Fear & The Grain of Truth

The myriad of emotions the women struggle with at The Lighthouse, a residential substance abuse program in Oxnard, often get tangled together as we’ve seen in the recent posts on anger and anxiety. The image at left is Vanessa’s picture of fear as she used to experience it; an overwhelming vortex of feelings that sucked her into its depths where she lost her sense of self. Sounds pretty uncomfortable, doesn’t it? It’s not surprising that someone might want to medicate that with drugs or alcohol to relieve the emotional chaos. Ultimately, each woman has come to the conclusion that medicating these feelings isn’t the solution to her problems. It only increased them and life has become unmanageable and out of control.  They are now busy doing the hard work of recovery – getting sober, facing their feelings, learning new ways of self-care, updating destructive beliefs, learning and practicing new behaviors, encouraging and being encouraged by each other in community.

The second picture Vanessa drew represents her current image of fear. In this image she’s tackling her sense of self, the bright yellow Self that is surrounded by the roles she plays in her life as wife, daughter, sister, mom, even the me, myself and I parts of that Self. A circle of hearts, God’s love for her, protects her from the feelings that fuel her fears of  shame, irresponsibility, abandonment, depression, loss, and addictions. Peace signs and more hearts surround her fears that are kept in check through her growing faith.  Vanessa was quite eloquent sharing her picture with the other women in the art workshop telling them she faces fear every day, but she’s learned not to medicate them, but to return to what she’s learned so far, and to build on that. So far.

Another day Vanessa was stumped about drawing her present anxiety so I encouraged her to draw a picture of her four year old son Noah’s anxiety she’d been telling Lee and me about before class. No problem. She could draw that. When I checked in a while later her picture was full of thrown toy cars and a chair. Noah was sitting on a table crying with a dialogue balloon over his head that said You’re stupid, Mom. When I asked her to tell me about the picture, Vanessa said, “That’s what he says to me.” Hearing the hurt behind her words, I gently leaned forward and said quietly, “Are you afraid there’s a grain of truth in what he’s saying?” Silence. Wide, deer-in-the-headlight eyes returned my gaze.

Oh, Vanessa, all parents feel stupid at some point with their kids. We all want a perfect world for them. We all want to be perfect for our children. But we find we can’t control the world. And we fall short no matter how much we want it to be different. There are moments when every parent behaves stupidly. That’s when there’s a temptation  to make that grain of truth the whole truth. But you told us this morning about the parenting class you and Noah are in, and when he began to misbehave you initially wanted to respond how you use to in the past, but you remembered what you had learned and parented Noah in a better way. Vanessa, you’re not stupid. You’re learning news way of being a better parent. I wonder if Noah’s confused about the “new you” and working overtime to get the familiar “old you” back? Hang in there. Growing can be awkward, but it sure isn’t stupid.

I’ve recently addressed a fear that’s been unnamed for fifty years. My initial feelings will always be the grain of truth of an early wound, but they don’t have to become my whole truth when a certain situation occurs. I’m learning to reshape how I react.  I feel an art piece coming on… 

How about you? Are there unnamed fears that affect you? Have you made the grain of truth the whole truth about certain things? If you were to draw past, present and future pictures of your fear, what would they look like? Is there a “new you” we can help celebrate and encourage?



3 comments to Fear & The Grain of Truth

  • Mary Rose Betten

    Lynne what a wonderous collection of artwork from the soul. I’m taking Jack Grapes class in LA & we did the “dreaded association” writing exercise. Every third line you put in a word that has com from a place you have been imaging and put it in your narrative. Sounds like Alice In Wonderland but so funny. For some wierd reason this triggers you to be willing to leap in your imaginiation and I wrote the best poem ever after doing the exercise. I love to be “on the edge” and your pictures encouraged me to face what I fear, image it, and toss it in every third line. Ha! I ain’t afeared of nuttin.’ MR

  • Deanna J Bowling

    If I could be so bold, I would use the word ignorant rather than stupid – something that a small child might not take into consideration. The word stupid carries so much baggage with it.

    I celebrate Vanessa’s desire, work, on relating especially to her son, since not only one but both of them just by the nature of life, are works in progress.

  • Jim Peters

    It is quite freeing to recognize that the grain of truth I may not like is actually just a grain. A grain is something that can be faced and dealt with or simply set aside when there are more important things to face. Giving the women a way to recognize this in themselves is a gift. And it is a nice perspective in even a simple thing like starting the day.

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