Sunday, May 2, 2010

Learning to Like Yourself

Hello Everyone~

First of all, THANK YOU for all of the wonderful support! I am very honored and excited to share these wonderful experiences with you. :D

This week I have decided to talk about body image issues. Darcy has years of experience with this topic and I believe it is an important one because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, it affects us all at some point.


"The problem of body image dissatisfaction is sadly epidemic in this world. To dislike your own body is to dislike yourself. A negative body image needlessly diminishes the quality of your life."
-Dr. Joyce Brothers


Having been involved with the modeling industry since age 16, I can firmly say I know exactly what it is to struggle with body image issues. In the past I have struggled with mild body dysmorphia and anorexia (although it was nothing ever life threatening), and never once over the course of my career did I reach my (or was it my agent's?) goal weight of 105 lbs.

The closest I got was about 110 lbs. I am 5'9".

At the age of 16, when I first began modeling I was healthy and fit, but I needed to lose 10 lbs (according to my agency.) If I did, they would send me to Japan. "When you are walking down the runway," they said, "you have to be a hanger for the clothes and when you are stomping, nothing can jiggle."

This is an image of me at about age 16, before I ever seriously started dieting (photo by Beth Studenberg).

Fast forward to three years later. This image is from one of the first test shoots I did with Marco Berardini upon signing a 3 year contract with Next Model Management in L.A. I believe the expression says it all.

Constantly trying to adhere yourself to somebody else's ideals can be exhausting; not to mention devastating for your self-esteem.

Long story short, in a world that demands perfection, it is almost impossible not to have body image issues these days. Between plastic surgery and photoshop one thing is quite clear, the body images being hurled at us by major media are not real.

They are snipped, plumped, sucked, injected, shaped, lipo-ed, airbrushed, etc.... (you get the picture). Regardless of that knowledge, it seems to be that this unrealistic ideal has become widely in demand and accepted.

So, what can we do?

We can educate ourselves on how to appreciate a healthier & more realistic body image, and we can paint.

Deepok Chopra states, "The way we apply pure potentiality is through the experience of silence... As I cease from judgement, I create silence in my internal dialogue and when I create silence in my internal dialogue I get in touch with the field of pure potentiality."

I believe the key in what Chopra says is to cease judgement in order to experience our true potential. This is especially true in the context of body image in which we are constantly judging ourselves.

-Learning to Like Yourself-

Before I move on, in order for you to evaluate where your own body image is at I would like you to answer yes or no to the following questions from "The Body Image Workbook" by Dr. Thomas E. Cash.

-Are there aspects of your physical appearance that you really dislike?

-Do you think more about what you dislike about your looks than about what you like?

-Do you spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of your looks?

-Are your looks really important to you in determining your self worth?

-Do the same old negative thoughts about your looks keep popping into your head and playing like a broken record?

-Do you spend a lot of time, effort, or money attempting to "repair" your looks or trying to achieve physical perfection?

-Do you often search for the ultimate diet, the most effective body-shaping exercises, the right clothes, or the most flattering cosmetics or hairstyle?

-Do your feelings about your looks get in the way of accepting yourself or enjoying your everyday life?

-Do you have difficulty accepting the body that you live in? Would you rather be living somewhere else?

Dr. Cash states "Your affirmative answers to these questions indicate that your body image presents some difficulties for you. You are not alone... [For some people] dissatisfaction is more extreme and is associated with a range of emotional and behavioral problems. Having a negative body image spawns other problems in living. Following are some of the most frequent troubles that can and do arise. Often a poor body image lowers self-esteem. Poor self-esteem means feeling inadequate as a person; it means you have low self-worth and don't highly value yourself. As much as one-third of your self-esteem is related to how positive or negative your body image is. If you don't like your body, it's difficult to like the person who lives there- you!"

Transformation of your feelings and attitudes towards your body will only change through a paradigm shift in which you learn to view your body with respect instead of resentment.

