Gender Feature Story 1: The Shoes Review

In writing my other Gender post, I was reminded of the day I was on the Payless Shoes Website and saw a very cool review because it was a self described “gentleman” wearing “ladies shoes.” I then went back to the website just now and hunted down the review to quote it here. I posted it on something when I first saw it a year ago. It bears reposting just because it’s so great how gender and gender identity are not some side topic but are part of everywhere. I proposed my Gender Identity Altered Books Workshop and the person in charge said it may be too specific a population to do a workshop on, so I explained that it is extremely relevant to every clinician and ubiquitous and in fact everyone needs to be trained in gender identity sensitivity.

Anyway here is the review in all its glory. Thank you to this person who bravely put himself out there! And FYI, while they should be “unisex”, they are Mary Janes and look like non fancy practical shoes but have that element that makes you think of little kids (female) shoes.

“I just received my “Geanette” Mary Jane shoes today and have been wearing them most of the day. I could not be more pleased with them. My new “Mary Janes” are very comfortable and nice looking. I am a gentleman who enjoys wearing women`s shoes exclusively and find these to be very suitable for around the house or street wear. This shoe would be excellent for women as well as men, as it is a true “unisex” shoe. I am a red-blooded male and have already received a few compliments on this attractive looking shoe. I heartily recommend these well made nice looking shoes for anyone. I think I`ll order another pair just in case they are discontinued.”

Here are the shoes if you’re curious or want a pair, whatever your gender!

https://www.payless.com/womens-comfort-plus-geanette-mary-jane-shoe/77840.html?dwvar_77840_color=black#q=mary%20jane&prefn1=gender&prefv1=Women&start=3

 

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The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

Mission Accomplished: Art Therapists Are the Experts!

An Art Therapist Explains Why Justin Bieber Needs Coloring Books

Yes! Mission accomplished!!!

My biggest complaint about the media and art therapy is that they need to interview art therapists as experts when art making is involved. Too often I see an article where a psychologist is looked upon as the expert to explain people’s pictures. They ain’t the experts. We are, and we need to be the first ones out there. We need to be on more talk shows and all the stuff the psychologists do, and we’re on the way to getting in people’s living rooms and in their Twitter and other feeds.

For me, that’s the goal; get the general population to know about the existence of art therapy, by all means necessary. That means television, magazines, newspapers, articles, Youtube, all social media.

Now that we have the best adult coloring book out there: The Real Art Therapists of NY Coloring Book (https://nycreativetherapists.com/real-art-therapists), we need it to be sold in airports and supermarkets, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Duane Reade!

So check out this article in Vice and read Nadia Jenefsky’s take on Justin Bieber coloring as well as what he colored and how.

As art therapists, we are trained to look at images and pictures, and we know how to translate and explain them. We are trained in understanding what makes people drawn to certain materials and images, verbal and non-verbal communication. We make our own images, and we get other people not just to make images but we invite people who haven’t touched paint or other materials since they were 5, to get back the joy of art making and get in touch with their creativity, whether it’s cooking, gardening, sports, writing, coloring, sky diving, etc. Art therapy is not just about making stuff in therapy. Art therapy is about creative environments, connecting with others…

That is what it is really about, connecting on small and large scale, so this article is at the forefront of raising awareness of Art Therapy and who the expert art therapists are!

Trump Trauma or Trump Overdose?New DSM 5 Disorder

This comes from my own personal experience. Others with this illness, you are not alone! (Stay tuned for post on more severe illness, Trump Psychosis)
New DSM 5 Disorder for OCD or Trauma Chapter, possibly a specific form of PTSD:
Name: Trump Trauma or Trump Overdose, specify whether co occurring with Trump Psychosis
Age: 5 years to 99 years
Symptoms: One or more of the following, occurring at least 3 times/week:
(specify severity: mild, moderate, severe)
1. Trump in any form triggers somatic responses such as nausea, vomiting, digestive issues  
2. Trump in any form triggers responses such as revulsion in form of anxiety, panic, depersonalization, hopelessness and/or depressive outlook.
3.Inability to control obsessive thinking about not wanting to think about Trump and/or experiencing intrusive thoughts/images about Trump.
4. Nightmares about Trump and/or feeling of being in a nightmare while awake. Knowing that you’re not delusional about waking nightmare:
5. Compulsion: Feeling not in control of contact with social media about Trump and spending 20 minutes or more of your day in a Trump Trance writing posts or commenting or reading about Trump while being aware of not wanting to do so. 
6. Paranoia: after other symptoms get triggered, believing there’s something wrong with you or that you’re crazy to have such symptoms/reactions.
7. Frequent Violent fantasies you can’t control about physically assaulting, disfiguring and/or killing Trump or Trump dying sometimes accompanied by brief feeling of euphoria that often triggers subsequent descent into depression.
8.Frequent Violent fantasies regarding sources of info about Trump (usually in form of physically assaulting/destroying TV, Computer or Smartphone, specify whether danger to others)
9. Frequent fantasies about living on another planet, belief and/or realization that you are from another planet if this knowledge further triggers other symptoms. (see treatment)
Treatment/Cure:

1. Cure: Trump somehow disappears. Symptoms should be gone in a few days.

2. Trump gets out of the race. Symptoms will immediately subside, may linger a few weeks.

3. Person with this disorder finds any way to return to their planet and reduce greatly contact with planet earth. Taking a substantial amount of aliens chosen carefully is also a great option. Not a complete cure due to memories of Trump situation and concern for planet Earth.

