This photo is symbolic of the reason I’ve used the name “Integrated Spaces.” In this image, there is depth of meaning and an understanding of life that I have come to know well...and I believe you will too (if you haven’t already.)
Sitting down to write this post has been a while in the making. I’ve pondered how I would clearly articulate just what my choice in wording means. After all, the two words are a little contradicting, right?
SPACE- noun, “an empty area that is available to be used; the area around everything that exists, continuing in all directions.”
INTEGRATE- verb, “two or more things combined in order to become more effective; various parts or aspects linked or coordinated.”
Space means there is emptiness, while integration means we are linking something...how can that work together? Yeah, I know- sounds like I must need a little more direction with the English language. Hear me out, though...
There are a few levels to this, for me anyway, so I’ll start with the broadest- and we’ll take this picture into account. What I see is beauty- many elements that, when separated, may not look as beautiful as when they come together. Large rocks or boulders, fog, water, clouds bathed in sunlight, a gray sky, and open space (that stuff that exists around everything and continues in all directions.)
If all we saw were the boulders, this photo might be less appealing as the first thing you see on a therapist’s website. Boulders and fog? Yeah, definitely not welcoming and, I’ll just say it, pretty damn depressing. The gray sky wouldn’t help set the mood any differently.
But there is more there, right? Let’s take this a little farther.
The addition of calm waters, sun-soaked clouds, open space...it creates a different image. That’s right, when all of the units of this image come together, when they are integrated, something different happens.
I think you’re probably catching on to what I’m getting at here. Do you see the resemblance?
You guys, that is LIFE....and that is therapy, too.
We have the boulders or large rocks. They stick out the most in this image, and they resemble the rough parts of our stories that seem to exist as an island in our minds. Sometimes, we even think that if we just could get rid of these parts, the image might be a little more beautiful. We might feel a little better. We might not be so damn depressed...or anxious...or afraid.
The fog- the parts of our stories that we are blind to- we can’t see what’s in them, maybe we are in a season of “fog.” We just can’t make sense of what it happening or what has already happened. The fog is thick, and consuming, and disorienting.
Let’s talk about the calm waters...the parts of our stories that are grounding. They are sometimes joyful, at other times serene, they take up space around the “boulders” of life, and they also exist under the fog. Sometimes, we might even call these parts of our stories “mundane,” yet when we zoom out and take a look at our picture, we might find that we consider them beautiful- a wonderful, refreshing landing as we dive in from atop our rough and ragged boulders.
And those clouds...with glimmers of light against a backdrop of a blue-gray sky. I see that as our hope. Our sense of awe and wonder. We look up at what is unknown- what is bigger than us- and we move forward. Our reasons are all different- new family legacies, spirituality, political activism, fresh coffee the next morning ( ha! personally, one of my reasons for moving forward...how about you?) We set our sites on something that is outside of ourselves, and we press into that despite what boulders, fog, or calm waters may be present.
When I put it in these terms, the resemblance is uncanny, isn’t it?
And just like the image of life that this can be, it is also mirrors itself in the journey of internal work.
We have boulders in our way- we must feel them, recognize their size, their shape, their weight- they are a part of our story, they take up space here. There is fog that we can’t get through on our own, we need someone who can “zoom out” and see this fog for what it is, and help us navigate the fog so that we may know where it ends and where it begins, where it is thick and where it has dissipated. Our calm waters flow serenely around the boulders and under the fog, there is beauty within them...and there is also depth. Our clouds and sky remind us of what we are working towards- harmony, resonance, abundance- in whatever we place our sites on.
And space. It holds nothing, yet is full of possibility all at the same time. It fills all of the “in-between’s“ of an image and of our life. It is like silence- quiet, still, without intention; yet, when used wisely it is filled with reassurance, knowledge, and greater understanding.
When all of these elements are integrated, each part is more than it would appear on it’s own. There is both beauty and pain. Disorientation and depth of understanding. Joy and grief. Fullness and void. In this image- in life, in working on the self- there is both silence and noise.
And if we look closely, there is both integration of what is present, and space for what has not yet arrived.
Art in therapy:
Draw your own image- maybe it’s an image like the one above, or maybe your image would be a field of flowers, a forest...even a desert. What are your “boulders”? What about the fog, water, clouds, and sky? Whatever image comes to mind, let it have meaning as the beauty in your own story. Pay attention to what emotions are stirred as you create this image. What sensations arise in your body?
I would love to hear from you with anything that stood out to you in this exercise!