Using collage as an integrative tool of self-discovery.
About ten years ago, I noticed increased worry connected to aging. Part of me was not willing to accept that it is a natural cycle in life. That part wanted to engage in actions and protocols that would stop aging. Of course, at the same time, I knew that aging is natural and is to be allowed.
Creating collages helped me normalize the aging process and be less inclined toward fear and worry around it.
I can’t say for certain why the process of collaging feels therapeutic but here are some guesses. While making a collage I first spend time selecting images that I feel relate to an issue, memory, or transition that is coming to mind with some persistence. After finding images that convey something of the subject I am working with, I often take time to cut them out of the background image they were part of. Carefully cutting them out, offers me adequate time to linger with the images. Not that I am trying to figure anything out but a time to see if anything wants to come out of shadow and bubble up to the surface of my awareness. Next, I experiment with ways to combine the images to create some sense of whole out of many different images. Some collages have as few as two images. I have made others that combine ten or more images.
Sometimes after creating a collage I do some journaling to stay with the theme I am contemplating to see if something that is more literal than symbolic will arise.
Here are some of the collages and a painting I made about aging. As symbols of aging came forth to be seen and held, parts of me relaxed around aging. These were created over a span of ten years with some quite recent. I am sure that I will create more. Aging is ongoing. I will continue to lean into its reality as part of embodiment.
This image shows a young woman in the prime of her life, poised with the confidence and promise of a life filled with hope and happiness. In her shadow is the aging that will inevitably come. In her youth, she looks away from aging.
The Cailleach is revered in Celtic traditions. Sometimes referred to as the “hag,” she is respected in many ways, including for bringing winter’s dormancy each year. Although this was not a collage, I allowed the images that emerged to do so organically, not always sure what the next symbol in this creation would be.
Older women are contemplating and looking back on their childbearing years.
This collage helped me find happiness and love that remains even when aging advances.