This series showing different ways that dissociative trauma survivors picture themselves is proving to be very interesting. This current picture is no exception.
Besides being a wonderful picture showing incredible artistic talent, “From_Ashes” says a lot about being dissociative and having a dissociative disorder.
Please know that I do not personally know this artist nor am I familiar with her system or how things work for her. In this blog, I will ask questions and interpret some DID system issues by the way things were drawn, but not because I am familiar with this person in real life. My guesses might be wrong! I am simply looking at this picture and presenting some of my thought about how DID can be seen and more deeply understood by paying attention to this drawing.
In a therapeutic setting, I would of course, ask the survivor to explain her drawing before I began presenting some of my own interpretations. However, for the purposes of this blog, I will present some of my thoughts without having had the opportunity to speak with the artist directly. Some of my thoughts, when looking at this picture, include:
WOW! This girl can draw! (ok, just had to say that again, lol)
Notice the three different ages of the three different people. The physical resemblance between them speak of how the three different people are one and the same outside person, and yet the ages, emotions, experiences and roles are clearly unique and different from each other. Notice the distinctly different child part, teenager part, and adult front part.
While the adult part is the closest to the front of the picture, she is not who you notice first. The child part stands out the strongest, followed by the teenager. I would wander if this survivor’s child parts are the most visible or prominent in real life.
The adult part is present, yet the lightness of her features is significant. Sometimes adult hosts parts feel like shells or fronts or outer facades. I would explore with this survivor to see if the adults of her system feel faint, as in not strong enough to have a dominant presence. Does the adult need help to become more in charge of her system? Does the adult feel insignificant, or unimportant, or too unsure to be in charge?
On a different level, I would spend a lot of time checking to see if the opaque, clear coloring of the adult front (which may very well represent the body’s actual age) is a clear “mask” by which the others inside hide behind. For some survivors, the external face / host face provides a thin covering that stays in front of the actual insider that is present. The outer “shell” face is what the outside world is supposed to see while who is actually there from the inner world is constantly changing and evolving.
Exploring the meaning of the various colors is important.
The child part has a lot of red near her. Red can often symbolize pain or hurt. It might represent a lot of injury, as in having blood-related injuries. However, this child part doesn’t look particularly sad. She may be a little more connected to some of the happier moments in time, keeping the pain / red at a little further distance from herself. This child part has more true-to-life colors in her skin tones, etc. She might very well feel more alive and well than many of the others inside.
If the red color does represent pain or injury, the red lips can indicate a number of oral injuries. Red on the head might indicate a lot of headaches or head injuries.
Around the child part, there are a variety of puzzle pieces. There is a mix of assembled, connected puzzle pieces and empty holes without a puzzle piece. My first thought is that each of the different puzzle pieces could represent a memory or pieces of life-story information. It appears that the child part has put together quite a few of her experiences. Maybe she already knows a lot of trauma memories and has been working on her healing. The gaps in time (as shown by the missing puzzle pieces) could represent memories and emotions not yet addressed.
The puzzle pieces could also represent other internal system parts. Maybe the number of puzzle pieces by the child part means there are a lot of other kid parts. The puzzle piece by the teenager could represent others near her age-group as well.
The teenager clearly feels a lot of emotional pain. The heaviness in her eyes is obvious, and this part knows about a lot of hurts. This part struggles with self-esteem issues, as noted by the way she is pulling back and hiding more. However, she has started in her healing journey to and some of the connected, organized puzzle pieces are touching her as well. She has lots of stories yet to tell, however, as so much open space surrounds her. There is still a lot of unknown about this part. She keeps a lot of secrets tucked away in her silence.
Why is the teenager in black and white? Her skin tones are not yet “real”, so maybe she feels more disconnected and distanced from certain areas of life. Does she not feel real? Does her body not feel real? Does this part know about self-injury issues?
The wings around the front adult part might indicate dissociation. This front adult part doesn’t give the impression of being strongly grounded. She might be one of the parts that floats, or that leaves frequently. Maybe her ability to stay connected to the current day, or intense emotion gets compromised by being too easily able to dissociate.
As with every system picture, I would ask about the communication that happens between these different parts. Each of them are walled off from each other in the picture, so they may not be able to speak with each other as easily as they will be able to once they complete more of their healing. The adult front part probably hears more from the others behind her, but may very well have difficulty feeling heard by them.
The adult front part probably has a trouble staying connected to the painful memories as the red and orange part of the wings (flames?) are further from her. Also, she needs to keep up a public appearance of being ok, including dressing nicely, and looking good. To stay cool, she cannot get too close to the hot topics / intense emotions.
I would explore the title of this picture. What does the title of this picture mean? Are each of these parts named “Ashes”? Did someone named “Ashes” create it? Was this picture a gift from someone? Do these parts feel like they have risen above the ashes and overcome their tragedy?
Are these thoughts accurate?
As I mentioned above, if I were speaking to the creator of this drawing, I would be asking questions instead of assuming answers. However, many of my questions would be about the topics that I have mentioned above.
If you would like to see more incredible artwork by this artist, please look here.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation