This blog is a place where I tell my story of healing from trauma through my artwork. For this post I created a painting and a drawing depicting my experience of pendulation, which is a healing exercise frequently done as part of Somatic Experiencing therapy. There are more pieces of art depicting other aspects of my healing journey in the rest of this blog.
During pendulation we move our awareness back and forth between the activation (traumatized part of self) and the “oasis spot” (resourced part of self), and we find out that the traumatized place can actually be connected to, or have a relationship with, the resourced place.
My term “oasis spot” refers to a part of the system that is in a natural state of calm, the default state animals are in when not being threatened (think of a cat resting). In this painting, the man has an oasis spot within himself that is represented by a stream of water flowing among clumps of pink moss and glowing emerald stones; this spot in his body (and in his consciousness) is peaceful and calm.
However, the man is unaware of his oasis spot because he is experiencing chaotic emotions and disconnection from himself. In fact, he is experiencing a “mental break” in which it feels like the very integrity of his mind is slipping because of the shocking, extreme and in-congruent nature of all the trauma he has experienced. He has repetitive and intrusive thoughts from the past as well as triggers, flashbacks and nightmares.
When he begins pendulation, he is connecting that oasis spot to the challenging emotions he is experiencing; in the painting this is represented by the calm, peaceful pink energy reaching up to touch the conflicted painful energy.
The gray blobs this pink energy first touches are the experiences of Disgust and Dread in the man’s gut that come from having witnessed horror.
The pink energy continues moving upwards to touch the triangle in his heart which is a Numbing Shield that blocks him from any intimacy or feelings in his heart, for example feelings of love and affection.
The rest of the images around his head represent experiences like Anger at existence or at the people who caused the traumas, Shock, Terror, Mental Disorganization, Mental Shattering/Brokenness and Mental Confusion.
The stormy sky is the general Depression and Sorrow that is with him on some level constantly.
And the red color covering his throat area represents everything that is Unsaid / Unspoken and that he needs to say, all the deep almost invisible pain that he doesn’t know how to express, or doesn’t think is important enough to talk about.
The hope is that with more and more pendulation, especially when done with a trained therapist who can guide him through all these challenging places, eventually he can connect the oasis spot to each of these troubled areas of his consciousness. He may discover that he can create a link between the most traumatized parts of his being and the most resourced parts of his being. Pendulation can also connect one to resources in the imagination and in the outside world.
We must learn to create links between all the lost parts of self to the parts of self (or imagination or the external world) that act as resources to inform, nurture, love, heal, and transform these painful parts.
Building these inner relationships could be likened to when a well-off country sends aid to a country with less resources and a relationship is built between them, meaning they have an ongoing connection and activities between them like routine supply donations, regular grant applications and fund drives, and established volunteer activities. There are areas of LACK and areas that are RICH and the goal is to give from the rich to the poor.
Path to Water
Another analogy is as we walk back and forth, we are wearing down a path where someone can more easily walk to the oasis, pull out a bucket of water and carry it back out into the desert to the part that is dying of thirst and give it to them, as many times as needed, until they become healthy again.
In this illustration, the lost parts of self or the “abandoned guy” doesn’t even have anything to stand on. He is so abandoned that the earth from under his feet has even abandoned him! The bucket of water that the guy is bringing to this part looks so small, but the impact can be big. The water can begin a transformation, first quenching thirst, soothing pain, and eventually even moving the land over to form hills under the guy. Eventually, the water can feed a garden of trees and grass around the guy so he becomes surrounded by his own Oasis.
Another way to illustrate this would be to show the pain and difficulty of the abandoned part being carried in the bucket back to the oasis and when it is dumped in the water it dissolves within the goodness of that field of energy.
Thanks for reading and I wish you the very best on your healing journey! And if you liked this article, there are more art pieces related to PTSD in the other articles in this blog.
Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.