Juniper Reed has identified as the type of person to become an “art therapist” since long before they knew what that meant. Their values and lived experiences have shaped them into someone who is constantly growing and striving to help others, especially through creative means. They have overcome significant adversity to get to this point and are beyond excited for what their future holds. They want offer immense gratitude to their loved ones for helping them find footholds in this journey as well as sincere thanks to all of those who have been role models while they nurtured a sense of identity and were able to become exactly who they want to be in this world.
“You Are So Much More Than Any Story.”
I meditated on this message for six months as I feverishly created response art in the form of self-portraits to each of the modules in the Experiencing ACT From the Inside Out: A Self-Practice/Self-Reflection Workbook for Therapists (Tirch et al., 2019). I began by contemplating one of the biggest struggles in my self-concept and created my first work: “Stuck in the Muck”. This image represents the feelings I had when I started this voyage of self-discovery and self-acceptance. I was scared, weighed down by my trauma, and felt quite literally “stuck”.
As I moved through the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) workbook, I confronted my psychological inflexibility and my tendency to ruminate on the past as well as worrying about what the future may hold. I was introduced to the ACT Matrix, which aided me in working through my troublesome thoughts as they occurred, and this processing can be seen in the central piece of my series: “The Heart: it Grows”. I continued on, absorbing the messages about living in the present moment and learning about the self-as-context.
The self-as-context is often referred to as the “narrative self”, which is the story that our mind creates about who we are and where we’ve been. In response to this topic, I created “I am the Entire Ocean” which was a reflection on my tendency to focus on waves of emotion and the crash they make on the shore. I am everything—every wake, every tide, every ebb and flow, and every swell that feels like a tsunami. I am all of it, and am greater than the sum of my parts.
As I persisted through this painful growth period, I contemplated the challenge to look into the eyes of my past self and approach them with compassion and acceptance. This spurred the creation of “Radical Vulnerability” in which you see, for the first time, a look into what is beyond my adopted cartoonish glasses and red hair motif. It is a look into my own eyes during a remembered period of what I had thought of as “failure”. Drawing my eyes for the first time felt like ripping myself open and exposing my flaws for all to see.
Further exploration of my body behind the surface revealed itself as I began Values Authorship, which is a deep-dive into the aspects of yourself that inform your decision-making and can serve as a guide through life. I was encouraged by the statement, “This is your life and no one else’s” as I composed my way into a sense of clarity that is shown in the piece “I am the Author”.
This piece gave way to the final one in the series: “Stop Fighting.”
Creating this full-color, entirely rendered image of myself—up close and personal—was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, when considering the work leading up to this point. Within it, I have depicted the bog from the first piece in the series, with myself outside of it being guided by my clarity to stop playing tug-of-war with the things that leave me feeling stuck.
This is me: I am who I choose to be.