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October 2019

Change = Growth and Transformation

Calligraphy
“I’ve lived in the village all me life“, the plumber proudly told me as he fixed my blocked drain. He went on to tell me how he went to the pub Friday night, shopping on Saturday afternoon, and did the garden on a Sunday. The ambit of his life was restricted to just a few streets, his world encompassing a daily shuttle between the pub, local shop, and local residents' homes when they needed plumbing or odd-jobs doing. Most evenings (apart from Friday) were spent in front of the television with his wife and the biggest decision they had to make each day was what to have for dinner. His was a quiet life of comfortable habit.

In the Biology of Desire, neuroscientist Marc Lewis studies how habits form. “Habit“, he says, is one of those words we bandy about rather too casually. We think of habits as mild preferences or chosen routines, nothing we need to commit to – and certainly nothing that binds us. But the brain does not comprehend habit quite so loosely. The more we repeat a behaviour that gives us pleasure or comfort, the more defined become the neural pathways activated by that behaviour. Think of the brain as a snooker table, says Lewis. The more ingrained a habit becomes the deeper the groove it chisels into the brain’s surface until the neurons that respond to it form a trough, like the table’s pocket, which exerts the neurological equivalent of strong gravitational pull. Habits are addictions, says Lewis. Neurologically speaking, there is nothing to tell them apart.

People clearly can and do change. We are changed by traumatic experiences: Divorce, bereavement, illness. So, perhaps the more interesting question is not to ask if we can change, but if we can direct change. Can we consciously create a new version of ourselves?

We’ve all heard the Jesuit saying “give me the child at seven, and I will show you the man“. Yet as adults we laugh at our youthful delusions and forgotten goals. The principle traits that characterise us can and do shift. In general, people become more agreeable and less open to experience as they grow older. People who’ve spent small lives can become more neurotic; those who’ve been open to new ideas and experiences become more extrovert.

The cost we ought to be thinking about is what happens if we don’t change? If we don’t embrace change we stagnate and lapse into emotional arrest. We cease even trying to jump the hurdles that life places in front of us. For those of us that have life left in our years rather than years left in our life we have to learn that change is the principle of life.

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we expose ourselves to new experiences.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” Roy T. Bennett.

If you would like help changing a habit or transforming part of your life, or maybe give a special gift to someone, check out my mentoring offer here.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Intuition connects us to the natural world

Intuition

The moment we choose consciousness rather than the tired out collective consciousness (behaviours we have inherited from our family) is when we start to think for ourselves. It's when we stop our lives unfolding according to someone else’s plan. It’s the transformative moment – it’s when we get to choose the life that’s ours and ours alone.

By becoming overly attached to the things (and people) that we like but don’t necessarily need, we become their slaves. We become distracted from thinking about and pursuing our real goals.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells the story of how a mouse does not know it has been caged for quite some time: “It doesn’t realise it has been trapped. There is a little cheese hanging on the hook just inside the door and it tempts the mouse inside. The door snaps shut. The mouse thinks to itself, “I wonder what that noise was?” But is doesn’t realise what caused it because there’s this nice beautiful piece of cheese hanging from the hook. The mouse nibbles the cheese, maybe takes a few rest breaks, and a little glass of wine with it, they enjoy themselves and think “yum, yum, this cheese is really good”. And, when the cheese is gone, they think “Well, I’ll be on my way now, and I’ll find somewhere else to go, be and do”. But they can’t get out. The door is closed. They are trapped. They are trapped by this thing that initially was something that was the lure of temporary pleasure. Maybe it even put them to sleep a little bit, like when you eat too much then you drowse a bit.”

That’s how people become trapped away from their true souls. You offer them something pretty, or something nourishing, or something delightful, and you get them to enter the cage and the door snaps shut immediately. And, they have no idea of what’s happened for a long period of time. They might be drawn to a new partner and think “Oh look, they are having a nice time, that’s a nice house; they look like they’re having a nice time and eating nice stuff”. But, it isn’t long term, it isn’t nourishing. It isn’t what lasts. You could say that at that moment they have overwhelmed their own intuition. They need to be more conscious of transformational moments and take them instead of being so easily seduced away from them.

The mouse with the full belly was convinced all the choices were right – at least for a time – until the full belly was gone. Pleasure is the motive choice, it’s the anesthesia, especially for women, often inherited from women who felt they had no status, or whose status was received from the men they were married to. It’s not useful for setting a good example for their children.