Treatment for chronic condition:

  1. recognizing you have this disorder and you’re not crazy helps reduce paranoid symptoms while also triggering symptoms if you get reality check through search engine or social media

2. Talking about moving to other countries and picking what country/looking at homes there can help reduce symptoms. Focusing on that country or any other as a safe space may also reduce symptoms.Cure: Trump magically disappears or .gets out of the race.

3. Avoidance of exposure to Trump will reduce symptoms. Tracking time in day that you are symptom free gives hope for recovery. (Trump Disorder tracking App coming soon.)

Medication: Klonopin and similar anti-anxiety medication may help reduce symptoms and other medications of this type may make you so drowsy you forget about him for a while. Any medication proven to reduce nightmare frequency.

Course of illness: whether treated or untreated, will worsen with time. Possible extreme severity can cause another disorder: Trump Psychosis.

End of month Art Post

Slow down and breathe: evolution of a Coloring Page:

I am very happy to announce that I made two coloring pages that will be published in a book of Adult Coloring Pages, all made by art therapists. I have been interested in coloring pages as a tool for art therapy for a long time, and the more I work with people making them, coloring in with my patients, the more  I am convinced of how magical it is.

I am of course not talking about the big phenomenon of adult coloring pages you can find everywhere from Whole Foods to book stores to airports. They are marketed as “therapeutic”. Some even use the words “Art Therapy”; those ones are really a law suit in the making. Art therapy has nothing to do with buying a coloring book and sitting at home coloring to calm yourself down. It would be like saying that filling out a self help workbook is the same as going to see a therapist specializing in Cognitive or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. IT’s nonsense.

Luckily the people at New York Creative Arts Therapists are putting together this special coloring book to educate the public and bring awareness to the field of art therapy.

About a year and a half ago, I actually had a fantasy about finding an investor to open a “Coloring Bar” in Manhattan, NYC. I envisioned a cool lounge like space where people could go and sit and color pages provided that they could choose. Like going in a bar but instead of ordering beverages and snacks, you pick out coloring pages and art materials to use and sit alone, at a table or at the bar to color…

I shared this idea with the people making this book when I found out about it, and they are planning to have a launch event that will be like the Coloring Bar, and perhaps, a few other events of a similar nature. Kind of using the “Pop Up Shop” idea, and perhaps it will end up somewhere that there might be a permanent Coloring Bar. One can dream! I always say you can’t get withdrawal from dreaming high.

So, The Real Art Therapists of New York Coloring Book. Here is the link:

https://nycreativetherapists.com/buy-coloring-book

In addition, I was invited to color in my own coloring page to be sold as a piece of art and reproduced on postcards.

Here is a little of the process I went through. I started one and it went into a place where I didn’t like it, so I began an other. As with all my art, I surprised myself in the end by going to a place I’d not envisioned. I ended up with two finished pieces.

Here is the first image of the first page I colored that I almost threw out and ended up cutting up to make a collage with:

I was imagining that I would maybe start painting on it, messing it up to make a statement about coloring in the lines. Instead I got it so full of neon that I tried painting white over the background to tone it down, as you can see below in this second picture. I hated it and started a whole new one and put it aside…  

This third photo below shows who it was going before it got to that place. This is still the first one I was trying out:

HEre’s another photo of the first one when it was getting crazy with the colors…  

After I painted white over it, I took a photo from the back to show the neon that I covered, as I for some reason never took a picture of it right before the white paint…

The photo below is blurry. It’s a stage of the second page I made, trying not to use neon and just use glitter and metallic colors.

Here is another photo of the one I “messed up”. At this point it looked really cool. That’s how art is, you take things too far and that’s the way it goes, at least for me. The point of coloring in my own page was to illustrate the inventive things you can do with a coloring page: that the limits of what you have can open up creativity and be a way to experiment and have fun…    

Below is the first one with the paint covering up the background, and the start of the second one…

Below is the second page on the way to being finished, or so I thought at the time! Actually, I finished both final pieces while at the meeting for the Coloring Book Event planning at New York Creative Arts Therapists in Williamsburg this Saturday, Jan. 30!

