“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Over ten years ago, I made myself a deck of collage cards very similar to Seena Frost's "Soul Collage Cards" but without the various "suits." My "Self-Discovery Cards" answered many of my life’s questions and visually revealed my unfolding life story. In the article below I share how I collaged my way into self-understanding.
Below is a sample Lesson from the e-course 100 Days of Art Journal Therapy
This expressive art exercise invites you to create visual representations of different parts of yourself so that you can better understand your inner landscape.
- Old magazines and books
- Scissors and glue stick
- Matte board/cardboard cut to size for your cards such as 5x7 inches or 6x6 inches if you prefer working in a square format.
- Photocopies of your collage cards so that you can write and reflect upon them in your art journal.
Method: Mapping Out Your Inner World
It is interesting to consider that you have a treasure trove of sub-personalities that live below your conscious awareness. Each personality part has its own goals for your happiness, and this often sets up conflicts within. You can preoccupy much of your life with inner struggles between opposing parts of self, not really understanding why you want something and then sabotage having it.
Your various parts of self might drive you crazy in their disparity. As you collage all of the various parts of yourself, you will find many polarities in your thinking that need to be sorted out and reconciled. To sort your inner conflicts it is helpful to map out your inner world into "parts," so that you can start to recognize what aspects of your psyche are dominating your awareness at any given moment.
Recognizing your different parts of self is exciting work because it helps your inner incongruities to make rational sense. It can even be fun to identify your destructive parts of self because it dissipates their power. It is helpful to understand that even your "negative" parts of self are trying to get you closer to happiness, even if their methods are misaligned. Seeing your inner conflicts in visual form can be an enlightening way to reconcile, direct and integrate your different drives, fears, needs, and desires.
The Ease of Spontaneous Collage
Making spontaneous collage cards can help you to map out your subconscious belief patterns so that you can work with them in a constructive way. Seena B. Frost, the originator of the method called "Soul Collage," wrote two informative books on the process of intuitive collage that divides the cards into structured suits if you prefer specific instructions.
For myself, I was not drawn to create suits when I made my own deck of cards. I simply felt called to sit down when I noticed an emotional pattern dominating my psychology, and make a spontaneous collage card with imagery that felt strong at the moment.
Emotional Mapping with Your Cards
I went through a period of two years where I felt called to intensively map out my psyche through my collage cards, and I discovered at least 50 different parts of myself. Since then I have added a few new cards a year and taken out a few cards that no longer feel "emotionally charged" from my deck.
Every time I experienced an emotion that felt unknown to me, I would pull imagery from magazines that resonated with the feelings in my body. If you feel drawn to try this method, I encourage you to have a collage table ready with all of your materials so that you can sit down and collage from the immediacy of your emotional states.
Naming Your Cards
It is helpful to name the various aspects of yourself on the back of each card. Each part of your personality has a life of its own with certain needs, goals, likes and dislikes. Naming these parts of yourself will support you to witness them without becoming them.
As you come to identify the patterns of your psyche, you can record your insights in your art journal. I found it interesting to photocopy my collage cards and record what emotional needs each card was expressing in my journal.
As each emotional need is healed and integrated into your conscious awareness, your cards may no longer be "active" and new layers will arise to heal and form into new cards. When you consciously meet your emotional needs, you will feel less conflicted, and your collection of emotionally "active" cards may simplify.
Using Your Collage Cards as an Awareness Tool
Often, when I am in a conditioned pattern, the image of a particular collage card will immediately come to mind as visual resonance to my emotional state. As you become more conscious of your emotional patterns, you gradually will become larger than your emotional states, and they will not overwhelm you so much.
As a growth tool, collage cards can help you to find the antidote to unfulfilled emotional needs. For every difficult emotional pattern that you have, there is an opposite life-affirming pattern that you can newly condition into your consciousness.
Here are just a few of the personality parts that I have discovered through my collage process!
1. The Witness
The Buddha statue with his hand up as if to say stop, the woman with her eyes serenely shut, the temple in the background. There is a centered, objective, clear observation of thoughts and emotions.
2. Inner Masculine - Building Strength
The strong male hands minister to a drowning boy. The mother is nurturing her baby boy. Verdant growth, emerald greens and sky blues. Strength is ripening. The vitality of the birds, butterflies and animals and the sturdiness of the stone figures imply strongly forging ahead to create in concrete, beautiful and abundant ways.
3. Inner Mother
White flowers evoke a startling purity and the iridescent red corridors speak to the rich unfolding of my heart. The image of the mother nurturing her child unconditionally evokes the possibility of loving myself completely.
5. The Limited One
The three goldfish swim around in a bowl going nowhere. The powerful figure with his head hanging low is brought to his hands and knees with crushing feelings of limitation. Yet there is the choice of strength and growth at all turns. The powerful face above looks forward with absolute certainty and strength.
6. The Abundant One
Bright butterflies, flowers, and jewels, a colourful lantern all evoke opulence and a carefree abundance. There is a choice implied. The contrasting image is of bare branches, empty inside a woman’s body. Yet an opulent hand points to the intuitive mind as a reminder to see the higher possibilities in every situation.
7. The Adventurous One
As the inner journey continues the mystery deepens. The cat stares enigmatically to the furthest reaches of the North and South Pole of the soul. The waters are deep and the lands are distant. Roots, new growth, break though ice though what has previously been frozen and inert. Feelings have more freedom and flight and fluidity.
8. The Romantic One
There is a wedding of the inner and the outer selves. The African mask glares with fierce determination to no longer abandon the true self in true love. In tranquil water and blue sky, there is utter relaxation and freedom within this vow. There is a return to the original self prior to pain and problems. The higher spiritual self that witnesses our life cannot be hurt, and it innately understands emotional well being in a love relationship.