It is possible to develop a deep connection, and love for your body with art because it is the expression of what is within you. The more we give to something and invest our time in it the more we will begin to see ourselves in it and really develop a connection to it. When you give to something like a painting or a drawing you create an experience of connection with it that can be very powerful and healing in the limitlessness of free expression.

Darcy Lubbers has noted in her book, Adult Art Psychotherapy, that "Mitchell (1980) and Bruch (1978) view artwork as a valuable tool for anorexic patients to gain self awareness. Crowl (1980) presents examples of the anorectic's art as being related to three areas of conflict: self-image, self-esteem, and control."

I cannot agree more. Below is a painting; the first self-portrait I did in my college level oil-painting course. It was a final project and as part of the assignment we were to give a presentation to the class explaining the concept. Mine for this painting very much involved the self-awareness of my healing; a transcended acceptance of the imperfections of my body with a new found appreciation of my flaws, much different from my previous state of resentment for all that denied me of being "perfect."

Interestingly enough, it is the non-threatening nature of art therapy that makes it so successful. Darcy states, "Creating a trusting alliance is often extremely difficult with eating disordered patients because of their strong resistance to treatment. They view their illness as ego-syntonic and mistrust those who may "take it away from them,"... The immediate, enjoyable art experiences foster feelings of trust and positive relating, which are necessary before important theraputic work can begin."

On that note, may we not be blinded by what we see; but instead empowered by what we know.

-Lisa Talavera

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My 1st Week & 1st Post!!!!

Hello Readers~

Welcome to my very first blog post!

First, I am going to start out with an Art Therapy quote of the week & short reflection; then I'll move into an intro about the field of Art Therapy, Darcy Lubbers, and myself. :)


"If young people are not given the opportunity to work through their grief, they "may become stuck in their grieving, locked into damaging ways of behaving that can hamper their development" (Pratt, 1998, p.157). However, when dealing with pain and loss, there are often no words to explain the extent of the suffering- this is when the language of imagery becomes essential (Ganim & Fox, 1999)."

- From 'Expressing the Inexpressible: The Resilient Healing of Client and Art Therapist by Heidi Bardot. Source: Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.

Well, first of all- I can't even begin to explain how much I relate to this quote through my own experiences. Depression is an ugly thing. It can lock you into anguish, rhumination, and all together self-stifling behavior. Being locked into "damaging ways of behaving"- as Bardot puts it, is probably the worst outcome of depression and prolonged sadness.

Depression - as opposed to happiness, leads to a 'narrow and focus' style mindset; while happiness on the other hand leads to an 'open and build' style mindset. So, you can see how depression is plausibly adaptationally inadvantageous, while on the contrary happiness is adaptationally advantageous due to it's nature to seek and build. This is why healing becomes crucial- not only to your mental state, but to your ability to literally survive and adapt in civilization and day to day life.

So, how does Art Therapy play into all of this? Bardot continues to explain "As is often the case, a grieving person cannot find the words, but the same person can choose a color that portrays the feeling or an image that expresses the emotions (Bardot, 2004; Malchiodi, 2008 J.E. Rogers, 2007; Seftel, 2006).

As is further illustrated by Darcy Lubbers on the treatment of eating-disorder patients with Art Therapy, "The art psychotherapist has an advantage in developing a trusting relationship due to the non-threatening nature of the art process. It removes the constant pressure for patients to talk about themselves." This simple fact- that Art Therapy removes the constant pressure for patients to talk about themselves is monumental in its affects. It is interesting to speculate how many people may avoid therapy because of this pressure, and therefor how many people may be relieved to know a different option is available that provides a form of healing without the constant pressure of having to speak about yourself.

-An Intro to Art Therapy-

Now, a little about Art Therapy.

The field of psychology is about 100 years old, and Art Therapy could be called it's grandchild- although it is a completely different field within itself. It is still being actively researched and developed today. It first began emerging in the 1940's and 50's and can be defined as the use of creative expression as a primary form of therapy; with creative expression taking on many different forms and mediums from drawing & painting to even sculpting.

