The Art of Noticing: Exploring Shifts in Attention

Theoretically I am a strong believer in carving out creative time. I believe as a practice, it aids in self-reflection, cultivates connection and in turn, empathy. It has the power to remind us why we live. In the last several years though, I have struggled to make time for creative expression and prioritize it as the life blood that it is.

Of late, I’ve noticed myself grasping at artistic straws – a sure signal that my psyche is longing for more. I’ve found myself attending art walks, perusing books of art work, attending CE workshops that utilize creative expression, devouring poetry, and losing myself in listening to and playing music.

In depth psychotherapy*, recognizing repeating signals can be the doorway to change and growth. I wonder what I might discover if I followed this signal farther somehow? Is there something intangible about my lived experience that can only be accessed through creative channels? Am I seeking connection with the collective unconscious, a bigger more ineffable whole? Might I need more slow flow and fewer to-do lists?

These are all queries that will hopefully lead me to understand the thirst for creative outlets that I have noticed and help my being “level up.” By leveling up I mean increasing self-awareness and discovering insights or needed/relevant action steps.

When you find yourself noticing a shift in your attention, I recommend exploring it with the following steps.**

  • Notice the difference without judgmental – what shifted? from what to what?
  • Identify themes in the shift
  • Think about your lived history with that theme
  • Think about your cultural/ancestral history with that theme
  • Think about the symbolism of that theme
  • Consider to what degree those interpretations feel congruent and fitting, like the final piece of a puzzle, a light bulb or “aha,” moment.
  • Or are they disjunctive and somehow out of step with your usual experience?
  • Ask yourself where or when in your life or world you might need a tiny bit of that theme or symbol?
  • Anchor the theme (if it feels right to you) with a quick drawing, a song, a poem, a small hand movement or a rhythm — to remind you of ways to recreate it in yourself

*Depth psychotherapy (includes psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, Jungian or analytical psychology and process-oriented psychology or process work)  is based on two key propositions:  1. that the unknown or less familiar aspects of ourselves often hold the keys to healing; and 2. that the problems or conflicts that bring us into therapy are pointing us towards our own wholeness.

**The word steps implies linear directionality, or the completion of one part or project before moving onto the next. This process does not have to be that cut-and-dried. Allow yourself to move through these steps in a way that feels meaningful, not dictated necessarily by the order they are listed in above.

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About Elizabeth Duke, Psy.D.

Elizabeth Duke joined the LifeWorks Psychotherapy team in July 2015. She has been trained as an Equine Assisted Psychotherapist and also has had a therapy dog. Clients who are experiencing depression, loss, or long standing difficulties in relationships sometimes find a therapy animal can offer a unique channel of healing that may not require words. Elizabeth is a member of the American Psychological Association; Division 32, Society for Humanistic Psychology; Division 44, Society for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues; and Kink & Poly Aware Chicago Therapists (KPACT).