By Tia Richardson
As human beings, we’ve evolved the skill that throughout life when something doesn’t go right or we face a challenge, to focus on what’s wrong or broken and what might be causing it so it can be fixed. That is helpful at first, but I believe we’ve also created a habit of constantly pointing out what’s wrong and what might be causing it until a person creates a fixed mindset of distrust in things getting any better. This is unfortunate if we’re losing sight of having any power over our direction in life through our choices, and with it, our hope!
Acknowledging there’s a problem is an important step to healing. The trouble comes when we find ourselves starting to believe we have no real choices in a situation. It can cause a feeling of powerlessness or being stuck which zaps the will and imagination right out of us. This prevents a person from considering what options might be in front of them and think about where that might lead them! This takes a conscious choice.
As a visual artist I know the power of using images and visualization to bring a new idea closer to a person’s mind long enough to consider it just might work. This is an important moment to imagine new possibilities and consider where different choices might lead us.
The drawback to not choosing at all is feeding a repeating cycle of feeling victimized by life. It’s mind-boggling how many people feel they literally have no choice. Life doesn’t always offer the best choices or the ones we would like to take, but I do believe it is important to be open-minded even if they aren’t what we want if we expect improvement. And sometimes this means having the courage to imagine choices we would never have thought possible! When a person is facing extremely challenging circumstances being this thoughtful and open-minded can be tough.
That’s why I believe it’s important to practice. I try to be regular about it every chance I get. From a creative standpoint, when a person’s mindset is intent on everything that’s wrong around them, their mental focus is too busy with that to imagine what might be possible. It takes practice when in that habit to shift the mind to what might be possible. The doors open much wider for something new and improved than what a person thought possible before – just by pausing to think about it! The imagination has the power to create something from nothing!
Research around mindfulness and trauma show the effects of stress on the brain and nervous system cause fight or flight symptoms, naturally triggering a ‘lock-down’ state that runs counter to being open to anything new at that point. To many people living in a habitual state of survival, practicing an open-minded attitude at first seems threatening. In a survival state of fear and mistrust, the higher faculties of imagination and reasoning are held hostage as a person walks through life, without them having to be aware of it!
Being open to possibilities doesn’t have to start where problems end. This is the part where I step in as a therapeutic community artist, to use what I know to offer help to others who sometimes feel stuck. From my personal experience an attitude can bring change. It’s called holding a vision. My experience has taught me trust through the creative ritual of making art. Knowing there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to the activity builds safety in trust in knowing what to expect, even though I have no idea how the design will turn out. When I open to other people I start to see them open up to trusting the process too.
I believe that evolving an open-minded attitude towards life’s challenges will help us as human beings trust in our power to influence the direction of our lives. By making choices we’re using our creative power to make things better. There’s always hope from my viewpoint, because hope is the open door, and it’s always brought me through.