The Art of Change:
Finding your psychological moment at mid-life

By Mona Gonzales
ME: The Philippines' First Inspiring Magazine

My drawing is on the wall. I made it in pastel shades using crayolas, on a sheet of bond paper. I taped it on our dining room wall, directly where I can see it three times a day—whenever I eat. Dr. Randy Dellosa, a life coach, psychiatrist, and founder of The InnerLife Wellness Center instructed me to do so.

ART THERAPY

I can’t draw a straight line and putting me in an art therapy seminar is like planting flowers in cement. But Dr. Randy says that being artistic can be a disadvantage in art therapy ‘There’s the tendency to hide one’s issues behind stylistics,” he says. Art therapy is all about you. Your art talks to you.

In fact, the talking part of the seminar plays equal importance with the art part. The facilitator must be perceptive and sensitive to each participant. With expertise, the facilitator must ask the right questions so each person is led to see and understand his life for himself.

In one morning I did three drawings. The first one involved eerie configurations which, surprisingly explained my current life circumstances. Dr. Randy questioned me, as did co-participants about the drawing. Then he gave me a second drawing assignment based on what we discussed.

Dr. Randy says that the idea behind art therapy is that all of us hold the answers within ourselves. It’s just a matter of being guided through skilled questions and appropriate exercises. The mind has a way of playing tricks on us. We tend to avoid things, suppress, deny or hide them from ourselves. Art is used to help us see what our real issues are.

In an art therapy seminar, Dr. Randy deliberately lets the psychiatrist in him take a back seat, while the facilitator in him takes the lead. Through his questions he leads you to see for yourself what your real, suppressed issues are. And he guides you to find yourself what you want to happen with them. Needless to say, while the shrink is sitting in the back, participants are still maximum beneficiaries because his expertise can easily come into play when needed.

DRAWN REALIZATIONS

My second drawing seemed to speak to me. Unconsciously the choice of colors, the shapes, and sizes of what I drew, revealed things that were hidden in mind but which I was not conscious about. I had drawn my most prominent, subconscious issue.

We discussed our second drawings with Dr. Randy, (again, with wonderful inputs from co-participants). Then he took our drawings away, and gave each of us a blank sheet of paper. “Draw what you would like to happen,” he said. We were to depict through art the ideal we desired where our issues were concerned.

Once done, we were not asked to explain our drawings—we simply had to paste it in a prominent place where we could look at it everyday ‘That’s why mine is in the dining room. It’s not Degas, but it’s there.

I dutifully looked at my painting every day for three days, until on the third day it finally hit me. I had drawn three diamonds on a bed--my husband, my daughter and me. We were all diamonds. That’s what I realized.

Why should that change my life? Because for too long, I had been living as though there were just two diamonds in my home—my husband and my daughter Not because they never showed they cared for me. On the contrary they adore me. But I chose to take a back seat, and to place their needs and desires ahead of mine too often, fur too long.

It’s no fun being on the bottom rung, even if it’s for people you love. But I had turned myself into those old, old songs by Billy Joel (“She’s a great little housewife”) or Charlene (“I’ve Never Been to Me”). You know those songs of the happily married wife who nonetheless loses her identity and self-esteem. It didn’t show to people outside, but it’s how I felt inside. I was prone to crying fits over the least little thing because of this.

I realized that if all three diamonds are equally precious, then in my home there is room for three people to be themselves; not just two, at the third one’s expense. As a result I received from this art therapy session a precious gift—me.

A CHANGED ME

Sometimes, I become a more “mataray” me. Now when my 12 year old daughter asks me to tuck her in bed, and I’ve worked late and I’m tired, I frankly tell her, “No”. She’s old enough to put herself to sleep every now and then. As she grows into adolescence, old rituals need not disappear, but over time they must give way to new and more appropriate ones.

Also in the past I used to referee fights between my daughter and my husband, sharing their emotional load perhaps more than they themselves did. Think they got used to me making things right for them. But one day they were at it again, and I just said, “Will you cut it out!” They were so shocked, they stopped fighting, Come to think of it, they haven’t fought for quite a while since then.

And they like me better this way Maybe because I don’t cry anymore over seemingly ‘nothing’ things. Maybe I’ve become more interesting to them. Maybe they like the fact that now I take good care of myself

“You’re looking great!” my friend John once told me when I showed up for a business meeting, “I think it’s the clothes,” he added. I have a lot of clothes in my closet, but I tended too many times to pick out the same old raggedy things. Now, I deliberately go fur the silk blouses, the soft fabric pants. And although I hate heels, I deliberately wear them more often now. I never realized that not being watchful over your looks is also an expression of low esteem. I knew that intellectually but I’d always tell myself that in my case, I simply am not into it. Not anymore. At least, not as often as before.

The surprising thing about this art therapy session is that all the changes came so easily and naturally. Whereas before my daughter could get me to spend on her smallest whim, now I’ll think carefully and decide if she can and should pay for it—or if she can do without it. I’m even putting a better premium on my value as a professional. I once jokingly told my husband that I’ve under-priced my services for too long.

As a journalist, I’ve interviewed a lot of different people, oftentimes, psychologists, including one in particular who told me that in her work she lives for what she likes to call the “psychological moment.” That’s when everything falls into place, and the client sees what she needs to realize. It becomes crystal clear. Emotions are placed in the context where they belong, and “After that, a very fast change takes place,” this psychologist said. Through my art therapy session with Dr. Randy, I’d like to think that I’ve had mine.

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