It’s the quality of what they choose that’s the issue – they shouldn’t choose anesthesia, they shouldn’t choose the full belly if it puts them to sleep.

It is such a wonderful thing to be born. It is just incredible how everything comes together to form a human. This shouldn’t be wasted. Everyone is needed; everyone has a role to play. The thing to remember is what besides intuition can a person possibly rely on in order to develop and to grow in order to transform themselves? How else can they grow from something ego-driven into something soul-driven? Dreams are intuitive, daydreams are intuitive, and visions are intuitive. Everything that proposes an image or symbol is intuitive. And this plays a role. It generates the energy within the belief system, or within the intuitive system, or within the psyche – however, you would like to say it. It enables the person to think the thoughts that they weren’t able to think before and they have a choice whether to investigate them, or whether to refute them. But, the question is, “Who chooses?” At this point who chooses? Your soul? Your ego? Or the strange demon who appears to have possession of you?

You don’t need to understand your childhood. You just need to remember that the authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice. To make use of it you have to increase your self-esteem, your self-love. You need to learn to trust your instinct. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you to the best solutions. Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature. Every thought is preceded by a perception, every impulse is preceded by a thought, and every action is preceded by an impulse. Listen.

Rely on your intuition, your true being.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Like mother, like daughter, like daughter...

Art by Jane Redfern

When I was a child I always felt like I was on my own and no one 'had my back'. My dad was very controlling and wanted everything doing his way. I realise now that my mother as the co-dependant was controlling too - making us children behave in such a way so as not to trigger his temper (though she didn’t realise she was doing it at the time). I was bullied all through school but if anything was ever said my mother always seemed to take the other person's side. I remember looking at her once, in the kitchen, wearing her apron doing the washing up, and I thought to myself, "At least she looks like a real mum". Both my parents had high-pressure jobs and worked long hours and I spent a lot of time alone.

A few months ago there was an incident in a car park. My daughters wanted to go shopping and I was going to wait in the car. My youngest daughter opened her door a few inches and said that there was a strange woman in the next car glaring at her. She didn’t want to get out of the car and they both just sat there waiting for her to go. The woman then, not realising I was sitting there, or that my other daughter was in the back (we have blackout windows in the back), got out of her car and started blaming my youngest daughter for banging her car with the door. She was surprised to see me and I got out of the car and told her how ridiculous it was because my daughter hadn’t even got out of the car and I had been there all the time. I pointed out to her that there were no marks on her car either and was very assertive when talking to her. When I got back in the car my daughters both said that they hadn’t thought I’d stand up for them and I’d really surprised them by standing up to this woman (this was the new me though – in the past I wouldn’t have stood up to her).

Recently, my mother had a lot of problems with some men doing some building work at her house and I had to go and speak to them. I was very firm with them and told them their behaviour was unprofessional and unacceptable. My eldest daughter came with me and recorded the conversation. After my mum had listened to what had been said, she said that she had been worried about me talking to them because she thought I wouldn’t stand up for her and that I’d let them manipulate me and try and get her to agree with what they wanted to do. I was really surprised and after giving it some thought I went to see her a couple of days later and told her how I’d felt as a child. She admitted that she’d always worried about not wanting to upset people and would take the side of the other person because she was afraid they’d be angry with her or wouldn't like her if she didn’t agree. I realised that I had been the same in the past. The old me would have let the builders manipulate me, and she was right, I would have tried to get her to comply so as not to annoy them or make them think badly of me.

Following this, I spoke to my daughters and asked them if they had ever felt that I had taken someone else’s side instead of defending them. Of course, they said yes, and gave me some examples of instances where I hadn’t defended them because I hadn’t wanted to upset the other person. I told them I was sorry and we discussed it and talked about what had happened with my mum and the builders too.

It was very strange recognising my mum’s behaviour in my actions. In the past I was just totally unaware I was doing it, the same as my mum had been unaware of how her behaviour had affected me.

It made me think about how some of our actions can be completely unconscious and yet be so easily seen and witnessed (and felt) by others. It’s a pattern that is very hard to break; the main challenge is to make ourselves aware that we are doing it.

This pattern of behaviour is called transference - basically, I expected other people to react like my dad did and so I would act in a way so as not to trigger their temper. It also led me into disastrous relationships with narcissists.