The American Art Therapy Association defines Art Therapy as a "creative process involved in artistic self-expression [that] helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight." I find the primary appeal of Art Therapy in it's holistic nature, for as long as man has existed he has been painting on cave walls and expressing himself, so what better way to come in touch with our primal nature than to heal with artistic expression?

-Darcy Lubbers ATR, MFT-

My mentor, Darcy Lubbers, is an all around amazing and resilient woman. I am so grateful for her guidance. I find the serendipitous story of the way she came into Art Therapy completely touching and inspiring and would like to share it with you.

As a young adult at the age of 19, Darcy experienced one of the most difficult tragedies one can face, the sudden and unexpected loss of her brother who was only 21 when he passed. Darcy was very close with him as they were planning an extraordinary trip to travel around the world together just before he died. As you can imagine, it hit her with such force that she decided to take some time off from school. During this time she became immersed in her painting- hours would go by that felt like minutes- and in her expression she felt vibrant and alive, and so it was that her inner voice naturally guided her to the healing nature of the arts.

As a child, Darcy had always possessed a natural intellectual curiousity about life and the questions of human existence and science. However, during this time of grieving she found herself facing many spiritual questions, and felt a healing calling within her which resulted in her transformation into the field of therapy. She had a desire to work for the peace corps and was placed through their domestic agency V.I.S.T.A. (Volunteers in Service to America). They soon found the perfect match, placing Darcy as an Art Therapist in South Central Los Angeles, to work with developmentally disabled adults. This later led to her involvement with the Art Therapy Program at Loyola Marymount University (previously Immaculate Heart College). After obtaining her masters degree, she published her first book with Helen B. Landgarten, Adult Art Psychotherapy.

Since then Darcy has had her own private practice, conducted educational workshops worldwide, and continues an overall large involvement with the study and practice of mind body healing. She is currently working on a second book which will appeal both to the public at large as well as to her academic peers, concerning her research and work with body mapping and its benefits. You could call her an innovator, a survivor, or the embodiment of resilience and progression- but if you know her, she is humble and enigmatic in her energy- she is Darcy- and I am so thrilled & grateful that I've met her.


-Lisa Talavera (me)-

While we grew up in different generations and on opposite sides of the United States, I feel very much in common with Darcy when it comes to art and Art Therapy. I too have always been fascinated by questions of human existence and space and time, and came into pursuit to become an Art Therapist quite serendipitously.

In highschool, I did a philosopher report on Jung and was immediately fascinated by the subconscious and his study of the symbolism of dreams. It was not until college however that I discovered Art Therapy, quite unexpectedly. I had no idea the field even existed.

During my sophomore year at San Diego State University, I became overwhelmed with my generalized anxiety and panic attacks. I would have severe attacks that would build up for hours and peak for ten minutes. I could feel my heart pounding so loud in my chest I thought it was going to explode. I trembled and my palms became sweaty as I began to experience depersonalization (being detached from oneself) and a complete feeling of losing control. The only way I can describe this feeling is complete and utter despair. It was horrible. I began seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication for it, which helped slightly, but didn't make the panic attacks go away.

I took art classes as a child and always enjoyed crafts and projects but hadn't done any sort of drawing or painting since then. One day I had an idea to decorate my room by painting something on the back of my bedroom door. I played loud piano music, (my favorite song of all time) clair de lune, and just disappeared into my painting. I painted for hours and became completely immersed in what I was creating. It was calming and soothing and almost surreal. It saved me. It made my panic attacks go away.

I was flabbergasted that this was what finally cured my anxiety. Curious if this could work for anyone else, I began researching "art as therapy" on google, and found the American Art Therapy Association online, a small list of schools that offered a Masters in Art Therapy, and a handful of websites offering information on the field. I was thrilled, and so, similarly to Darcy's story, I was naturally guided by the healing nature of the arts.