I like creating series of the same mold in different colors, or mixtures of different colors in a single piece, to represent the ephemeral and overlapping nature of emotional experiences.
While I’m sure everyone’s therapeutic journey is different, for this autistic and C-PTSD-bearing artist, getting better has been about letting go.
During the 2020-22 pandemic, I found the easiest way to let go was through the Sims. I could play out other families and scenarios to rewrite the trauma of my past, as well as the madness happening during Covid-19.
So I made a set of galactic cat trays in the spirit of the Sims color scheme for moods, hoping to take my practice of letting go a bit further:
- Red: Anger
- Orange: Anxiousness
- Yellow: Embarrassment/Shame
- Green: Happiness
- Blue: Sadness
- Violet: Focused/Aware
Then I made a brown cat for the feeling of nothingness or naturalness; a metallic cat for feeling disassociated; and a black cat for luck and faith in the future.
I listed them and didn’t sell one; so now they’re on my walls, which is just as well. They remind me of the past the same way a diary entry would—emotional experiences left behind me.
Oversimplified vs. Overlapping
In childhood, I navigated adults who oversimplified their emotional experience and, as a result, were unhappy.
For instance, the guardian who is blisteringly angry was not as happy as the guardian who knew how to hold anger and compassion at the same time.
Children are sensitive to their guardians’ emotional experiences; so when a guardian oversimplifies their emotional experiences, this causes a child unhappiness, too.
On the other hand, the guardian who can inhabit overlapping emotions,—and let them go, since “this, too, will pass”—provides a safer environment.
I painted gold (compassion and love) on the red cat (anger) to represent anger and compassion—rather than the “seeing red,” monotone anger of the pre-painted resin cast.
I also included yellow, since anger is often intertwined with embarrassment, shame, guilt, and such.
Oversimplification applies to toxic positivity as well
Monotone anger is not the only path to unhappiness.
The guardian who demands superficial happiness is, in reality, anxious; true happiness isn’t accessible through force.
They fear what reality is like when they are not in control, so they beat a drum of “stay happy,” “stay happy,” “stay happy,”—their child’s agency be damned.
Beneath the demand for happiness, or the oversimplification of the emotional experience as “just stay positive,” an anxiety exists within the guardian that, sometimes, passes to the sensitive child.
I made the orange cat with a white backdrop, since it is trying to mask its anxiety with positivity. The cat glows in the dark, revealing that the white body is just as orange as its anxious border/aura.
Dispelling the illusion
By living through the lens of only one emotion—the incredibly angry person; the numb and absent person; the positive-vibes-only person—we force the other layers of our emotional experience out of our view, beyond the scope of our newfound illusion.
We have to dispel the illusion, and realize that our mind and body is simultaneously experiencing many emotions, (all the time,) (as part of the natural order of things,) to find the peace that leads to sustainable and authentic (and coming-and-going) happiness.
It’s one of the many ways we must relinquish control of everything but our observational awareness and doing our personal best—letting happiness be as free and changing as the rest of our feelings.
I painted the yellow, or embarrassed, cat with purple, showing that by letting go of our shame, and working through our trauma, we become aware and focused.
All our emotional experiences are temporary.
They are often happening on top of one another, in a flow.
None of them are bad. They just are.
No force is required.
No mask is needed. (Except during a pandemic, good grief—)
We can let go of anything and, inevitably, everything.
No pain or joy is eternal.