It's like we wear a mask when we put ourselves out in the world. It’s our defence and buffer zone that we create against the cruel world and people. It's the persona, a mask that hides our intimate inner self, protecting us from hurt. Sometimes we wear the mask for so long it fuses itself to us and it is very difficult to remove. For me, a head injury in a car crash caused the mask to crack and loosen. I still presented the fake me (the people-pleaser) to the world for quite some time, but at more and more regular intervals I heard the muffled voice of the ‘real me’ (the Self) trying to make itself heard from underneath the mask.

After this incident and the conversations that followed so much seemed to fall into place. I had been surprised by my mum's response. I thought she would deny her part in it and blame it all on my dad, but she didn't. I was surprised at my daughters' response too because I was just totally unaware of what I'd been doing and the damage it was causing. It was certainly good to talk it through and bring everyone's awareness to it.

I will still have a mask because I know the persona (mask) serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole (i.e. when I was a nurse I wore the uniform and acted in a way expected of me as a professional). But when we wear a mask, it is all right so long as we don’t forget the real self within. We must be able to remove the mask and be true to our Self. In the past the persona or mask no longer served me, I served the mask. Now the mask serves me.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

You can do it if you practice...

You_can

As a child, I loved to draw and to paint. The best present I ever received was a set of Winsor and Newton Inks and some Rotring pens. Even when I was in primary school I sold paintings to my classmates, mainly pictures of Snoopy, and I’d won two major art competitions before I was nine years old. But my mum would often say to me “You’re not good at art like your sister, are you? She’s really good at it.” And my dad would be saying “Art is a waste of time, you’ll never earn any money from it. You need to do something that will help you get a proper job.” Ironic really, because he was a chartered engineer and draftsman, designing fire engines and drawing intricate designs for a living.

The thing is, art is like many other things, the more you do it, the more you practice, the better you get.  I remember a friend drawing a picture of a car. She said to her mum, “I can’t draw cars, my picture is rubbish!”  Her mum said, “It isn’t very good, but would you like to be able to do it really well? I could help you practice every day for the next two weeks and I guarantee if you spend just fifteen minutes a day practicing drawing the car, in two weeks you’ll be really good at it!” Of course, my friend said yes and two weeks later she was drawing amazing pictures of cars. Her mum could have said “No, your picture’s really good! You should be proud of it! Don’t put yourself down!” It would have boosted my friend’s ego temporarily but two weeks later she wouldn’t have been any better at drawing cars.

I didn’t have the support my friend had, and at times I went long periods without getting my pens out.  When I was older and got married if I got my pens out my husband would say, “You’re good at art but not good enough to make any money out of it. You’re wasting your time” and the pens would be put away again.

I'm older and wiser now and I no longer listen to negative people who criticise others for things they can’t do themselves. My pens are out now and staying out. I love to paint and to draw. And the more I do the better I get.

Picasso once said, “I am always doing things I can’t do – that’s how I get to do them.” Imagine if someone had said to him, “You can’t draw people!” I doubt that he would have listened to them, instead, he would have continued practicing.

How about you? Can you get back into doing what you loved to do when you were younger? Brainstorm how you can bring that back into your life now. And a little bit more the next day. And so on.

Whatever you want to do, put in the hours, and get really good at it. Practice every day to improve. Don’t just use affirmations to try and pretend you are good, put in the work and constantly strive to improve.

As Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Start today! Set aside at least a few minutes every day to practice. Become an expert at what you do.

VWXmas

Find some of my art for sale here.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Believe in Yourself

Influence

Last week a man in a car, coming from my right when I was driving, seemed to think he had the right of way (he didn't) and he proceeded to blast his horn and give various hand signals when I didn't stop. At first, I felt very annoyed, but then I stopped myself. I didn't have to let his rudeness and bad manners (and bad driving) affect my day. I could choose not to let it affect me. He had to go around with all that anger inside him but I didn't. I chose not to. I carried on and picked up my daughter and enjoyed a pleasant drive home.

Buddha was well known for his ability to respond to evil with good. There was a man who knew about his reputation and he travelled miles and miles to test Buddha. When he arrived and stood before Buddha, he verbally abused him constantly, he insulted him, he challenged him, he did everything he could to offend Buddha. Buddha was unmoved. He simply turned to the man and said, “May I ask you a question?” The man responded with “Well, what?” Buddha said, “If someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it, to whom does it then belong?” The man said, “Then it belongs to the person who offered it.” Buddha smiled. “That is correct. So if I decline to accept your abuse does it not then still belong to you?” The man was speechless and walked away.

