When I retired in 1989 and came back to England, I started going to many different courses of an exploratory and therapeutic nature. No such thing existed on the Continent.
One of the courses I attended, soon after I came back, was a weekend Art Therapy course in Totnes. It was a three day course from Friday to Sunday. The art therapist was, I believe, a good one, though I cannot remember her name. She came from an aristocratic family and her birth had been induced so that her mother, a Society beauty, would be able to participate in all the social events over Christmas. She was brought up by a nanny and saw little of her parents.
We were given large sheets of paper and various exercises designed to help us relax and open up to our subconscious minds. I still have all my drawings and I recently decided to look at them all again. I had not looked at them for many years and was surprised and shocked by them, probably as much as when I first drew them.
There were several drawings. The first one is of an old woman bending over a child. She is a witch like figure, dressed in black, with a hooked nose and a prominent chin from which two black hairs are protruding. She has a look of glee as she bathes a naked baby in a tin tub. The baby is screaming, red lines coming out of her mouth, and tears rolling down her face. Behind the woman there are big, black bars and there are thick, red lines behind the bars. The child seems to be struggling.
The second drawing is a maze of black lines which looks like stick figures walking in all directions and in the midst of them is a small, naked child with yellow hair and bright blue eyes. There are words in red along the side: I FEEL TRAPPED - FRIGHTENED - HOPELESS - HELPLESS. I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE MAZE.
The next drawing again shows a naked child with yellow hair and blue eyes, and a blue blob in her middle. She seems to be leaning against what looks like a black trouser leg and black boot. She is screaming. The word “Mummy” is coming out of her mouth. There is a black figure floating in the air, again rather witchlike, and the words: “Go away. I hate you you!!” in black. Next to this figure is a perpendicular line of links creating a barrier, and beyond this a woman in blue is walking away, her back turned. In the middle of the picture, written in blue, are the words: HELP LOVE PROTECTION SECURITY CUDDLES.
Where are you? Why aren’t you here?
The following picture is a large drawing of a small girl - she is dressed in a yellow tunic with a green belt – she has yellow hair and blue eyes and tears are flowing down her face. She has blue hands and blue feet. She is surrounded by grey.
The next picture shows a rather terrifying image of what looks like the child’s descent into the underworld. The child, now brown with brown hair, blue eyes, and still some bits of yellow, appears to be falling down a long chute against a background of dark red flames. Down below are various kinds of devils: one is black, with glowing red eyes and a long, forked tail - a trio, black with horns and red faces and a curious figure with a huge head, looking like some kind of underwater monster.
From now on the drawings begin to change. In the next picture we see a landscape: mountains, trees, rivers, valleys and a path. A small figure stands at the beginning of the path – sturdy, with brown hair, a buttoned up coat and leggings. The caption reads: “I want to find my Mummy.” It looks like the hero’s journey – there are dangers on the path: green monsters, a menacing figure in red, castles, a big black spider and another black figure at the end of the path with red hands.
The next image shows a large blue bottle with a yellow figure popping out of it and then being split apart. There are body parts, arms, legs, feet, a torso, a head and a heart all flying round the page, and a blue bowl, waiting perhaps to put them together again.
In the following drawing we are back to the brown figure landing on what looks like the seabed: there is sand, swimming fish and waving seaweed. On the child’s face is a smile of triumph and the caption says:
Next we see the yellow child again, with yellow hair, leaping out of a deep blue sea onto the beach, and a huge red sun pouring its rays down on the scene.
There is one final picture, of the child again, naked, yellow, with a blue eye. She is holding out her arms to a figure in blue. It is a nun dressed in a long blue robe, with a veil and benevolent expression on her face. The background is yellow, green and pale blue.
It looks as though there has been a wonderful reconciliation and resolution of all these events.
On the last day of the course I had woken up that Sunday morning, feeling very peaceful and at one with everything. I had been dreaming of the nuns and they were all wearing, not black, but long white robes.
I was talking recently to someone who had undergone a lot of therapy. I told her about these images and she asked me if I had ever had shamanic healing, which I have not. She had, and she was struck by the similarities between her own healing process and my own. One of the aspects of shamanic healing is the splitting up of the personality into its myriad parts and then reassembling them.
It seems that my subconscious mind had intuitively worked this out. The weekend had proved not only to be a profound healing experience for me, but it had also shown me how we can carry these feelings deep inside us without our being aware of them, and of how they are affecting us.
During that time in my life I must have learnt to build a shell around myself, so that nothing could get in and nothing could get out either. It was my own way of protecting myself.