intuitive hit (even though I didn’t know what that meant back then). I knew what my presentation had to be on, but at this point I still was heavily avoiding. So naturally, I pushed it down. That was something for future Kelsey to deal with.
As the semester went on I was slowly being awakened, which I had explained in the previous blog posts. Although, I was allowing this awakening to occur I was still suppressing my suffering that I knew I was going to present on. I knew my Bearing Gifts to the Feast was going to be about accepting my sexual trauma.
I shit you not, I think I waited until the night before giving my presentation to actually physically prepare everything. The entire semester my unconscious mind was working through this suffering though. It was preparing my conscious mind to own my suffering. This was evident through my practice of documenting my dreams and processing them through art. Along with all of the other assignments leading up to the final.
Shortly before the presentation I had wrote this in my sketchbook:
“Spirit isn’t a religion. Maybe it’s not something you live for either. Spirit is peace, inner calmness. You can’t find it, it finds you. It can only find you through your conscious efforts of being mindful, being aware, endless efforts to be connected to your unconscious, and accepting the reality of your life. Surrender of control is true freedom, even when it comes to our own thoughts and desires. We have to dig our way into our own darkness and plant ourselves there before we can even begin to grow.”
That was the last seed I needed to dive into my darkness. A few weeks later I then started to write to my suffering:
Dealing Confronting the feelings I have about sex because I have been raped and assaulted. Understanding my sexuality and the conflicting thoughts that can surface with sex. I suppressed it for so long because I did not want to accept/own my suffering.
I didn’t want to own the fact that things that would make people who have not been taken advantage of feel sexy, but to me it makes me feel like an object and not safe. Comments on my appearance from a significant other would make others feel hot, but can make me feel used. This shadow within lived deep inside me, and I never made contact with it until I started grad school. Then I began to understand it and learn how to be more in tune with it to begin to “own it” as a result of this spirituality class.
This shadow, this part of myself, I didn’t want to believe was a part of me. It will always bring suffering if I am not one with it. It will begin to hold me back in every aspect of life, not just intimacy.”
I asked myself, what in my present life is causing or triggering this suffering? After journaling on that, I then created this poem:
“This object is a tangible piece that I want to touch.
This object looks appealing.
This object is not necessarily on display.
There are no signs around saying “do not touch.”
I’ll go ahead and touch this object.
This object did not complain.
This object did not say “no.”
This object has no voice.
I’ll take this object home with me and put it where I want it.
When I’m done with this object I’ll put it back where I found it.
No one will ever know.
It looks the same to me.
. . .
After this object was left alone it shattered.
This object has been forever changed.”
I started making the sketches you see above, in reflection of the poem I just created. Then I continued to journal to further process the poem and sketches:
“I continue to feel like an object often. I didn’t want to accept that this pain I felt as a result of what happened to me, belonged to me, and was a part of me. As Levine says, ‘Suffering is a gift, in that it has been given to us. We suffer it, the gift, through no choice of our own. When the suffering has been owned it can be “given away”, we cannot give what we do not own.’
After being able to own my suffering I could piece myself back together. The pieces are sealed together with adhesive, which represents my suffering. It is a part of me. Being able to piece myself together, I can move forward and use my suffering as fertilizer to recreate myself. I will still feel pain and still feel sad, but those moments can still be used for growth. My pain, my suffering, my growth, my learning, my rebirth, and my new-found joy is all connected.
I am more than just an object.”
All of those realizations happened quickly! I’m not exaggerating when I say that everything you just read when I was addressing my suffering, transpired within a few days. It was like once I crawled into the depths of my despair and opened the door, it felt as if I got hit with almost everything. To then generate some closure for myself, I created the art piece that is at the beginning of this blog post. This piece communicated the entire process of owning my suffering, and who I was after doing so. The title of the piece is, “This Object has been Transformed.”
A few days later I then got to present my suffering! I actually saved the video of my presentation. I share it on my podcast, Creating Light with Kelsey, episode 14. I might share it to my YouTube channel too at some point, but it will definitely be on the podcast. When I finished my presentation, I journaled and created some art to reflect on the rite of passage I just went through. I wrote:
“It feels liberating to own my suffering. The more I held everything in the more intimidating it felt. Shame would take control, but even outwardly processing my authentic raw feelings about my suffering, the shame automatically began to lift. The more I tried to control the control, the more powerless and isolated I felt. This suffering is a part of me, and after owning it I started to feel more like myself.
After presenting this is how I felt. It’s like when you know you need to throw up and when you finally do and stop holding back you feel better.”
Again, if you are interested in reading the entirety of Bearing Gifts to the Feast (which explains the concept of owning your suffering) to have a better understanding go read that chapter in Stephen K. Levine’s book! Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul.
Can you see why now this is my favorite part of my healing journey so far?! This was so fucking magical. I want you to know that you have the power to own your suffering too! I hope that by seeing my process you can understand that by feeling the pain allowed me to embrace my true self. By continuing to do so, it has also allowed me to fully love myself and have love for others. I am able to see clearly now the abundance life has to offer. This reality is for EVERYBODY! But it doesn’t just happen. It is a choice, and it starts by choosing to own our suffering.
When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.