On being in the Process

Published by Nela Dunato on in Mindset, Personal, Thoughts

The Process. The growth period. The transformation.

We all love being at the end of it. It’s a badge of honor to be through with the Process. To be a survivor. A winner, even.

Being in the middle of the Process? Not so much. We don’t see other people processing publicly*, so we assume they must be less messed up than we are, and for them the Process is quicker, easier and less messy.

It’s not. Being in the Process sucks equally for all of us.

I’m currently in one such Process (and I feel like I’ve been processing something non stop for the past, uh… forever), and as much as I’d love to be over it and share with you the valuable lessons of it because I’m oh so smart and experienced, I’m just not ready for that yet.

That’s the nature of the Process. It lasts while it lasts. No hurrying things up by wishing it would be over. It will be over when it’s over. And likely, it will never be over because just when you’re on the cusp of getting this one thing straight, another thing will pop up to take your attention away. C’est la vie.

So here I am in this Process, and I want to collect my thoughts on this and share it with you, if it’s something you need to hear.

* (There are some folks who do it, and I love them for it – namely Havi Brooks and Andrea Schroeder. If you enjoy my softer stuff, you’ll love theirs.)

On being in the Process

Two ways of processing

There are two interpretations for the words Process (noun) and process (verb) in this context.

My mentor and his mentors use the word Processor for the person that facilitates someone’s emotional healing through the means of using certain techniques, and when the technique is being applied to the individual’s problem, it’s called processing. The healing itself is called a Process.

It’s quick, efficient, and has a clear beginning and the end to it. It’s contained, like a test tube experiment. We know why we’re here, and we know what we’re doing. There are always surprises, but there’s also a happy end. The client goes home with one less problem to worry about.

Then there is the other kind of processing, more subtle that happens on it’s own. Like when you say:

“This terrible thing happening has shocked me so much, I’m still processing it.”

Meaning, you’re allowing yourself to go through a natural Process that will help you come to terms with what is going on. You’re not facilitating, encouraging, or opposing it. The Process takes its course.

Both have their place. You’re not any worse off if you don’t know any fancy self help techniques to help you deal with your chaotic life. You can mix and match different bits into your unique processing recipe, as I am.

I will say that techniques do come in very handy when the world seems to be falling apart around you. (If you feel the pull to know more, ask me about it. I don’t like proselytizing.)

Some choose processing as a way of life

For me, it’s a part of conscious living. I keep questioning my beliefs and replacing them with more useful ones, redefining my relationship with objects, concepts and people, and being on the lookout for signs of things that make me truly feel alive.

For some, it may seem like a self-centered way to live. I grew up in a culture that feels this way, but that same culture screwed me up so much, and now I feel it’s my responsibility to stop the cycle of screwing up the younger generations with me. If I cannot be a person who is capable of providing love fully and unconditionally, I refuse to procreate.

That may seem a bit over the top. That’s OK, I’m fine with being the over the top kind of person. (I kind of can’t help that.)

I’m a scientist at heart, and I enjoy understanding how things work. I take pleasure in understanding how I work. Part of the pleasure is the mystery, and the anticipation of its solution. Once the mystery is solved, there’s a moment of high, and then the magic is gone. We now know how this thing works. On to the next mystery. On to the next Process.

Living like the Process is just a natural way of life is the most helpful way of coping with it. There’s never a lack of things to process – just a lack of will to look at what needs to be processed. (Hello TV, Facebook, games, smoking, alcohol, drugs, overeating, sugar, whatever your choice of distraction is. No judgement. You’re ready for processing when you’re ready.)

There are different ways of processing

Meditation. Yoga. Playing sports. Writing. Playing music. Talking to friends. Dance. Therapy. Punching a pillow.

For me, it’s been drawing and painting. Art helped me heal from depression and it became the catalyst to everything that is good in my life.

And then things changed: I started hanging out with other artists and designers, and we exchanged feedback. The feedback was helpful. It was well-meaning. I learned a lot from it. But this messed with my personal creative practice – with my ability to draw and paint without fear of performing well. I couldn’t draw anymore without being concerned about anatomy, composition, light sources, color harmony, and all the other (very helpful) considerations when you’re trying to make good art.

I started trying, instead of just doing.

Then making art became a part of what I do for a living. My personal creative practice became tainted with expectations, because now people were paying attention to me. And if they don’t like something I do, they’ll comment on it and I’ll feel bad that I haven’t tried harder. That I haven’t done better. Instead of helping me grow (through constant practice), it made my practice less enjoyable.