I will post the final results in another post…

These aren’t in time order…  

David Bowie, Thank You

“Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)”:

This morning I woke up to the news of David Bowie’s death. A heavy loss for his family and for the world. For me personally, it is more than sad. I feel like a brilliant light has been blown out, too soon. I can’t describe everything I am grateful for that David Bowie inspired for me. I want to write and post this today to honor him, so I will try to keep it short and organized…

David Bowie was/is one of the most important creative Public Figures in my life and my life as an artist. Before I had an idea of becoming anything, much less a visual artist, I loved Bowie. I first discovered and embraced everything I found about him while in first years of high school. It would not be crazy to say that he and Katherine Hepburn, another big love of mine, also a gender non comforming rebel, helped me enormously on an emotional level to survive a turbulent, confusing, sometimes lonely, amazing and crazy time of life. During the adolescent years when we are going through crazy transformations and trying to figure out who  the hell we are, these two icons in similar and different ways spoke to me and inspired me, not to make art, but to dare, to stay on earth, to discover and adventure, to embrace my uniqueness and weirdness.

As there was no internet in the 80’s, I had these two shining examples of people who said yes to T. S. Eliot’s question: “DO I dare disturb the universe?” On my senior high school yearbook page, I had that quote and Bowie’s: “We can be heroes, just for one day.”

I could continue about how David Bowie got me through some rocky times of confusion and contortion, but I wanted to say more just through his words, as I loved his way with words, whether lyrics or just things he said that came from him, in interviews, casually. I’m assembling a few from today, in memories, and including some things I just found today that speak to me and my history:

“He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar.” -from Ziggy Stardust

 “I GLIT from one thing to another a lot…It’s like “flit”, the 70’s version.” I found this gem from his  Dick Cavett interview that speaks to the parts of me that are interested in any random thing and quickly bored and moving to something else shiny and new.

“Being an artist of any kind …a social dysfunction… An extraordinary thing to want to do… “-said to Charlie Rose in answer to some kind of question about creativity and craziness

:He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue,
What a jolly boring thing to do.” (and the whole song, Andy Warhol) One of my favorite of his songs. This goes through my head all the time, and sums up a lot of my days spent enjoying things like new scissors, glue, a new kind of paint, brush pens, any discovery of a magic art supply.

This is just a taste of the biggest part of his message for me, about being true to who you are, and accepting yourself and really celebrating your uniqueness.

My favorite Bowie song in high school was “Rock and Roll Suicide”, the last of the Ziggy Stardust album/concert footage. It’s not about suicide really; what spoke to me was the verses about not being alone. Growing up is often a lonely scary process for many of us…

Oh no love! you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if i could only
Make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

The last verse of that song is what I will end with. I have in my mind the image of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust leaning down and holding the hands of the outstretched audience. A beautiful image of connection. Ziggy Stardust at least for me was a complex person/persona and felt like a friend, not an aloof outer space creature actually:

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone (wonderful)
Let’s turn on and be not alone (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Oh gimme your hands.

Thank you, David Bowie, for all your gifts to us, from the bottom of my heart…

Only In Art Therapy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly… First story: Saudi Arabia

If you’re reading this and you are a patient of an art therapist or have been or if you are an art therapist, and have a story of an incident, please let me know and I will post it here.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, whats’ that?: Basically there is great news and exciting things going on in the field of art therapy, like an article in National Geographic about art therapy with veterans with PTSD and photos of their masks, and bad and “ugly” things, like annoying portrayals of art therapists in current Tv shows and movies, as well as a lot of misconceptions about what the scope of what we can do is and whom we work with. I will use the pronoun “they” when talking about patients to further protect identities.

With the not so great news stories, I will follow with the question: So what can we do to change this NOW? because we’re in a better place today than ever before with respect for the profession, but not enough…
I’m not satisfied!

I will start this series off with a great story I found on Facebook linked to an article about art therapy in Saudi Arabia: Using Art Therapy with Former Jihadists, turns out it is a very effective modality for lots of reasons:

http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/using-art-therapy-to-open-the-minds-of-jihadists

Random Acts of Art Adventure Wraps Up International Tour!

Such a cool idea!!!

6 Degrees of Creativity

Greetings from 6 Degrees of Creativity’s Random Acts of Art Adventure!

After an awesome 10 month tour of 13 stops overseas to the UK, Italy, India, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand the project is on its way back to the US for its final 15 stops in the Pacific Northwest, West Coast, Southwest, and back to the Midwest before returning to 6 Degrees of Creativity Headquarters!

Random Acts of Art Adventure Wraps Up International Tour! | 6 Degrees of Creativity

Random Acts of Art Adventure Wraps Up International Tour! | 6 Degrees of CreativityThe project’s canvas pouch packed with creative goodness just visited New Zealand for stops 45 and 46:

Random Acts of Art Adventure: New Zealand | 6 Degrees of Creativity Stop #45 with Janet

And today, the adventure makes the 7,000 mile journey to Seattle, Washington:

Random Acts of Art Adventure | 6 Degrees of CreativityHooray!  Thank you to everyone who participated in this very special part of the project: Janette, Louise, Bernadette, Lizzie, Michela, Tia, Karen, Shana, Fiona, Sarah, Kiley, Janet, and Catherine.  Together the project survived address changes, Visa delays, month long postal delivery times, and more to keep this adventure going!

To catch…

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