Full permission has been given by the client to tell this story on GoodTherapy.org. All identifying information has been changed.
The client ‘Jimmy’ that I described in the previous blog, who created a video project in art psychotherapy, has completed his video. He decided sometime ago that he wanted to upload it to YouTube. His intention was to come out from hiding his story and to possibly help others who are struggling with their own past experiences. His decision was an opportunity to discuss in therapy the possible positive and negative effects of such an action. Of course, he didn’t need my approval but sometimes experiences of such an emotional nature can create ‘blind spots’ in understanding our motivation and vulnerability.
Electronic media such as YouTube allow anyone to upload, look at and/or appropriate images. The danger is that previously secret information would be divulged. Persons involved may retaliate, blame, or shame the victim. Anger and rage maybe stirred in people who are judgmental, or hypocritical. Even when the original intent is for compassion, healing, forgiveness, and closure, as it is here, a person disclosing personal information must have a healthy ego to withstand whatever comes from the disclosure. Jimmy uploaded his video on celebration of the 20th Anniversary of his recovery. The video has been uploaded but not ‘published’, which means that the video cannot be searched by his name, the title of the work or by key search words. This does not provide protection but rather makes it more unlikely that someone will stumble upon it. Jimmy, for good reason, is very proud of his accomplishments both emotionally and technically.
Jimmy has agreed to allow me to display the link to his video entitled ”Ward of the State” which he uploaded to YouTube. When you watch this video, please keep in mind that it is not a documentary in the sense of having a mission to communicate and/or educate an audience. Consequently, some references are very private and will be a mystery to the viewer. Click here to view the video. Please do note this video contains language and images that may be difficult for some viewers and is not appropriate for minors. The video is 15 minutes long and is advised to let the entire video load before viewing.
There was a comment on the previous blog when I first introduced this project. It came from a woman whose husband has resisted looking at old photographs and in her words “…can’t look at pictures of his childhood because they bring back so many bad memories of how harsh it was. He has very vivid recall and seeing them upsets him. If he had his way they would all be thrown out. I talked him out of that. One day he may find them useful. Till then, they are in a dust-covered box.”
When something bad happens in our lives, particularly as children, sometimes it is possible to walk away and never bring the subject up again, ever. The impact of the original experience and subsequent memory can be blocked without noticeable affect. However, if the event(s) caused significant distress or happened over a few years time then significant amounts of energy are needed to hold the resistance in place. That is why sometimes when a catastrophic event happens in someone’s life who has had early childhood trauma, they cannot get over the event like other do because those earlier traumas have never been dealt with and now they don’t have enough energy to hold all of it together. Energy that is used to block past memories is unavailable for other useful things like maintaining health, doing activities, or helping others.
Talking about an event is often not enough to transform the pain and suffering into growth and understanding. Therapeutic processing is not only an engagement with the memories but working through the meaning and understanding the subsequent behaviors that were formed to cope with the experience. Like most coping mechanisms, ‘resistance’ is effective. It offers protection from becoming vulnerable. That works while we are children but as adults we need to be vulnerable at times, particularly in intimate relationships.
In addition to therapy, Jimmy has a regular exercise routine and a spiritual practice, all of which contribute to his wellbeing. Jimmy does not show signs of depression any longer. He has access to a full range of feelings. He would be the first to say that he is a work in progress. When his anger is triggered he understands now that the person or experience at hand is not the cause of the intense feelings. Knowing that on a deep level, he is able to take measures to not act out or respond in a destructive way. In a sense he has freed up his energy to make better choices in his life. Today he is volunteering at a nonprofit of his personal interest. He has been talking about volunteering with children in the future. I am certain the exchange will be enriching for all of them.
I want to thank Jimmy for allowing me to share his story and video with you.
© Copyright 2011 by By Barbara 'Basia' Mosinski, LCAT, ATR-BC, MA, MFA, therapist in New York City, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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