I’m no longer able to process things through art. I’ve found other means and it’s been very effective. I’ve been able to overcome depression once again, this time with other tools. But I still miss processing through art, because I enjoyed it so damn much while I was doing it. It was my favorite thing in the whole damn world, and I still say it is, but it’s not happening. It’s just not happening.

So this is what I’m processing right now. I’m trying to gently untangle expectations from my art, and in doing so I’m also untangling expectations from my entire way of living. I’m giving the middle finger to everyone who has an opinion on how I should be doing things better, and instead I’m just doing things my way.

I’m giving myself a container to do experiments in.

It’s a container of time and space, and a big part of the experiment is identifying the perfect conditions in which my creativity thrives.

  • Do I enjoy working in my studio or on the kitchen table more?
  • Do I prefer silence or music? Which music?
  • Does looking at other people’s art increase or hinder my motivation to create?
  • Does the size of paper matter?
  • Which time of day I prefer?
  • Do I want to share my work-in-progress and look at likes and comments before it’s done? Or do I want to keep things private until it’s finished?
  • Do I want to keep all the results of my personal creative practice private for an extended period of time? For how long?

All those variables. All those questions. It’s a bit overwhelming, all those unknowns. But that’s the nature of the Process. Being in it feels like the sort of mush that caterpillars turn into before re-creating their entire organism into a different form. Messy. Risky. Scary.

On one side of the Process is a frustrated, confused, and creatively stifled me.

At the opposite side of the Process is a different kind of me – one that is living with full lungs, unfazed by other people’s opinions and expectations, and channeling her core Being – not just here and there (getting the glimpse of what is possible), but almost the entire time.

It’s a long way from here to there, and there will be surprises. I’ll get things I haven’t bargained for. I’ll be asked to let things go, and it won’t be easy. That’s the nature of the Process.

The Process is a lonely thing

It’s difficult to explain to others. Since the majority of humanity is not even familiar with the term and what it means in this context, saying you’re in the Process just adds more question marks. (Dear friends, I hope you’re reading this so that you know what I mean when I say I’m in the Process.)

Talking to others about the Process is so difficult, because everything is still up in the air, and we don’t have the answers. We don’t want to be pushed and prodded to find them at the other person’s convenience.

Sometimes other people asking us how the Process is going is just adding to the annoyance. It’s like a little kid in the back seat asking “Are we there yet?”

Not helpful.

If you choose an active facilitation of the Process – through any kind of talk therapy – then yes, the other person asking questions is going to be a big part of that. But as a person who wants to know all the answers NOW, it frustrates me to no end when I’m asked a question I don’t know the answer to. It obstructs the Process. It’s not the approach I enjoy – it triggers my self defense mechanisms and I clam up. (That’s what I learned from one such Process. It’s very helpful information – it’s good that now I can ask for what I need.)

Talking about the Process is scary and difficult. That’s why most people rather not talk, and that’s why everyone feels like they’re the only one going through this.

There’s a different way of talking about the Process

The kind of processing I tend to enjoy looks more like this:

  1. Set an intention for a resolution (ex. redefining my relationship with art).
  2. Allow for things to rise to the surface in response to that intention.
  3. Deal with things that rise up with a processing technique of my choice (journaling, PEAT, EFT, art journaling, talking it out…).
  4. Examine the impact that this thing that showed up had on my intention.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4.

I can’t talk about the Thing I want to resolve, because it’s a big black box. I can’t see everything that’s in it yet. The closest I can come to understanding it is at the very end of the Process, when things have unraveled and the path behind me is clear. That’s the nature of the Process.

For the time being, we can dissect the components that show up and call for attention.

Like that overwhelming feeling the other day when I went for a walk. The path to the forest was blocked with construction work, so I had to walk down the street. I felt fearful that someone is going to yell at me because I’m too close to their yard or something, and just because I look weird. Which was tied back to a memory when some elderly woman did yell at me because I leaned my bike against her fence, and who knows how many other memories when someone misunderstood my intentions and yelled at me for no reason.

And you might ask, how the hell is being yelled at because people think you’re crossing their boundaries related to your art? And you’d be surprised.

To me, art is not just a pastime – it’s my spiritual practice.

Everything that affects my life, also affects my art. Every memory I have of my 30 years of life (and the memories I’ve blocked off) affects my art.

So we can’t talk about the art thing. It’s too big. I can’t explain the 30 years of my life to you, I can’t even make sense of it all myself. But we can talk about the fear of being misunderstood and yelled at in public, because that’s clear to me. It was a clue that this is where a part of my healing lies. I have no problem talking about that shame and fear. It’s contained in a test tube and I can shake it and add drops of other substances to it, to dissolve its power.

