Work in progress: Reduction to One
Moving through spaces and uncertainty has always been my weakest point. Since childhood, I had a hard time enduring changes, sudden events and moving. Foreign walls, unfamiliar surroundings. That way of life is unsettling, as a result of which you literally fall apart. When I was little, I remember filling my pockets with items to calm myself, and I continue doing this, but now each item has a meaning, representing a certain event from a series of my lifetime. Those materials allow me to quickly assemble a home’s “skeleton” and put me at peace. Moving to Saudi Arabia, searching for my place in an unfamiliar and sometimes a harsh world, desert, isolation from my culture contributed to an even greater fixation of this way of dealing with anxiety. Over the years of traveling, a list of items has formed that are always with me. They give me a sense of home, but they also carry disturbing traumatic experiences that I want to make sense of with the “Reduction to One” exercise borrowed from existential psychology. In my project, I investigate the number of symbolic things, their history, and then reduce my volume of important/necessary. The “Reduction to One” method is a psychotherapeutic exercise to de-identify the traumatic experience and my entity’s core. This exercise consists of compiling a list of at least 12 items that are important to me. Then I cut the list into strips and arrange it in a descending order of importance. One by one, I exclude the strips from the list and reflect on how I would feel if this item was not in my life. It is very important to not just think about what would happen in the absence of each symbolic item, but to feel the moment of possible exclusion, to remember the feeling. It was not that difficult to let go from the first couple of symbols. But the further I moved, the stronger and more unbearable my feelings became: the experiment mercilessly cut off what seemed to be an unshakable part of my life, leaving less and less room for the familiar and known. As a result, only one, most important thing to me was left — prayer beads “Pearls of Life” — a symbol of synthesis, concentration, prayer and a new symbolic order.
Work in progress: Desert of the Soul
The desert is not lush like a forest or a jungle. It is very intense and mysterious in its life forms. Many of us have lived desert lives: very small on the surface, and enormous under the ground. La Loba shows us the precious things that can come from that sort of psychic distribution….so often a woman feels then that she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woman who will go 501 miles, there is something more. A small brave house. An old one. She has been waiting for you. Some women don’t want to be in the psychic desert. They hate the frailty, the sparseness of it. They keep trying to crank a rusty jalopy and bump their way down the road to a fantasized city of the psyche. But they are disappointed for the lush and wild are not there….don’t be a fool. Go back and stand under that one red flower and walk straight ahead for that last hard mile. Go up and knock on the old weathered door. Climb up to the cave. Crawl through the window of a dream. Sift the desert and see what you find. It is the only work we have to do.
You wish psychoanalytic advice?
Go gather bones.
-Clarissa Pinkola Estes
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