Self-Acceptance with Expressive Collage Art

Working with Unconscious Mind, Inner Parts

By Shelley Klammer | Posted 6/9/10 | Updated 11/16/23

These days, life feels rich — just for the experiencing of it. I feel the urge just to be in the midst of life as a creative process. Everything speaks to me and is a part of me as I accept more and more of myself.

As I make my unconscious — more conscious — I feel less of a need to work so hard and strive so much to grow. I accept what my life needs to show me. What I need to know right now for my growth is always available. Life longs to show us what we need to know. You just need to look around you and and inside of you to feel into what your life is showing you. Another way to get a "read" on what is unfolding from inside of you is to put together a quick spontaneous collage.

I have been very inspired by Lindsay Whiting's exquisite book called Living Into Art. One of the collage artists in the book says, "There are things within us that are so unsaid, so unarticulated, but they are there."I believe she is talking about the endless wealth of our unconscious minds — and all of the secrets and gifts that hide there.

The unconscious contents of our minds comprise everything that we do not accept about ourselves. I will share my latest collage in the spirit of showing you how the unconscious operates in my own life. At first this collage communicated more than I could find words for at first. This collage haunted me as a dream does but the key to "reading" a spontaneous collage is the same as "reading" a dream. The key is to see every image as yourself.

"Just as a burning fire inherently exudes heat, the unconscious inherently generates symbols. It is simply the nature of the the unconscious to do so. As we learn to read those symbols we gain the ability to perceive the workings of the unconscious within us. This ability to produce symbols affects more than just our dreams: All of human life is a nourished by the flow of symbolic imagery from the wellsprings of our unconscious." —Robert A. Johnson

The young girl peeking through the clouds feels wanting and wondering to me. I feel an aching when I look at this collage as though a younger part of me does not know how to find the sustenance of love, does not trust it will come.

We all have so many parts that comprise our inner being. Much of what I would call my spiritual/creative practice right now is about meeting with these disowned inner parts of self as they arise and to look at them with courage and acceptance. In between these arisings I seem to be rewarded by a deeper presence and fuller embracing of life as it is.

I think this collage speaks to the need within me of wanting to be loved — from the outside. In truth we are love on the inside — but younger parts of our psyche cannot see this. This girl in the collage is the part of me that is afraid to being authentic with the people in my life for fear of rejection and loss of love. This is the part of my mind that says yes to people when I really know I need to say no.

Expressive artist Barbara Ganim says it so beautifully, "What really causes stress is a conflict between our thoughts and feelings. The conflict occurs when the body sends a clear feeling signal imploring us to say NO to something, while at the same time our thoughts send verbal guilt messages pushing us to say yes."

"Self-acceptance is equivalent to personal power. Self-acceptance means we are unified: all our energy is centered and flows outward. Non-self-acceptance creates an inner rupture and inner warfare. In non-self-acceptance we use our energy to hide from our self. As a result we have less energy for directly coping with the world. Self-acceptance makes us fully functional." — John Bradshaw

It is good to see this part of myself that fears being rejected — that fears the loss of love. It is good to see how it runs "underneath" my polished presentation in the world. In my owned everyday presentation, I am highly organized, competent and independent. This disowned, more unconscious imagery represents the part of myself that becomes struck with fear in my chest when I am honest with people. Sometimes the need to be loved and approved of has me compromising my values around authentic, and honest communication. When I speak my truth I often notice myself fearing that people cannot handle it and might walk away.

I need to learn how to endure this pain I avoid within that tastes of "loss of love." Most hidden parts of self carry with them an accompanying pain that has its own tone and flavor. By recognizing the "pain pattern" in the body we can grow into observing the inner pain from a solid, objective, witnessing place. When I look at this collage of mine I see a disowned deep hidden neediness and a fear that I will not be loved for who I am. Expressing who I am feels like a risk when I am identified with this part of myself.

To own this unconscious part of myself, I am trying to slow down and share myself more honestly with those near and dear to me. I am speaking my truth and saying no even if it means the loss of the relationship. As I embrace my own disowned loneliness, my own neediness, my own fear of rejection, I feel more willing to take risks and tell those I care about how I really feel. I have found that by not sharing myself honestly with others — I am rejecting myself.

Conditioned existence means living a life controlled by our psychological patterning. This means reacting in the same ways over and over to life without self-examination. We all have many unconscious needs, drives and compulsions which bear a deeper looking at. We do not know how to break self-defeating habits. We are unconscious. The Buddhists call it the Wheel of Suffering — the suffering we perpetuate by doing the same thing over and over.

The aim of the expressive art that I do is to help me find freedom from the inner mental compulsions that have ruled my life and have gone against my wiser knowing especially in the areas of speaking up for myself. When I make my unconscious conscious, my psychology does not rule and occupy me so much. What I notice as I release many of the patterns that have unconsciously ruled my life is a profound noticing of others.

When I feel less laden with my own unconscious pulls and drives, I forget myself more often and start to wonder how others are experiencing their life. My world feels larger. I see and feel what is outside of my own individual emotional field and my understanding feels wider. I care more. I want to give to life and am no longer fighting my (as a dear friend calls them) my "inner demons" so much.

Next: Creative Self-Empowerment

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