This is a great way to deal with rejection and criticism. Don’t let someone else’s view destroy the way you feel about yourself. That doesn’t mean not to listen, but don’t just accept their view either. We all have a right to our own viewpoint and your perception of yourself is very important.

Use this strategy when you encounter people who reject or verbally abuse you and know that you don’t have to make their perceptions your own.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Break Free: Don't let anyone hold you back

Vintage-crab-illustration

I often say to people, “You are a free person, no one has the right to tell you what to do or to hold you back". But the problem is, a lot of people aren’t free because of the people they have chosen to have around them. They choose to be around people who restrict them, kill their spirit, and stop them chasing their dreams. It’s like self-inflicted incarceration.

The thing is though, no matter how hard it is for you to get away, get away you must. No matter how hard it is to extract yourself from a situation, it is possible.  Cut yourself free.

I’d like to share this story with you:

An old fisherman had pulled his boat into port with a large basket filled to the brim with crabs. A young man was walking by along the dock and noticed the basket had no covering to secure the contents. He beckoned to the old Fisherman, “Why don’t you put a cover on the basket so that none of the crabs escape?” The old man answered quickly. ”It’s the strangest thing, every time one of them tries to climb out, three or four of the others grab its legs and pull it back in. It’s strange behaviour but at least I don’t have to worry about them escaping.”

Humans are much the same. Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a basket mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase "If I can't have it, neither can you". While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group's collective demise.

In humans, members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, in order to stop their progress.

Be aware of this when it is happening to you.

Never let the attitude of those who don’t want to see you succeed hinder you from appreciating the other good and better things that this life has to offer.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

A symbol for healing

Oak

Symbols can play a powerful role in the process of healing and recovery. As humans, we have all had experiences of loss and trauma. We’ve experienced losing loved ones, maybe our health, or lost a much-needed job. It’s inevitable. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The problem is that we are never prepared when bad things happen and we struggle to process it. It certainly can’t be fixed by an hour-long therapy session or a weekend workshop.

If you find yourself stuck and unable to shift you need to move through the loss and distress and reconnect with your meaningful purpose. This requires symbolisation of the experience.

One way to symbolise your experiences is simply by talking about them. Telling your story to someone can be cathartic and healing. It can move the pain and trauma into a story that is unique to you. It makes your feelings and emotions about the experience conscious. You give the experience words, a name, and a description.

Another way to use symbolism for healing is to find a symbol that can pull you through an episode of distress. When you are in distress your psyche will naturally be attracted to a symbol that can heal you and move you forward. You cannot overcome serious psychological crises but you can outgrow them. This is the goal of the symbol. For some this solace can be found in nature or being with animals. It can be anything that transports you to another place, another time, and a different way of being that contains this magical elixir of healing. The symbol will help you to move beyond your current experience into the future.

If you have a traumatic event that you need to deal with, write in your journal about it, express how it made you feel and what emotion it still raises in you. Where does it lie in your body? How do you feel about yourself in relation to this experience?

Once you have finished reread it and create a symbol for your story.  First state your intent maybe about how you have learnt a lesson from the experience, how it was not your fault, or that you would not be who you are today had you not had that experience.

Next create a symbol of healing, letting go. First, fill yourself with a feeling of peace and acceptance. Then ask the universe/God/Nature/your higher self to give you a symbol of healing. It will appear instantly. Take the first thing that comes to you. Do not doubt it or try to change it. Write it down. It could be an object, a song, an animal even.

During the week reflect on your symbol. It should take the place of your traumatic memories. As the symbol contains both conscious and unconscious content, it is a far more powerful remedy for healing the psyche, because it takes into consideration the unconscious aspects of the trauma that you are not aware of.

Take time to reflect on how you feel about the event and the effect the symbol has on you.

When I did this exercise I received the oak tree as a symbol – tall, strong, and well-rooted.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

The Little Match Girl

Matchgirl

The story about the Little Match Girl is a familiar one. The story, at its core, describes what lack of nurture and lack of focus look like and what they lead to. The story is told in different forms too, sometimes with a man in the lead role such as the charcoal burner who uses his last coals while he dreams of times past, or the flower seller, a broken-hearted man who gazes wistfully into the centres of his last flowers and is spirited away from this life.

