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When Monsters Become Allies...
"Octopus Woman/Ms. Peacekeeper" two sides of shadow flip doll by Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
It's difficult enough when the world outside is challenging...
...but it can become even more difficult when the voices inside seem to be working against us. We have all been in those situations where it seems like our worst enemies are ourselves. I certainly have. We find ourselves repeating too-comfortable patterns of behavior over and over, even though they never seem to get us the results we want. It takes courage and spaciousness to be able to step back and begin to witness ourselves, and especially to begin to witness those parts of ourselves that lurk in the shadows, our "monsters."
Doll artist and participant in the Fall 2020 Befriending Our Shadow course, Joanne Delaplaine, describes her doll this way:
"Octopus Woman can change shape at a whim, squirt ink in her own defense, and escape any trap humans can set. Ms. Peace Keeper thinks making peace is more important than troubling the waters. She knows she has much to learn from Octopus Woman, and knows all life comes from the sea. They are bound together by their curiosity."
I was honored to be able to witness Joanne's process as she created this doll during the Befriending Our Shadow course last fall. When participants approach the making of their dolls. they often think of one side as the ally or guardian and the other as the shadow or foe. At first the octopus came to Joanne as a scary creature, with sharp teeth and a threatening demeanor. Something to avoid and representing fearful elements in her life. But as she dove deep into her process, working with the doll and developing a relationship with it, she began to find that the octopus was shifting, changing its shape, as octopuses (or octopi!) do. She flowed with the process and eventually discovered that the octopus was her ally and friend, as she describes above. She became open to learning from Octopus woman as a part of her willing to challenge the side of her that values peace more.
I am generalizing this phenomenon of seeing monsters within ourselves. I am not sure that this is what was happening in Joanne's case-I'll let that part of her story stay private. Though as I said, it has certainly happened in my life that I find myself battling inner monsters-I am often reminded that we teach what we need to learn. I recently came across a poem, that I share below, which describes in a different way, that sense of having a "monster" within. Strangely, his imagery showed up in a doll of mine many years ago. That to me is part of the mystery of the creative process, how we discover something in ourselves and then find an echo of it in the outer world. Jung called these echoes, "the collective unconscious." More about this below...
"Tumnus, not a Faun" a healer doll from 2015. You can see the panel depicted at right, peeking through on the back of his cloak in the first image. More about this below...
What does it mean to befriend our shadows?
Irish poet John O'Donohue says it very well in the following poem about coming to terms with trauma. In this poem he captures so well that feeling of finally being ready to confront that difficult memory, whether it is a trauma, a loss, or anything that is painful to remember. Something that we have been carrying around as an extra weight on our hearts, or as he says it here so well, "...And whose branches your awakened hands/
Now long to disentangle from your heart."
Working with the shadow is like that, a tender, delicate process of turning towards and beginning to develop a relationship with what we have been hiding from, a part of us that was within us but that we haven't wanted to acknowledge. Here he describes it as a way of getting distance from something that was too close. In this case, in order to develop a relationship with whatever was being carried around from the past, the subject of the poem had to step back and gain distance, and "disentangle" the "branch" from her own heart. Tender and powerful self surgery in a way!
This is a spiritual process, requiring patience, blessings, support and kindness, best done in the company of others.
For Someone Awakening To The Trauma of His or Her Past:
For everything under the sun there is a time.
This is the season of your awkward harvesting,
When the pain takes you where you would rather not go,
Through the white curtain of yesterdays to a place
You had forgotten you knew from the inside out;
And a time when that bitter tree was planted
That has grown always invisibly beside you
And whose branches your awakened hands
Now long to disentangle from your heart.
You are coming to see how your looking often darkened
When you should have felt safe enough to fall toward love,
How deep down your eyes were always owned by something
That faced them through a dark fester of thorns
Converting whoever came into a further figure of the wrong;
You could only see what touched you as already torn.
Now the act of seeing begins your work of mourning.
And your memory is ready to show you everything,
Having waited all these years for you to return and know.
Only you know where the casket of pain is interred.
You will have to scrape through all the layers of covering
And according to your readiness, everything will open.
May you be blessed with a wise and compassionate guide
Who can accompany you through the fear and grief
Until your heart has wept its way to your true self.
As your tears fall over that wounded place,
May they wash away your hurt and free your heart.
May your forgiveness still the hunger of the wound
So that for the first time you can walk away from that place,
Reunited with your banished heart, now healed and freed,
And feel the clear, free air bless your new face.”
― John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
In the image above of "Tumnus not a Faun," the felted panel on the back of his cloak depicts a woman having branches pulled out of the top of her head. They come out of her head but I very much resonate with the image of disentangling a branch from my heart as well. I love when these kinds of synchronicities occur in art making!
Befriending Our Shadow 2021 now live and ready for registration!
A doll-making e-course about befriending our shadow, using tenderness and compassion to connect with all parts of ourselves. Flip dolls are two sided dolls connected at the waist. These two-sided dolls have the capacity to capture divergent views of reality, dark vs light, joy vs sorrow, love vs alienation. In this course you will have the chance, through exploring and befriending your shadow, to discover hidden strengths within. And at the end of the course, your doll will represent and unite both shadow and light.
Early bird price deadline March 29
Sign up deadline April 2
Course starts April 5
Course ends May 29
Click here to find out more and to sign up.
"I really wanted to explore my own current state of mind and I had a feeling that the class might encourage the deep dive I needed. These simple expectations were met and the more hidden expectations emerged and were met as well. The classes followed a path that was like a stairway down towards an internal place where the psyche and the soul met somehow…”
Barbara Sobol, participant Befriending Our Shadow, Fall 2020
"Carl Jung said 'The shadow is where the gold is.' The process of working on a flip doll in a community of doll-makers under the tutelage of Erika Cleveland was a wonderful way of accessing shadow parts of my personality, those parts of myself I have trouble acknowledging and seeing clearly…”
Joanne Delaplaine, participant Befriending Our Shadow Fall 2020
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!