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
Thank you for sharing your artwork, it is very beautiful and original.
Thank you for sharing others art work here.
we liked the multi-colored wings and wondered why you did not mention them. (i do not mean to criticise you in any way). the wings got our attention first due to the color and to our kids inside who love prisms of color.
we rele lik such pritty drawins. we don’t draw much yet. byby
I just realized the end letter “L” is missing from html on the last link… sorry.
I was truly fascinated by every word you wrote. I couldn’t help trying to relate it to my drawings – one in particular. If you have time to look at it, I would really love to know what you think. It is at the bottom of this blog entry from last summer:
You don’t have to read the whole blog post… but if you have any thoughts on the drawing I would really love to hear them.
I have already talked about this drawing with my therapist.
Like you, she likes to hear my take on the drawings first.
There are two others that you might also find interesting… if you want to look they are in these blog posts:
If you don’t have time, I understand.
I’m going to check out the other work by this artist now. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Kathy Broady says
hi shenison –
your artwork is amazing! Very cool stuff.
Thanks for your interest in this artwork series. It seems to be a big hit with a lot of people. 🙂
Keep doing your art – it’s so very expressive!
As i read this, i saw so much stuff in that picture that i never would of thought about or tried to interpret. i’ve seen an art therapist who has never got this deep into it. Wow..just wow…i wanna share this with my therapist.
Kathy Broady says
Thank you, and thank you for your comment. I’m glad to see that my response has really resonated with you.
And yes, please do share this with your therapist!
Maybe the art therapist just needs to learn a little more about DID??? I don’t look at art as an art therapist, I look at if from a DID therapist perspective. And of course, I was just guessing about a lot of things.
But I’m really glad to hear that my thoughts have had a positive impact for you. There really is a LOT that can be learned through art.
Thanks so much for daring to share your art with us.
Wow…thats interesting that you get that out of one picture. We have an entire blog dedicated to collages we do for art therapy.
We really enjoyed looking at this picture.
Thank you for sharing it.