Some people might say these stories are superficial and overly emotional but it would be a mistake to dismiss them lightly. Stories like this are, at their base, profound expressions of the human soul being negatively mesmerised to the point that real life begins to die in spirit.

The version I am most familiar with is adapted from the story by Hans Christian Anderson. The message behind the story is that soft dreams under hard conditions are no good, in tough times we must have tough dreams, real dreams, dreams that if we work hard enough and believe in enough will come true.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Evening came on, the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot, was walking through the streets. Of course, when she had left her house in the woods she'd had slippers on, but what good had they been? They were very big slippers, way too big for her, for they belonged to her mother. The little girl had lost them running across the road, where two carriages had rattled by terribly fast. One slipper she'd not been able to find again, and a boy had run off with the other, saying he could use it very well as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. And so the little girl walked on her naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron, she carried several packages of matches, and she held a box of them in her hand. She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and no one paid her any attention.

Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along, a picture of misery, the poor little girl. The snowflakes fell on her long fair hair, which hung in pretty curls over her neck. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a wonderful smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. Yes, she thought of that!

In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected farther out into the street than the other, she sat down and drew up her little feet under her. She was getting colder and colder, but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, the house in the woods on the edge of the town had been built out of clay and branches the wind whistled even though the biggest gaps had been stuffed with straw and rags.

Her hands were almost dead with cold. Oh, how much one little match might warm her! If she could only take one from the box and rub it against the wall and warm her hands, she thought. She drew one out. R-r-ratch! How it sputtered and burned! It made a warm, bright flame, like a little candle, as she held her hands over it; but it gave a strange light! It really seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting before a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. How wonderfully the fire burned! How comfortable it was! The youngster stretched out her feet to warm them too; then the little flame went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.

She struck another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and when the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a thin veil, and she could see through it into a room. On the table a snow-white cloth was spread, and on it stood a shining dinner service. The roast dinner steamed gloriously, spreading the wonderful aroma of the delicious food. Then the match went out, and she could see only the thick, cold wall. She lighted another match. Then she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was much larger and much more beautiful than the one she had seen last Christmas through the glass door at the rich merchant's home. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and coloured pictures like those in the printshops looked down at her. The little girl reached both her hands toward them. Then the match went out. But the Christmas lights mounted higher. She saw them now as bright stars in the sky. One of them fell down, forming a long line of fire.

"Now someone is dying," thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star fell down a soul went up to God.

She rubbed another match against the wall. It became bright again, and in the glow, the old grandmother stood clear and shining, kind and lovely.

"Grandmother!" cried the child. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast dinner, and the beautiful big Christmas tree!"

And she quickly struck the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother with her. And the matches burned with such a glow that it became brighter than daylight. Grandmother had never been so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear, nor pain.

And in the morning, between the houses, the child was found still and gone.

"She wanted to warm herself," the people said. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, and how happily she had gone with her old grandmother into the bright New Year.

The Little Match Girl lived in an environment where people did not care for her. If you live in an environment like this, get out. I found myself in this predicament and I walked away. You should too.  

The child has matches, little fires on sticks, the beginnings of all sorts of creative possibilities, but what she has to offer is not valued. She is in a situation where she has few options. She has resigned herself to ‘her place’ in life. If this has happened to you, as it did to me, be strong, unresign yourself and walk away.

So what should the Little Match Girl have done? If her instincts had been intact she would have had many choices. She could have walked to another town, hidden in an outhouse, or offered to do some work in exchange for warmth and food.  But the Little Match Girl had lost touch with her inner wild spirit. She was freezing and hungry and all that was left was a person wandering around in a trance.

Being with real people who value us, who warm us, and encourage our creativity is essential for a fulfilled and happy life. Otherwise we freeze to death in the coldness of empty relationships and lives. Nurture comes from within and without. You need to believe in yourself and also to be with people who notice the state of your inner being, encourage it, and, if necessary, comfort it. Friends are important - we all need at least one or two who can see our value.

When we are left out in the cold, we tend to live on fantasies instead of action. This sort of fantasy is like anaesthetic.  People like this – men and women - have great talent as artists, storytellers, or in some special craft, but they are isolated or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often a sign that they lack motivation because their inner being is being starved. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are being supported from within, or by friends, family, community.

To avoid being the Little Match Girl (or Boy) there is one major action that you must take. You must recognise that anyone who does not support your art, your life, your beliefs, is not worth your time. Walk away. It sounds harsh but it is true. If you don’t you will be dressed in the rags of the Little Match Girl (as I was for many years) and you will be compelled to live a quarter-life that freezes all thought, hope, gifts, art, creativity, music, and dancing.

Warmth should have been the major pursuit of the Little Match Girl. But in the story, it is not. Instead, she tries to sell the matches, her source of warmth. She is selling her soul. Doing so leaves her no warmer, no wiser, and no further forward in life.

The Match Girl is not in an environment where she can thrive. There is no warmth, no kindling, no firewood. If we were in her position what should we do? Firstly we should ignore the fantasy of finding warmth by lighting the matches. There are three kinds of fantasies: Firstly there is the pleasure fantasy such as daydreams; secondly intentional imaging. This kind of fantasy is like a planning session. It is like a vehicle that will take us forward into action. All successes, whether spiritual, financial, psychological, or creative, begin with fantasies of this nature. The third kind of fantasy is the type that hinders and brings everything to a halt. It is the kind of fantasy that stops us from taking the right action at critical times. Unfortunately, this is the fantasy that kept the Little Match Girl trapped. It is a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with the feeling that nothing can be done, or that something is too hard to do, so one might as well just drift into idle fantasy. Sometimes it is just in the mind or it might come in the form of a bottle of wine every evening, or a needle – or lack of one. Or it may take the form of regrettable secret relationships with someone they think will ‘save’ them. Women – and men – in these situations play out the Little Match Girl scenario every day and every night, waking up dead and frozen every daybreak. There are many ways that we can lose our intent, lose our focus.

So what will reverse this pattern and restore our self-esteem? We have to find something that is very different to what the Little Match Girl had. We have to take our ideas to a place where we will find support for them. This can involve an enormous step such as walking away and seeking a new life. Our focus should be on finding nurture. Very few of us can create solely under our own steam. We need all the help we can get.

Most of the time creative people have wonderful ideas: I’m going to get a picture of the sunrise from the top of Mount Snowdon; I’m going to paint a picture and sell it; I’m going to design a garden and win the best Show Case Garden award at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’m going to start this, do that, travel, clean up my act, be a community stalwart. This used to be me. Is it you?

The thing is that those kinds of projects need nurture, vital support, from warm people. Are you tattered like the Little Match Girl? Are you, like in the old song, “she’s been down so long it looks like up to her.” No one can thrive at that level. We need to get ourselves into a position, like the seedling in the woods that finds a gap in the canopy and grows towards the sun. But there has to be a sun. To get ourselves into the right position we have to move, not just sit there. We have to do something that makes our situation different. If we don’t we are just back on the streets selling matches.

I was lucky enough to have friends that loved me, friends who had warmth for my creative life. They are the best suns in the world.  A woman like the Little Match Girl who has no friends can become frozen with anguish or even by anger. Also, one may have friends that are not suns. They may give comfort instead of informing you of your increasingly frozen circumstances.  They may comfort instead of nurture.

You may have a plant that you put in the coal house and say kind words to it –that is comfort. Taking the plant out of the coal house, putting it in the sun, watering it, feeding it, talking to it - that is nurture.

Frozen people without nurture have a lot of “What if” daydreams. If you are in the frozen condtion you must refuse the comforting fantasy. It will kill you. You know how they go: “Some day…” and “If only I had…” and “He will change…”

The Little Match Girl would have benefitted more if her internal grandmother had shouted at her to “Wake up!” and find warmth instead of whisking her off into a fantasy land.

The Match Girl has a trade-off, an ill-conceived sense of commerce when she sells off the matches – the only thing she has to keep her warm. It is like being on a subsidence diet with the outside world,  just eking out a life, taking the barest of nourishment then returning every day to whence you began, over and over.

It is hard to awaken to a life with a future because it is like you are trapped in a wretched life, hanging yourself on a hook daily that you cannot get down from. But get down you must. You need transitional movement and action that will set you on a new path. Get out. Seek friends who will nurture and help you, but even if you don’t have friends you must still escape, for as you start to glow inside you will find people who will nurture you and you will find a life that warms you inside.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story

Joan Crawford

We all wear masks and often without realising it we sell ourselves by how we appear.

