All art aims to do is capture and express the human condition from infinite perspectives.
Photography, like all other artistic forms, contributes to that aim everyday and plays a fundamental role in forming how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. When used as a therapeutic practice photography introduces presence, or what you could call mindfulness, awareness, and self-expression.
For me, there’s nothing like going for photowalks. I love it. It’s my way of processing, visualizing, documenting, and exercising all at once. Sometimes I go for hours. My favorite time to go for a photowalk is when I’m exploring a new place, but lately walking around my own neighborhood is enjoyable and adding up to a personal project from my time here in New England.
Photography is therapeutic in more ways than one and I invite you to experiment for yourself. Pick up a camera (yes your phone works) and be intentional. Start a personal project or reach out to people you know in a collaborative effort. Explore your neighborhood as a tourist, pose for a self-portrait, take pictures of your family and friends. Document your daily life- not for social media- but for reflection and the pure enjoyment of it.
Here’s a look into my process: Photowalk Therapy Part 1 – Bristol, RI
How do we heal (and ultimately grow) from the emotional pain in our lives?
Emotional and psychological pain is as much part of the human condition as happiness and glee. Life is the great tragedy haven’t you heard? And on the tail end of that tragedy a person must come to terms with the pain they suffer, or suffer further still, holding onto past events.
Nobody (but a poet) ever said, ‘I wish I could feel this pain for the rest of my years’ and yet the sad reality for many people is that they carry emotional trauma with them late into life. With what we currently know about mental well-being, in addition to all the literature on self-development, spirituality and philosophy, you would think there would be enough helpful/practical information to prevent pain all together, but needless to say there isn’t.
I wish tragedy was something we could fully recover from, but the truth is we’ll never again be the person we were before the series of unfortunate events unfolded. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing as long as we eventually come face to face with our pain instead of masking our pain.
Coming face to face with emotional pain isn’t easy. Confrontation is what we try to avoid by drinking alcohol, taking drugs, gambling, compulsive behaviours around food, technology/media, sex, and other stimuli. We glutton in pleasure to avoid feeling our pain. This is what I call masking emotional pain. Instead of feeling what we truly feel, we distract ourselves with a temporary sense of satisfaction in order to trick ourselves into believing that everything is ok when, infact, everything is not.
If you think about it, masking emotional pain is a natural defensive mechanism the self-preserving psyche uses to minimalize pain. However, what ends up happening is that our actions become habits and what started out as just one or two beers becomes beer after beer, cigarette after cigarette until our whole life-style is based around consumption for pleasure and or numbness. We all have our specific crutch we use to relieve the stress in our lives. Your job is to identify it and observe your behaviour around it.
Identifying your crutch shouldn’t be a difficult process. It helps to imagine yourself from a third-person perspective. If you could watch yourself from a birds-eye view, would you be happy based on how you deal with emotional pain, stress, problems in your life? Have you adopted a negative habit(s) to cope with these problems? What are they? Write them down.
Habits are difficult to kick which is why when trying to change them we should focus on one at a time. If we overwhelm ourselves by trying to kick two or three simultaneously, it’s likely that we’ll relapse and have to start our progress over. For the best result, focus on the one habit that you feel consumes most of your time and energy, that’s most detrimental to your well-being. It’s more than likely that once you change your worst habit the others will whither and auto-correct themselves.
The solution you came here for
Practicing new and healthy habits is going to allow us to better cope with emotional pain. It does not fix or make disappear the emotional trauma. Instead, we work through the trauma by confronting it and experiencing it directly, without a substance or dopamine-dependent behaviour to alleviate it in any way. An impactful life-style change is not a miracle drug, it is a commitment to self-empowerment and responsibility.
It seems counter-intuitive to bring emotional pain to the surface of your conscious awareness when it’s easier to just numb yourself, but how long can you go being unhappy? Happiness is the essence we’re discussing here and allowing your internal pain to surface is a sign you’re ready to begin healing.
Healing from emotional pain demands a life-long dedication to three things: problem solving, the truth and well-being. Anything that subtracts away from finding a solution to understanding why we feel the way we feel, and psychological/emotional stability must be identified and cut out of our lives immediately.
It starts with you. Don’t take the easy way out and spend your life side-lining confrontation, feeling sorry for yourself, and avoiding personal transformation. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask what type of person you want to be. You know you’re strong inside, you’ve been through so much. Now pull through and realise It yourself.