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  • Dorothy Mackintosh

ROAD MAPS: When things don’t go according to plan

Many of us like to plan ahead, plan out our lives, set our goals and work out how to achieve those goals. We may have had a vision of our lives since childhood and for many, things work out just fine. So, what happens when things don’t turn out the way we dreamed, when life experiences take us down a different road? Are we able to cope? Or do we fall apart and realize that we don’t have the skills to adapt to the new reality? Unhappiness, depression and anxiety can take over and may lead to loss of self-esteem, dysfunctional relationships and maybe even addictions.

We feel inadequate because we aren’t coping, while well-meaning family and friends tell us to stay positive and be grateful for what we have. Of course, this is not helpful and really ends up making us feel worse about ourselves. Perhaps what we need to do is find a safe space where we can talk, make art and process our feelings of grief and loss. Find someone who will listen to us and validate our feelings because the loss of our vision can leave us feeling bereft and let down.

Self-compassion can be hard to find and is one skill that many of us struggle to learn. Giving ourselves a break and accepting that if we don’t have the right skills to handle what life throws at us, it’s OK, we can still learn them. It’s never too late. Making the choice to find what we need is the first step. In the context of art therapy, we can take a map that we no longer need and work towards integrating our vision with our reality. We can artfully and symbolically add roads and new destinations, the old ones will still be there. With the support of a professional art therapist, we can learn to say goodbye, and ultimately, keep moving forward.

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