Carl Jung called this mask the ‘persona’ and it is the ‘mask’ we show in society to please others. We need this mask because it helps us to function, but when we understand who we truly are, the persona becomes more pliable. Then we can be aware that we are wearing the mask, but at the same time, respect the boundaries and ways in which we all must act to function well in society and in different situations.

Problems occur when we lose sight of the delicate balance between our real ‘Self’ and our Persona. This is when we can come across as ‘fake’ and disconnected or lacking self-awareness. When we identify too much with the mask, it becomes a habit and we believe we are the face we put on. This limits our potential.

It is impossible, undesirable even, not to wear a mask because it is a defence against intuition and manipulation, but this does not mean that mask-wearing is always appropriate. If we identify solely with a certain persona/mask, it is to live in an illusion. We are labelling ourselves in a certain way because masks are labels. Humans though are always more than the label they give themselves. When people identify too much with their persona it results in a lack of emotional connection in their work and private lives, a lack of feeling they are contributing to something larger, a lack of drive and connection.

Besides protecting us, the persona also serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole.

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Our persona is like a role in a play. We create our first persona to please our parents and peers. Then we may have another persona to fit in with our job.

There is a psychic danger, a potential trap for the ego-consciousness because the persona is created to serve the ego. If the persona is especially successful in its effect upon the world, then the ego may so identify with it that it winds up serving the persona, the master becomes the slave.

I was the little girl with the narcissist father. A narcissist feels superior, they have illusions of grandeur – they need other people to become smaller. I developed approval addiction and an inferiority complex otherwise known as ‘Make Yourself Smaller Syndrome’.

If you have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex, you need other people around. As I grew up it was as if I needed to be found out that I wasn’t good enough so I ended up in relationships with narcissists. I played the role well and the mask stuck until I was in a car crash and the mask began to slip and I found myself on a journey towards finding the real me.

When you figure out how to be yourself it’s an incredibly liberating way to go through life.

Image: Joan Crawford holding a mask Wikimedia Commons

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Why losing control can be a good thing

Horses

I’ve always enjoyed horse riding. When I was younger I particularly enjoyed pony trekking when we would ride all day. In the summer there would often be forty or more of us saddled up and heading into the Berwyn Mountains.

One day, when I was a teenager, there was a shortage of guides. The owner of the farm asked me if I would lead that day’s trek.

“But I won’t be able to remember the way,” I replied, worried about leading all the other riders astray. Although I had ridden it many times before, I had not memorised the route and was afraid of going the wrong way.

“That doesn’t matter,” he said, “The horse knows the way. There will be two points where he will hesitate and when he does, the first time guide him to the left, the second time guide him to the right.”

Sure enough, the horse hesitated at two intersections and I simply guided him the right way.

I often think back to that day and think how easily we can create problems that aren’t there and make life far more complicated than it needs to be.

The great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson once shared a story about a horse that wandered into his family’s yard when he was a young man.

The horse had no identifying marks. Erickson offered to return the horse to its owners. In order to accomplish this, he simply mounted the horse, led it to the road, and let the horse decide which way it wanted to go. He intervened only when the horse left the road to graze or wander into a field. When the horse finally arrived at the yard of a neighbour, several miles down the road, the neighbour asked Erickson, “How did you know that horse came from here and was our horse?”

Erickson said, “I didn’t know- but the horse knew. All I did was keep him on the road.”         

From: My Voice Will Go with You: Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson

Erickson became a famous psychotherapist and he liked to tell this story to his students, telling them that therapy was a lot like riding that horse. In beginning a course of therapy it is often helpful to go back to the beginning of the real road. Whatever ideas you have about the best path for your client to take, you stand more chance of success if you tap into the wisdom of the unconscious mind – both the client’s and your own. “You can trust the unconscious,” he used to say. He would encourage his students to let go of their preconceptions – about therapy, about clients, about human nature – and to trust their unconscious mind to come up with creative solutions to their problems.

I’m not saying there isn’t any value in making plans and applying what you know. You have to start somewhere.

But whenever you set out to do something extraordinary, there comes a point where, like Erickson on the horse, you have to choose between trying to control everything – or letting go and getting carried away by something bigger and more powerful than yourself.

 

Horses2

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