Next time we see each other, we might talk about an entirely different matter. This fear of being yelled at in public will be a non-issue. But we still can’t talk about the art thing. Something else will come up as a result of my asking, and we can talk about that, if you want.

I don’t know when I’ll be ready to talk about the art thing. Could be a month. Six months. A year or more.

The Process takes the time it takes, and nobody, not even I, can know how long it will last. It may well last until the end of our lives.

That’s the nature of the Process.


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12 responses to “On being in the Process”

  1. Another beautiful post Nela. Such good questions {I have a bit of a thing at the moment about asking better questions}, and essential, I think. I’ve stopped sharing paintings midway through unless I’m happy with where they’re going because otherwise people leave lovely comments and it messes with my process. If we don’t know ourselves how can we know what will work best for us? I feel like I’m in a constant state of process, and that there are always several going on that overlap and are different sizes, a bit like a really messy venn diagram.

  2. Thank you so much, dear Tara!
    I loved your posts that shed light on your recent process and thought that we ought to have more of this, we need to share this (not necessarily the details of our process because it’s difficult to write about that, but the feeling and the pattern of processing) so that others know they’re not lost.

    Oh, that’s an interesting take on sharing WIPs.

    That is a great visual of processes :) yeah, it sounds about right for me as well. Always in the processes, but the focus changes from moment to moment.

  3. I love your posts. :)
    I have a totally different perspective on parenthood, though. I would love to take you to lunch one of these days – not to change your mind, mind you, but to discover what it is that changed my perspective from one exactly like yours – verbatim – to the as of yet undefined one that I’ve become aware of while reading this post.
    Thank you! :)

  4. Thank you, Mihaela! :)
    We definitely have to meet up and chat unrelated to stuff we usually chat about. I’d love to hear your perspective, since you’re at the other end of it. I only know what I’ve witnessed as an observer and I know that’s pretty limited.

  5. Oh, Hugs for your Processes, Nela!

    Could you, would you, care to share any parts of the *epiphanies that helped so much with my information addiction* that you mentioned over at Havi’s?

  6. Hi Karen, so glad to see you here again! :) And a big hug to you.

    I’ve actually written a huge long post that’s related to that, but I haven’t published it yet (tonight or tomorrow maybe?) – so until then, here’s the gist of my epiphany:

    – working on your stuff is WORK that takes a crapton of time and energy, and this means you literally *don’t have the time* for reading every blog, book, watch every video, listen to every podcast.

    – this means you need to get extra selective about what information you’re consuming. If you know that certain blogs are full of drivel that never tell you anything new, it’s time to unsubscribe. In Havi’s terminology, you clear up all the “80% Yes” from your feeds until only “120% Yes” remains.

    – This is something that happens naturally – it should not feel like you’re depriving yourself of anything. You just realize “oh, I actually don’t get anything nourishing from this. Unsubscribe!” – easy as pie.

    I hope this is useful and relevant to you – I’d love to hear your thoughts :) and of course, if you happen to check back when I publish the post, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, too.

  7. Thanks, Nela…i am going through something like that…i am sorrounded by good people, a family who loves me. Lately, i have noticed a loss of confidence in my artistic abilities. I have the tools, the media, the studio space, so it is very hard to take. I do have illnesses, but i take medications for them. So yes, I am going through The Process too. Thank you again for making things clearer. Keep it up!

  8. Hi Christine,
    I’m sorry to hear you’re going through that! But I think it’s totally normal for artists to go through phases when they doubt their skills, vision etc.
    Hang in there, and trust that The Process will take you where you need to be :)

  9. This post rocks! Strong words Nela. I am very focus on creative process and majority of my art is created on my personal need to indulge myself into that process, coming up with some answers through my art. Hence the reason I also refuse to do comissions (people think I am mad;) as working with expectations messes up with the beauty of the process…Thank you for again long and rich post!

  10. Thank you, Honorata!
    What you describe – that’s been my way in the beginning, but unlike you, I wasn’t wise enough to realize that money would complicate things so much :)
    It’s wonderful that you’re aware of the true meaning of art in your life, and honor this process.

  11. You gonna laugh now Nela but one of the reasons I didn’t went business route was your post on the blog from a while ago! It was about the question if “I should make art a business or leave it as a hobby”….If I ever decide to make any money (as never say never!) from my creative persuits I would think about …guiding into process:)

  12. Haha wow, I’m amazed that my post played a role in your decision! :)

    My thoughts are going in the same direction – it’s been showing up lately with more and more opportunities to teach (not my art processes, but design & marketing stuff) and it feels very rewarding. We’ll see where that road takes me…

    I’m looking forward to hearing how your collage art journaling project goes! ;)

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