January 18, 2019

Life & Art
In Search of the Illusive Inner Self

Why is it so difficult to discover one’s inner self?  Shouldn’t it be an effortless process occurring naturally as we age — where ultimately, like mental slight-of-hand, the inner self is magically revealed?

The difficulties people experience while striving for inner peace and harmony would suggest that achieving psychological and spiritual growth is a bit more complicated than a hunt for something intact and hidden waiting to be found.  In fact, a thoughtful analysis could go a step further to suggest that “the search for an inner self” is but an illusion. 

So, what is a more reasonable explanation for how self-growth actually occurs?  Initially, our DNA sets certain proclivities for each us relating to our environment and how our perceptions will color who we are and what we will become. 

From early on, mental/emotional (psychic) energy is used for coping with our surroundings and providing fuel for our development. If we compare an individual’s psychic energy to a pre-established number of troops available for metaphorically going into battle to deal with loss and trauma, then troops are left behind at the site of emotional wounds that result from trauma.  They [are] left there to protect those unhealed wounds. 

As our troops protect, isolate and avoid these wounds, our developing “self” can become fragmented, as “unhealed” wounds are akin to scabs with the potential to be opened, rather than scars or completely healed skin.

What energy remains after dealing with loss and trauma, is needed to deal with life’s present challenges.  Do we have enough energy (troops) to allow ourselves to be open, engaged, and welcoming to new sources of energy entering our system?  Or are we emotionally depleted, inflexible, and rigid? 

As there is no hidden, intact inner self waiting to be discovered, growth, is a process of healing wounds by recapturing parts of our self, and integrating these splintered parts back into the wholeness of our being. 

As our ability to deal with loss and trauma and the amount of energy required to shape our personalities influences the decisions we make, we can become prisoners of our past.  WE must heal our wounds and recapture the present in order to allow new experiences to splash onto our life’s canvas and take us in a forward new direction.    

Like the abstract painting that evolves as each moment is guided by the color and shapes preceding it, our inner harmony is created by healing our wounds, recapturing fragmented parts of ourselves, and allowing who we are to evolve into who we might become.  When viewed as an ongoing process of integration rather than quest for the discovery of an intact “inner self,” we can proceed with a different focus that allows our life’s painting to expand, rather than to have it become smaller and smaller influenced by the traumas of the past.

By Carl B. Gacono, Ph.D., ABAP
Author/Artist – Asheville, NC

November 21, 2018

When A Painting Speaks To You
Part II: What Makes A Painting Work?

In Part I of “When A Painting Speaks To You”, we explored how one can be drawn into an abstract expressionistic painting. By allowing oneself to feel the energy of the painting, the viewer often connects to the artists’ process of creation, resulting in feelings of completeness, wholeness and peacefulness—of things being “right.” In this way, abstract expressionism can be a mirror for life, where the “unexpected” shapes and directs what follows. This is what pulls us to the painting—our innate resonance with a very natural and sometimes spiritual process.

October 16, 2018

When A Painting Speaks to You Part I:
Reflections on Jonas Gerard’s Christine

Whether conducting a diagnostic interview or attempting to understand an existential experience, success depends on asking the right questions. In a similar manner, speculation about the motivation of the abstract artist or what they were attempting to achieve are the wrong questions and will not reveal why the painting speaks to you. In part, why the painting touches your heart and soul begins with understanding the painting process.