D. – Belgium


D. – Belgium

D. is a young woman in her early twenties from Republic of Congo (Kivu). She speaks French. She came to Belgium alone, and is the mother of a little girl. Due to attachment issues with her child, D. spent a few months in a mother-child unit of a psychiatric clinic. She is followed by a psychotherapist.

At the beginning of the sessions she is very detached and mistrustful. Little by little she builds relationships with me, the trainee, and the group. Throughout this journey, her attitude will change significantly. Her attitude towards the creative process will evolve, and she will learn to go towards the unknown.

The main theme of her work is “how to deal with difficult feelings, how to not give up on life?”

Session 1 – info try out session I

D. is invited to come by Fedasil’s staff but refuses.

Session 2 – info try out session II

On insistence of Fedasil’s staff, she comes, sits next to the group and observes. She will stay 20-30 minutes and go away.

Session 3 – collective work (fresco)

D. has come to the session, but seems a bit isolated. She has trouble relating with the group. She looks at me for help/solutions. She seems to be in distress.

When it came to introducing one another, she said that she is tired because she never stops thinking and that keeps her awake.

The symbol she chooses to represent herself is a church. She made a few of them and then took her distance from the group. She told me that she likes to be in a church and that there are many in her home country.

In the closure round, she first chooses a BLOB card showing a “happy” character, then changed it and took one of a character who is thinking. When i asked her whether or not she had ways of helping her stop thinking, she said no.  I asked the others who shared their tips : watching TV, going for a walk, seeing a friend, praying, …When asked to suggest a title for the fresco, she said “transparent”.

The first impression is that she feels quite powerless and is looking for someone to help her.

Session 4 – secure place (home)

D. doesn’t show up. I’m quite disappointed. I sent a message to the contact person, asking them to encourage her to come next time.

Session 5 – Life continuity (the rose-tree)

The intention of this session was to strengthen the understanding of the different events of the participants life and to develop awareness of personal strengths when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Today it was about drawing/painting a rose-tree: every rose represents a nice event in your life; every thorn represents a bad event in your life. Then to think about : how you can make roses instead of thorns? Which internal strengths and external support do you have?

It is very difficult for D.to get into the creative process : she is very hesitant and needs reassurance. I have to comfort her several times. Using a pencil, she finally starts with the envelop of the tree (media considered as very controllable). She takes her time doing it (we are not able to see it but the contour line is made of tiny points-strokes). In the end, she is disappointed by her creation because it is not symmetric. She wants to stop. When i told her it was beautiful and that it nature, the trees are not symmetric neither decided to keep it.

She added the circles in the middle and finally the curves. She uses soft pastel to colour the different parts and then adds water on it.

This is how she described her work, This is me. My life has been full of thorns. The trunk represents the tears, the 2 green layers despair, the black circle inner tension, the blue circle (?).  And finally, the inner circle serenity.”

I discussed the inner circle further with her, asking where it was in her body. She said in her heart, and I told her that it is good to have a safe/serene place to go and that I wish that this place could grow up.

She seems satisfied, and I got the impression that she will come back.

Session 6 – Strengths 

The intention for this session is to help the participants become aware of their personal strengths and to reinforce their self-confidence. The session begins with a discussion on strengths. The participants the take turns anonymously suggesting a strength for every person. Then each person chooses 3 strengths to illustrate on a stone.

D. asks whether she can write more than 3 strengths for herself and also give many strengths to the others.

As strengths for herself, D. ultimately chooses:

·       “Ability to love and be loved" (illustrated by the moon and little heart) She said that, as a child she received a lot of love from her parents. Now, she could not live without them.

·       “Courage" (illustrated by a woman). 

·       “Wisdom" (illustrated by a book).  She said she is wise and shy.

Session 7 – Back to breathing

The intention for this session is to connect to the self and to your inner perceptions. The invitation is to draw the breath, then perform a meditation exercise (heart cohesion) and then draw the breath again.

D. came in as the first participant, and brought with her a new participant, a sign of trust.

She understands the invitation and is engaged in her work. She doesn’t hesitate much and doesn’t need reassurance to start the creative process.

EX1 : she began drawing a wave with bubbles, sometimes inside, sometimes outside. She is focused, and  relax and continues to colour even when the others are busy with the step two.

EX2: (after the heart coherence) she seems less inspired and . She talks about how when she listens to her breath, emotions come (the lines). When I ask what kind of feeling it is? She responded by saying not so good (sometimes good).

EX3: when opening a door to see what come next, she draws 5 bubbles and writes

  • be positive, not depressed
  • trust one person
  • be patient
  • don’t be sad, smile to the life
  • be courageous

During the last round, she shared how she was feelings better.

Session 8 – Circle of feelings

The main goal of this session is to communicate and connect to inner feelings. Participants are invited to create a mandala with the feelings that they experience the most.

For D., sadness and fear are the biggest feelings in her heart. She made the distinction between being worried, fear and being stressed. Joy is also present.

When asked to relate her feelings to her body parts, she put worries and stress for the head and fear for the whole body.

Session 9 – Transforming emotion

The intention of this session is to see how an emotion can be transformed. Today they are asked to make a knot with clay that will represent an emotion/memory. This will become a creative artwork. Then they will draw an environment for it.

During the introduction, she chooses a picture of an orange sky at sunset. She said she likes this moment.

