Humans create patterns...or "pattering" as one of the many astute preschool teachers in Los Angeles was recently teaching a client. But I digress, the point is that patterns are a fundamental element of human consciousness. Our genes form patterns and when our patterns deviate too much, we either become unrecognizable as a member of the human group, or we cease to exist. Our language is made up patterns of sounds and patterns of letters that we assemble together to create meaning. As I learn more about physics and astronomy and biology, sometimes all I can see are theories of patterns: If this means this, then that must mean that; If that happens, then this is sure to happen.
So, we can come to the logical conclusion that our relationships and perhaps even our consciousness is created based on assumptive patterns. This idea is not new. In fact, this is the fundamental belief behind the ideas of so many thinkers throughout history- but the only one I can think of now is the Shakyamuni Buddha and subsequently, the abhidharma. The more awareness I bring to life, the more aware I become of my own patterns and the patterns of those around me. We all do it, this is how stereotypes come to fruition. The Debbie Downers and the Wounded Healers and the Rebel all arise from collective awareness of a human pattern. Jung called these archetypes and some believe that we all must carry bits of them inside ourselves in order to perceive them. All is one and such.
Either way, I ascribe to the belief that all we are is an amalgum of bits and pieces of each other temporarily assembled into a "self." I also ascribe to the belief that we have access to everything at all times, but that we do not easily understand how to access it. If only we had a knowledge tree that whispered to us with the voices of our ancestors. Instead we have a subconscious and altered states and DNA to silently carry our knowledge underground.
My ultimate question becomes, how can we gain awareness into the patterns that we carry which don't serve us well and what can we do to change them?
Today I made my first video of myself trying out Visual Understanding with some clients. I really can't believe how well it works. I have a client who is 4 years and 2 months old. She has been removed from her mother's care three times during the past year, which means she has had 3 different households/families and been removed and replaced in 2 of them 2 times. Her mother is an alcoholic, so she has been told that her mother is "sick" and can't care for her. Today, I showed her this picture:
The painter is Balthus. The title is "Joan Miro and his daughter Dolores". It was painted in 1937, but my client doesn't know any of that information. She just sees the picture and the following emerges:
Client A: Why she's putting her face like that?
Me: Why IS she putting her face like that?
A: Maybe she's worried, too.
Me: Maybe she is worried, too. What do you think she could be worried about?
A: Her mommy....And her daddy, too.
Me: What do you see that makes you think she's worried about her mommy and her daddy, too?
A: because... they left....home. Yeah, this is the social worker (pointing to Miro).
Me: This is the social worker (pointing to Miro)?
A: Yeah, taking care of her.
Me: because her mommy and daddy left and they are not taking care of her anymore?
A: Yeah, because the daddy and mommy are sick.
Me: They are both sick.
A: Yeah, because they went in the hospital.
Me: They are in the hospital! They must be really sick. No wonder she is worried! Who will take care of you if your mommy and your daddy can't do it? Some strange social worker? That would make me really nervous.
A: long pause (looking directly into my eyes).
And the camera runs out of batteries! But I think this is a great example of utilizing visual arts images to support increasing awareness of the patterns we have internalized as reality. For example, "this girl has a sad face while standing with a strange looking man, so she must have been abandoned because her parents due to sickness" can easily generalize to indicate a belief system such as "if I feel sad, I will be abandoned" without opportunity to create awareness and process alternative perceptions. This client is not one who would say "Well, I'm feeling anxious because my mommy and daddy left me with a social worker and went off to take care of themselves". Instead she would be whiny and act as a victim. I'm satisfied with the first tape, but am so excited to keep gathering responses to the model. I'm ready to see more work that transcends the awareness stage and enters the transformative stage.
**Details have been changed to protect the innocent/victims. Any familiarity to real persons is entirely coincidental.