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Art by Shelley Klammer
Shelley Klammer : Expressing Vulnerability with Creativity

Expressing Vulnerability with Creativity

By Shelley Klammer

Often we can fill our lives with so much busyness we lose touch with our deeper selves. When I teach expressive art I am speaking to the part of ourselves that is heroically out front in our lives, feeling overwhelmed and too busy for self-reflection and self-discovery. I know when I do too much in my outer world, my inner well starts to feel barren and empty and I can feel increasingly depressed and uncreative. Often we do not realize how bottled up we are inside. When we do not attend to our inner life we can feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

What sustains me through my busy life are my expressive art and collage journals because it gives me pause to express the feelings below my everyday thinking. There is such wisdom in spontaneous art making. It reveals things that are true that we might not realize about ourselves. It is amazing what a simple doodle or a quick collage can express. Sometimes my drawings haunt me with mystery and I do not know how to read them. Sooner or later however I fully experience the feeling they convey I go back into my journal with gratitude to my unconscious mind for expressing my inner overwhelm so clearly.

This drawing speaks of my pattern to push my way through my days into a vortex of busyness and competence. The mountains speak to me of my desire to "heighten", to continuously elevate my thoughts and actions to a spiritual peak. The figure is flying. She is not grounded in any way in everyday life. She is focused on an ideal self-created future. I feel tenderness for this flying figure. She is trying so hard to be superwoman! But superwoman does not give herself much room to feel!

Vulnerability is not encouraged in our society. Who wants to admit there are parts of ourselves that feel frightened or in pain? We fear if we let ourselves be vulnerable we will be taken over by emotion and will never climb out of it. The truth is when we let ourselves be vulnerable the inner stored pain does intensify. It peaks almost like a volcano erupting, but it is the only way to release it and get to the other side to insight and inspiration.

What pulls my attention in the drawing is the young child behind bars. I can easily feel in jail to my primary competent, success oriented self. My creative, more sensitive parts feel rebellious against all my self-imposed rules and success/improvement practices. This drawing tells me there is much more to me than how much I can efficiently accomplish in a day. I could call this competent, efficient self my mask because it does not allow my full range of vulnerable feelings into my experience.

We all have a social mask we present to the world but if this is the only part we live in we can easily feel hollow inside, empty of depth and meaning. We all have a vulnerable creative self that lives very close to our souls. Our sensitive, vulnerable parts of self are right there below the surface concerns and survival activities of life and often they will express themselves through spontaneous imagery. Our competent survival masks miss out on true connection to our souls because they are designed to protect us from our fears, insecurities and discomforting feelings but when we move through these feelings we can access profound intuition, sensitivity and creative insight into life.

Allowing each dimension of ourselves full expression reveals that there is far more to us that meets the eye. We are not empty inside or uncreative at all. We have a vast inner words to discover. Expressive creativity invites us into profound self-acceptance that allows every part of ourselves a voice. When we express all of ourselves we free up inner blockages and can more easily access our natural vitality and intuition. Overwhelm ceases when feelings are expressed and released. Once we get clear inside we can get back to creating a life of meaning and unique purpose. •

© Shelley Klammer, 2009. All rights reserved.

Shelley KlammerShelley Klammer is a Registered Professional Counselor and an Expressive Art Facilitator. More »

4/2/09