Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sock Monkey ETC Assessment

This is one of my bags of monkeys in progress. I have piles of monkeys in various stages of assembly which is a very odd way for me to work. At first, I thought I was working several monkeys at a time for etsy store convenience, but then I noticed I have been drawn to my least favorite part of monkey making: cutting, sewing, stuffing and assembling. Usually, I work one sock at a time and I keep my eye on getting to the final touches and figuring out the monkey's story. I'm like a sculptor looking for the monkey in the sock and giving it a voice. I approach sock monkey making on a cognitive level. I know that sounds ridiculous -- I'm talking about SOCKS here, but that's how it is.

This past week, however, I am just a monkey-making machine and not so into thinking. I'm all kinesthetic in the monkey making, just getting into a rhythm of stuffing and stitching and that's all I want to do. I think I have 8 or 9 monkeys sitting around waiting for me to do my favorite things to them, but I haven't had the desire. Instead I grab another empty monkey and stuff some more or reach into my sock stash and start another one. My last supervision teacher would say, "That's diagnostic." I heard her voice in my head today while I was hand stitching a monkey crotch and realized how extra weird it is that I don't know why I am doing this.

It's not narcissism that makes me need to examine myself. I just think it's bizarre that people like me who are trained to make sense of artistic behaviors and have insight into creative choices can have moments of not knowing the meaning of their own need to make a pile of faceless sock monkeys. I don't know if it's just me being a rookie or if it's a necessary part of a therapist's job, but I find myself a great practice patient, because I can't help you if I can't help me and also I get some of my best ideas from experimenting with what works to keep me on target, so to speak. So, this is why I questioned myself about the odd monkey-making behavior today.

So, I am working with repetition and not a lot of thought. This seems to be a self-soothing thing to do, but I don't feel especially anxious even though I am about to start a new job next week. On the same day I start training at my new job, I also volunteered to teach a yoga class for families staying in town while their children receive cancer treatment and somehow that scares me more than anything right now, but not enough to change a lifetime of creative habits. I pondered over myself quite a lot today and as I traced the passing thoughts and emotions that have been running through my mind this week, I think I got why I'm stuck on creative self-soothing.

I just experienced the first father's day without a father, eleven months after my father died. Triggering, but I feel at peace with my father's death somehow. However, in addition to the holiday and anniversary, this time of year has not been my emotional favorite since my mother died; June is a month of regret. The end of June was when my mom received the fatal dose of chemo that destroyed her digestive system and caused her to suffer a long torturous medically-induced death. That wasn't supposed to happen. Her cancer was treatable. Therefore, this is the time of year that things could have gone very differently if only we weren't a family that trusts authority and doctors so easily. If a time machine fell into my yard today I would go to Junes past and save my family. Regret is not one of the most enlightening emotions in grief and it would make sense that self-soothing would be in order. This might also make my fear of teaching yoga to families of kids getting chemo feel a whole lot more scary than it really is. But, I am a facer of fears and experience so far has proven performance nerves are really good liars but poor fortune tellers.

I don't know what good it does me to come to this conclusion about why my sock monkeys have no faces this week. But it does leave me wondering now what? I don't believe in avoiding negative emotions, but rather honoring them. So, Dear Regret, I don't know what to do with you, but I meet you at the door and welcome you with whatever you have to share. For now, Regret and I have some sock monkeys to stitch and stuff.

In the meantime, ETC stands for Expressive Therapies Continuum and if you want to know more, read this: Expressive Therapies Continuum: A Framework for Using Art in Therapy, by Lisa D. Hinz.

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