An Artists’ Perspective on the Paradoxical Theory of Change

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An Artists’ Perspective on the Paradoxical Theory of Change

When feeling stuck, frustrated and unsure of what to paint next, exploring a different approach can bring up unexpected results.

An Artists’ Perspective on the Paradoxical Theory of Change As a retired Gestalt therapist I lived and worked with a form of Gestalt being for 15 years; making contact with others in a therapeutic way by respecting and accepting what is. Not pushing for change in myself or in others but embracing what is in the ‘here and now’. Exploring the way of trusting the universe to provide what is needed, when it is needed, and not just wanted. I met and was supported by some extremely loving, patient and experienced tutors and therapists who challenged my criticisms, my off key thinking and what must have been my annoying habit of jumping in too quickly with reactive responses to others and wanting a quick response in return. Its is this need to push for change and needing it quickly that I am focusing on in relation to living as an artist. The Paradoxical Theory of Change The paradoxical theory of change, developed by Frederick Perls from his Gestalt therapy, implies that change occurs when ‘one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not’. That change comes not from pushing or persuading another person to do what you want them to do, instead change occurs from being aware of ones own way of being with self and when in contact with others and the environment. Many of my tutors explained this in simple terms with this analogy; Imagine paddling in a boat up a river against the flow of water, never feeling as though you are ever going to get there, it being a struggle to get that thing you want, mentally and physically struggling to reach that other place. This would be pushing against what naturally is. Instead imagine going with the flow of water, allowing the stream to take you to the destination you trust will be the right one and in the time it takes you to get there however long that may be. This occurs by letting go of the need to change a force that you cannot and in doing so you arrive at a destination with more ease and change occurs. In relation to being an artist this plays out in numerous ways; the most frequent occurs when I am in between paintings. That void of time that I can feel engulfed by which undermines the amazing works of art that have clearly been created but suddenly don’t exist any more. When one painting has come to an end and am wondering and often worrying what to do next and if I will ever sell a piece of work or ever get a commission again. When feeling anxious and trying too hard to visualize the next piece and it never comes. Instead when I accept the need to rest and allow myself to do others things like reading the book I keep meaning to, meeting up with people that I haven't seen for a while and internally start to trust that the next painting will come to me rather than me going to it, it is then that opportunities and ideas for paintings arise. An example of this occurred recently which prompted me to write this article. After moving from North Wales to live in Cheshire I had a run of commissioned pet portraits. I then went on holiday to the French Alps, while there I discovered Paul Cezanne had painted a scene near where we stayed and were travelling past on a ferry. I felt inspired, so on my return painted ‘Lake Annecy’ followed by ‘Amigo’ after a trip to Bridlington, both were small canvas’s at 10”x14”. It was after this that I started to think I was following a theme of boats and water and tried to find what to paint next by taking photos of boats on the lake where I live, looking through some old photos and generally feeling despondent that nothing was inspiring me to paint. I was also feeling very tired from working some late nights in the local bar so I decided to have a full day off. I read the book I’d recently bought and slept. The next day I went to explore a nearby town called Nantwich to look for a picture frame for a print of Lake Annecy. While there I met the owner of the framers shop and having seen my work asked if he could pass my details onto a couple who where looking for an artist to do a portrait of the their dog. This boosted my confidence and helped lift my mood. In keeping with letting go and accepting that I will reach a place that is meant to be, I acknowledged that they may or may not get in touch. On my return home I continued to rest before starting my evening shift in the bar. While I was resting and dosing I let go of over thinking and wanting to control which way my art would go. When I had a thought I noticed how I felt in relation to it, if it felt good I trusted it would happen at some point in my future, if it felt negative I let it go. The one good feeling from a thought that came, was that I’d like to start painting on bigger canvas’s again, possibly painting people. That evening in the bar, half way through the night someone came in and requested a large canvas commission of their wife, the kind I’d never done before. I felt excited, amazed and totally trusted that the universe had been listening as I’d let go and trusted the flow of time. The following day as I was out exploring a little town called Crewe, I received a call from the couple who were looking for an artist to paint their daughters dog as a present for her. I was delighted to accept the commission and thanked the Universe for the work. I sometimes call this process God’s will, or a spiritual universe providing what I need when I trust in God. Also as Synchronicity (a meaningful coincidence) a linking up of moments resulting from letting go and being aware of the ‘here and now’. Whatever the term used the process as it unfolds never ceases to amaze me, I am reminded time and time again to keep trusting that creative work will arrive as it is meant to and will less likely arrive if I try to force it. Imelda Deheer. 2016.
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