She was efficient in making a ball out of her clay. Then, eyes closed, she quickly made a flat shape. After a few minutes, she stopped and placed her chin on her hands, seeming overwhelmed by emotions. Then she continued. During most of the time the shape was standing vertically, looking like a tall christmas tree (or a silhouette?). When she re-opened her eyes, she began making holes in it with a stick. Getting the impression that she wanted the form to stay vertical, I suggested tips to keep it upright, but she refused and  laid the shape on the table and tapped it with her hands so that it become as flat as a pancake.

During the debriefing, she refused to talk. She was somewhat frozen, answering with a low voice and then began to cry silently. We could see that she was remembering a difficult moment in her life and was suffering.

I asked her what she needed. She simply shacked her head, saying no.. Another participant offered to give her a hug. I came closer and told her that I could feel that she could not get rid of a difficult memory. D. said shacked her head yes. I said something like “it was not possible for you to transform the difficult emotion and now it is still with you, very strong and threatening?". D. shock her head again saying yes. I said “If you could do something with it, what would you like to do? You have the power to take distance from this creation. Do you want to put it apart, far away, to throw it on the floor?… " D. did not answer. I offered to take the creation and put it on the floor on the opposite part of the room. D. said yes with her head. When this was done, I came back and said: now this thing is very far from you, it is very small, you can barely see it. It cannot hurt you anymore.”

D. agreed to participate in the painting session with another participant. She chose the colour orange and painted a frame around the paper, slowly but with intensity. Then she chose purple and made 4 shapes,  which first looked like a “V" (or flying birds?). She spent a lot of time adding paintings again and again. She was very focused. At the end the shapes were smoother, and more round. One can even think of it as hearts. At the end she wrote her name on the opposite side.

When I asked how she felt on a scale of 0 to 10, she said 4, which was an improvement from feeling 0 when she was not feeling good at all.

was not feeling good at all.

Session 10  – reconnecting to play

Today’s goal is to allow the participants to explore and play with colors, become aware of their preferences, and experience free exploration and transformation.

D. came in third. Apparently she positively retained information from last week.

Today, she chose to sit in front of another girl (who is pregnant) and several times began provoking her.  She told me that her daugther is afraid of that girl, and asked me if little children can be afraid of pregnant women.  After a short discussion it turned out that D. told her daughter that if she is not kind, the pregnant mother will come and eat her. is this related  to the difficulty that D. had to create attachment with her daughter or is it a cultural reference?

Drawing number 1 (upper right): D. produced a dark green color by mixing colors with a lighter blue; she interpret ed the blue line segments on the left as a ladder.  She gets the impression that her mood goes up and down. It takes a while to get back up after a down. I try to have a conversation with her on the fact that it is very human to have ups and downs. She didn’t seem to understand. Then we discussed ways she could feel better; does she know the ways to go up again?

In her creative process she is quite insecure at the beginning, asking me what she has to do. After a while, I said that at Fedasil she doesn’t have a lot of freedom but this evening it will be completely different, she can explore and decide for herself.

She puts water on a sheet of paper and applies it on her first work to take a print. The bottom-right drawing is the result of this. She applies a 3rd sheet and will add a new color on it (brown dots…maybe inspired by the chocolate color of the pregnant girl sitting in front of her) see upper left drawing. When invited her to choose music, she decided on Maitre Gims and began singing and moving while painting.

After a last print, she added more brown colour and added a frame around the dots. She was inspired by another girl who was using her fingers.

The 4 drawings make a beautiful ensemble. A girl said that it makes her think of a cloth in African fabric. D will ask everyone whether they find her work beautiful. She is very happy.

Session 11 – drawing in motion

Inspired by the last session, we suggest painting while moving, to connect spontaneous movement and develop free expression.

She made a spontaneous movements on several sheets and then developed each drawing. Then D. asked if she could tell a story with the different drawings, she wrote the following:

“Once upon a time there was a mountain that was about to turn into a river. it was really a difficult process with a lot of worries and problems.

One day the mountain goes to the river: it wants to regain morale, to be less worried and less fearful.

This mountain wants to go all the way, to be free, to get what it wants. She still has the hope of traveling with a smile to get a work permit, to be regularized, to follow trainings, to have a job, a salary … and finally have all that one needs in life.

I really need God to listen to my prayers. I know how to laugh, to be social but I always have a lack of something … one day it will change and everything will be in order. This moment will come when I will be tired of always staying like that. “Be yourself, do not change, go ahead, do not go back anyway … everything will be fine one day.  God is with you, he will never leave you and he will always be with you."

I speak to this mountain : it turns out to be a river, it’s not easy but with patience, strength it will go, have positive thoughts .. life is sometimes harder than you think … “you have to be hard and patient in life … do not worry: the best is yet to come.” "

In her story she uses a metaphor – a mountain transforming into a river – (rigidity/freeze towards fluidity/flow ?) then her story becomes closer to her reality and ends up with a inner dialogue.

Session 12 – good bye

There is no picture for the last work : D. works on her journal.  She develops two collages, one with things that she wanted to let go from her life and things that she wanted to take with her.  

She said that she wanted to leave sadness and fear behind.

Then she wrote a small message in each participants journal as a way of saying goodbye.

We ended up with a short celebration for the 18th anniversary of another participant.