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Tag: paper

Differentiation of self

Self portrait. 18×24 inches, acrylic on paper

A few years ago, I came to realize (through hardship and a great therapist) that I had a problem with self-differentiation. In my most important relationships I was being driven by a deep-seated fear of rejection and abandonment. My sense of self was WAY too tied up in others and outside forces.

Self-differentiation is a concept introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen, and here I’ve copied some text from The Bowen Center to describe a well-differentiated self.

A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can support others’ views without being a disciple or reject others’ views without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

thebowencenter.org – Differentiation of Self

This is hard shit if you didn’t grow up in a family with healthy attachments. Honestly, it’s hard shit for anybody.

With the help of a this therapist, I began to try and rewire my brain, in what I now recognize as my first steps into mindfulness training. It began with a constant reminder that became a mantra: Orient Self To Self. My aim was to move away from looking to others/outside to see if i’m okay, Rather I can look to myself (hello, mindfulness!) and also commit to being the kind of person that I am proud to be, giving myself grace and forgiveness when I don’t live up to my own expectations or the commitments i’ve made to others. To be free to be okay when others may not act in the way I expect or hope for.

I’ve made some progress. Most day’s I earn a “B” in this category. Some days and strings of days, I really lock into a healthy mindset that’s even better. But on the occasions when my more intense anxiety surfaces, and my ability to access these new skills becomes compromised, I can actually observe myself getting pulled away from wise mind, sucked into fear and muddled thinking, feeling unworthy and unloveable.

Tara Brach, in her excellent teaching on the RAIN of self-compassion, refers to this as a trance, “a narrow, distorted reality that lasts for a time.” The trance narrows one’s focus to only see what’s wrong, forgetting the larger context of life. She proposes that the only way to widen perspective from the narrow focus on what’s wrong, is to shine a light on the trance itself, which I suppose is what i’m attempting to do here.

I’m going to write more another time about how I’ve been attempting to integrate the RAIN concepts into my life this year. It is slow and vulnerable work, and rewarding.

These last couple of weeks I have been battling the trance with some big wins and some sad losses. Wish me luck.

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Returning to painting

Just above the tree line on the trail to Chasm Lake. 24×18 inches, acrylic on paper.

Has it really been nearly four months since I started this painting? In this period of quarantine stress, lockdowns, social upheaval, and massive shifts in my daily life, I have been without the motivation to paint. Like a fool who has learned nothing about self-motivation I have waited to feel it again. But for me, action precedes inspiration and motivation. Surprise, surprise… just getting started was all I needed to reconnect. Returning to painting has returned me to painting.

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Soren in the cactus

Popped into the Oak Park Conservatory, which is a nice little place to lose yourself among the plants, say hello to the birds, and warm up from the cold in the winter. I really like how my sketch turned out.

Seed puff lifecycle, all in one photo.
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Indonesia

Indonesia. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.

This subject comes by way of my old friend Vineetha. When we met up last summer I asked her what the best place she ever traveled to was. Answer: Indonesia. After looking it up I was inspired to make a painting—I hope to go there some day.

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Wildcat Canyon

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, California. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper

The source photo for this was taken by my friend Clint Marsh. I met Clint at my friend Greg’s 40th birthday party after hearing about him for years. Clint is a published author and creator of Fiddler’s Green, a truly magical publication. Over the course of three days I fell in love with Clint’s peaceful disposition, humor, wit, and sincerity. I’m glad we’ve stayed in touch.

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Cala Ratjada, Islas Baleares

Cala Ratjada, Islas Baleares, Spain. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.

This is the first tiny landscape in a series of 30 paintings based upon photos from friends. Today’s source photo was provided by a different Ben Husmann. This Ben and I connected a few years back on instagram thanks to our sharing a name. I’ve enjoyed following his photos over the years.

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Chicago

Chicago (where the river splits). 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.
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