The Feminist Group: We grieved, we listened, we wondered and we dreamed.
Reflections from each of us…
We grieved, we listened, we wondered and we dreamed. Our conversations this Spring surrounding creativity, trauma, and feminism within the church have left me with more questions than answers. It brought to light the searching, tension and unraveling of what I once knew of myself and the continued search for something new. I’ve asked: What does it mean to be a woman both disturbed/repelled by the church and still filled with longing to belong within the Body of Christ? How as an artist do I begin to articulate the inner stirrings of the Spirit in the midst of my suffering, while my imagination presses against the confines of ecclesial walls?
In Poesis, Levine talks about the crisis that occurs which cannot be met by our old persona causing our sense of being to be plunged into disintegration and disarray. This void, this loss of meaning and purpose is precisely what is needed for new growth.
“Creation depends upon destruction, a willingness to give up a previous pattern and to experiment with a new form. Letting-go, the experience of emptiness and the emergence of the new characterize the creative as well as the therapeutic processes” (Poesis, 23).
As we sat with our stories and shared our hopes for the work ahead, I have wondered what does letting-go look like to make way for the new. What does integration look like for my fellow artists and myself… to reintegrate the pieces and reimagine a home for ourselves, in our creative bodies and with one another.
I began this trimester deeply conscious of spaces of pain in my body, and an expanding capacity to turn with desire towards the stories that suffering speaks to my body, mind, and spirit. What felt crucial in this mindframe was to be seen and witnessed in my trauma, particularly by other women. Noticing that all the trauma texts listed for this class were written by men, I resolved to uncover voices that weren’t present, and to pursue the solidarity that I felt hungry for.
The first step was to be surrounded by dear women who mutually felt a need to invite, learn from, and wrestle with female voices. Together we created the feminist group, but did so with a relentlessness to incorporate the female researchers, therapists, and theologians who give presence to trauma and re-imagine healing spaces where the pain of the sufferer is met in trust, presence and an intersubjectivity that offers a suspension to polarizing beliefs and simply is with another person. One of the voices most crucial to my experience of this was Elaine Scarry in her book: The Body in Pain. Alongside of the creative imagining and presence offered me by the women in my group, this text joined me in my certainty and doubt, and offered me a liminal space. Here also we brought curiosity towards each other’s stories and imagined the unique branches and foundations that make up therapeutic healing.
In everything, we each held a voice. Sometimes spoken and sometimes quiet, but containing the weight of passions, losses, resilience, and responses to deep harm — in both self and other. More than anything else, I realized how necessary continuing to form these communities of witness are to my own healing and curating and maintaining visions of theology and psychology.
I began this term holding hope for integrating feminist theology with my own spirituality and stories of trauma. Though the readings from feminist theologians did not tap into my spiritual practices with ease, the work the women in my group and I entered into was nourishing and relentless. We spoke and listened and acknowledged our deepest desires for our therapeutic practices to hold more for our future clients. By diving into Poesis, our souls were accelerated to embrace greater ideas and hopes for artistic endeavors in a therapeutic framework. As I thought how this work integrates with feminist theology, I was led to our feminine bodies. As women, we hold traumas men cannot or will not. These burdens are a collective ache, beckoning us to vulnerability with our femininity. Spirit Sophia remains close in and for us, and will continue to speak through intuition. As she witnesses our pain and healing, so our shared pains can draw us into the stories and intimacy with other women.
As a group of all women, we discussed the loss we feel within theological structures and conversations to experience embodied emotion. We also spent some time discussing the ways in which talk therapy fails when working through trauma. Through reading Poises and talking about art therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, as well as several other modalities, we began to see there are therapies available to help trauma-processing in embodied non-verbal ways.
We also discussed experiences of feeling dismissal from Christian community toward our own art that does not immediately point to the Resurrection. We discussed how the church seems only interested in certain types of art forms and mediums, and the immense loss we experience in the midst of this.