'Behind Brown Eyes'

As I said in a post I made when I first was working on this piece, I borrowed the title from a song by The Who’s,”Behind Blue Eyes”. It was one of the songs in the soundtrack to both, my spirals in and out of crises, and healing from old, unresolved trauma. 

I started this piece of art as a response to the course I taught for St. Stephen’s College here in Edmonton, on Trauma Informed Art Therapy. I sought to go beyond the theory of trauma informed therapies, to bring the students a hands- on experience of learning and DOING art therapy with clients with real traumas- simple, and layered complex trauma. I did find this somewhat challenging at the tail end of online teaching due to COVID. But I embraced it, in the way I do many things, with my annoyingly optimistic worldview: ‘what better time than now, when the whole world has experienced the trauma of COVID?’. I endeavored to introduce elements of theory and infuse it with the experience of the work with humans- some reeling with pain, others more contained, but hurting nonetheless. 

I draw from my own experiences of waves of wellbeing, crashing into the crisis of another exposed layer of trauma. I can hear the words “If I swallow anything evil, put your fingers down my throat. If I shiver, please give me a blanket; keep me warm, let me wear your coat.” 

The piece itself speaks to the torturous task of peeling back the layers of remembering, to expose my truest heart. There is an obvious reference in the lyric of the song to some of the ways I coped and hid in plain sight. The art making was a visceral response to the courageous conversations I have heard, both among the students in this course and within circles around me. Pastel that I could work with my hands, glued and collaged pieces, sharp elements, all are part of my experience as a transforming human. The gauzy film created by drugs and delusion, threatening to permanently occlude my vision; and the sharpest of tools necessary for me to pry my eyes opsn to see.



I imagine all the suffering humans that need soundtracks in their lives to act as a lifeline. I reflect on how art- ALL THE ARTS: music, movement, drawing, writing… along with true connection with other humans, coalesced to salve my wounds and give me a voice. I understand that in allowing myself space to internalize the tools of awareness of presence and cognitive understanding of my choices, I have given myself agency in my own healing. 

None of this happened without the many loving others in my life. But none of it happened either, without my own presence, my ability to show up. 

There’s more- how I have finally come to a place that food, restriction and purging thereof, and weight, etc is not the dominant narrative of my life- but that’s for another time. 

For now: BE KIND

Because, to paraphrase the song, ‘Noone knows what it’s like to be the bad girl, to be the sad girl,

Behind Brown Eyes.’



Beautiful art and writing 🙌🙌


Lovely reflection. I’d love to hear more about your experience teaching online. I trained my staff online and did supervision online, I found it quite freeing. The energy sure was different. I’d love to know how you drew people in. It sounds like there was a great deal of practical skill taught as people transformed their trauma.

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