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ART THERAPY REFLECTION | My Life as a Tree

One of the classes that I lead at HD is called “Boom Team.”  It’s meant to be an arts and crafts time, but I’m a counselor, so I turned it into art therapy.

Project:  My Life as a Tree
Draw yourself as a tree,
with the roots being things that give you strength
and the leaves as things you want to change.

The cool thing about HD is that we are meant to participate in the recovery process with our girls, because even if we haven’t been trafficked, we all have our baggage that we need help processing and overcoming.  I won’t share “A”s tree, because that is her story.  But I will share mine!

IMG_0413

My “roots,” aka things that give me strength: 

  1. Church and faith: a church building with people surrounding it, holding hands.
  2. Animals:  a cat and a dog
  3. Friendship:  two hands holding each other
  4. Laughter:  a mouth smiling wide
  5. Stories:  a book
  6. Nature:  flowers

After I drew these, I noticed a conspicuous lack of specific people.  It made me think back to when I was in counseling.  My counselor once asked me to create a story that would represent my journey toward healing.  I described this video game-esque world where I leveled up by acquiring emotions, and my final boss was myself.  She then asked, “And do you have any team members?  Is anyone else with you?”  “Oh, um…no.  I didn’t even think about including anyone else,” I answered, somewhat sheepishly.

I’m very aware of how much I need people in the abstract – I need a faith community, friendship, and laughter.  But I’m so hesitant to admit that This Person or That Person is necessary to give me strength.  Partly this is pride, and the desire to move forward under my own power.  But mostly this is fear…if I admit that I need someone, what happens when they leave, or I leave, or our relationship changes?

My “leaves,” aka things I want to change.

  1. Be Present:  vibrant green leaves attached to a limb
  2. Love Deeply: bright red flowers blossoming
  3. Forgive:  a single leaf growing from a dead limb
  4. Give Up Control:  leaves falling from the tree

These are things I have always struggled with and wanted and worked for.  The “be present” is a fix to my anxiety.  I am always looking two steps ahead, anticipating problems and worrying about things that may never happen.  Although planning is definitely a good thing, I want more and more to appreciate where I am right here, right now.  The “loving deeply” part kind of goes along with that…I am learning to embrace vulnerability, to let people know me and trust that it will be okay.  I don’t want to worry about what other people think, but instead jump into loving people fiercely, no matter what.

I once read about the INFJ “door slam” that describes how my personality type is super kind and accommodating and flexible…until the pain builds to a point where we’ve had enough and we just decide to cut someone from our life.  This is a pretty rare occurrence, but it’s super true for me:

They do not want to cut people from their lives, especially not someone they once cared deeply for. The INFJ often takes time to come to the decision that they must move on from a relationship. They take their commitments very seriously, wanting to build strong and lifelong connections. Because of this desire the INFJ truly does not want to have to let go of their relationships.

When the INFJ finally comes to the realization that they must move on, this looks nothing like the previously emotional state they were probably in. Once the INFJ has made the decision to shut someone out, they are very level-headed and rational. This may be frightening to people who are so used to seeing the warm and gentle INFJ. They often appear very collected and even cold when they are set on slamming the door on someone. They know what they have to do, and this often takes removing all emotions from their actions. They have to shut off from this person, almost as if they are dead to them.

Slamming a door shut on a relationship and keeping myself safe from pain is often a healthy reaction to a bad situation, but sometimes…I need to learn to forgive.  Maybe that means keeping the door closed, but I need to learn to stop glaring at it.

And then there are the leaves falling away, and giving up the desire to control everything and everyone.  Sometimes leaves die, and that’s okay.  Sometimes people don’t do what I want them to do, and that’s okay.  Sometimes life doesn’t go the direction I expected, and that’s okay.  Autumn is one of my favorite seasons, and I need to see the lack of control in my life as something equally as beautiful.  Giving up constant control is actually a form of freedom.


I really loved my first art therapy session.  It was a great way to connect with “A” and to dig deeper into my own issues.  I’m so grateful to have a job that is so rich in opportunities for growth.

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