Part-One of an interview with Jeanene Mall, Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist, reflecting on original painting of “Repose”
This painting inspires me to explore those states that seem so natural and automatic in the animal/bird kingdom, but often elude humans!
As I gaze on the painting, I see the swans doing two things:
-Being authentically who they are.
-Doing what they were created to do.
They remind me of the quote by Richard Rohr: “Our conscious, loving presence gives glory to God”.
They are calm, purposeful, inherently beautiful, graceful, surrounded by beauty. The subtle purposeful colors of the water, grasses, and rest of nature grow more discernable and more beautiful when mindfully gazed upon!
The swans are in harmony with themselves, with each other, and with their environment, which to me is a vital part of spirituality. They are their “authentic true selves”, doing what they are meant to do. They are God’s marvelous creations.
What might repose be like for humans, and what prevents us from it? How can ‘repose’ inspire us to be more authentically who we are, doing what we were created to do?
Who are we, really? What is authenticity? I believe we begin to find the answer as we connect with our creator, God, who breathed His image and likeness into us and gifted each of us uniquely.
I believe we begin to find the answer as we gain insight into our “false selves” – the beliefs, behaviors, and coping mechanisms that formed when we were children in order for us to survive in our imperfect environments.
Early childhood attachment is profoundly impactful for the rest of our lives. Most of us believe what was mirrored to us by our caregivers. Much of this is formed the first eighteen months of life and also by age three. The young child notices non-verbal stimuli; attunement by their caregiver to their needs, eye contact, tone of voice, facial expression, moods, etc. (Many parents are simply unable, not equipped, or perhaps too busy to do this well). The young child’s brain wires according to this attunement.
All of us had developmental trauma to varying degrees. This produced at best distortions in how we view God, the world, ourselves and others. These distortions are the breeding ground for co-dependent behaviors. They work against ‘repose’ and rest and often create anxiety, depression, etc. The beliefs and behaviors formed at that time are wired into the brain and can be triggered in our adult lives. This is called implicit memory. Implicit memory is in our sub-conscious and works without our awareness. So, when something comes into our awareness that reminds the brain in some way of an earlier hurt, the brain automatically looks for the earliest match. The match could be at age three, six, ten, etc. Once the brain finds it, it is the earlier match that dictates the response (again, without our awareness). This means that a child part is responding! Is it any wonder that we often have difficulty in our relationships? Is it any wonder that we then wonder who in the world we are?
There is hope!! We can heal from early attachment wounds and from trauma. Neuroplasticity in our brains makes it possible and doable for them to rewire.
We must proceed hand-in-hand with God and allow Him to know us at a deep level, and seek to know Him at a deep level. We must recognize and heal our inner children. These things lead to greater authenticity.
What were we created to do? As we become more authentic, we will more easily recognize our special gifts and skills. This is important as it guides us in finding our purpose in what we have to offer the world. But ultimately, we were created for relationship. We are hard-wired to be in relationship. At the end of our lives, relationships will be what mattered.
What relationships? I believe there are three. Relationship with God or our higher power, with ourselves and with others.
It is vital to be on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings. Silence before God, meditation, retreat, quiet, and prayer are so often neglected in our spirituality and in our churches, yet so vital and life giving.
What about our relationship with ourselves and others? The Jewish theologian Martin Buber termed the phrases I-thou and I-it. I-it means we see another person existing strictly to do something for us (for example, the taxi driver whose sole purpose, to us, is to get us where we need to go).
I-thou, on the other hand, means we see each person we encounter as a unique, worthy, individual with thoughts, feelings, and beauty. We give the person respect and consideration, no matter what or who they appear to be.
How often do we treat people (I sure am guilty) as I-it? How often might we treat our loved ones as I-it?
Perhaps most importantly, how often do we treat ourselves as I-it?! What might it look like to treat ourselves as I-it? Ponder that for a moment.
We generally are taught to do good to others and respect them, but often are overly critical of ourselves. Are we not also valuable humans? Would God have us love ourselves as He loves us? Would He have us care for ourselves in a way that honors Him, since he created us? I believe, “Yes”! Self-care is about wholeness, not selfishness. Self-care should include work on our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits. And as we do so, evidence tells us, we can then extend grace to others. We can then discern our unique gifts that He intends for us to use for the world’s benefit.
How might ‘repose’ inspire us all to be better people? I believe it encourages us to create space in our lives. Space to heal. Space to know and be known. Space to seek places of inner, focused, calm. Space to connect with, and trust, our inner knowing of who we are, who we are becoming, and what we are supposed to do! Space to work on our three important relationships.
Rosemary: In a class I am taking, called “The Journey Begins”, we talked about creating a space for God to come into our lives and our memories by sitting and reflecting on moments of trauma and woundedness and inviting Jesus into that picture. And that can create a neurological change. Redoing those scenes with God in them will somehow produce a new and healthy track in our brains.
Jeannie: Yes! It’s a corrective experience. It is so helpful to invite God (or our spiritual connection) to sit with us in our pain! Sometimes we need to just sit silent before God. That takes perseverance and practice! Silence is very integrating for the brain.
The journey can be bumpy. It can include stress, self-doubt, confusion, tiredness, anxiety, depression, and more. But these states can co-exist with states of increased calm, grace, and focus.
Perhaps we find space in nature: a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Perhaps in music, arts, creating with one’s hands. Perhaps in connecting with and caring for our body. Journaling is calming and a great way to express emotion in a healthy way. Focusing on our breathing calms and slows us down. Perhaps we create space by mindfully studying beauty. Sitting with a trusted companion and safely sharing our emotions and souls can calm us and help us create space. Personal retreats (be they ten minutes or a weekend away) create healing space for our souls.
May ‘Repose’ inspire in us an awakening. May we give ourselves permission to seek repose, and may it inspire us to seek a spiritual journey, conscious presence: authenticity, loving presence; relationship.
(Please join us next week for Part-Two of our interview with Jeannie Mall entitled “Are We Willing to Make the Deeper Changes Needed for Healing?”, and browse the book list she has provided as a most helpful resource)
LIST OF BOOK REFERENCES
“The Gift of Being Yourself, The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery” by David Benner
“From Bondage to Bonding, Escaping Co-Dependency, Embracing Biblical Love” by Nancy Groom
“Co-Dependent No More” by Melody Beattie
“Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr
“Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young
“The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck
“Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine
“Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero
“Anatomy of the Soul” by Curt Thompson
Jeanene (Jeannie) Mall is a Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist and Advanced Clinical Heart-centered Hypnotherapist. Her motto: “Create space in your life”
“Repose” (pictured above) available at www.BegleyArt.com