Carrie's Blog

Tips to support your journey

Transforming our Inner Critic

May  15, 2019

This month we explore how to transform our relationship to our “inner critic,” that voice in our head that makes us feel bad when are less than perfect, don’t live up to real or imagined expectations, or disappoint others. Our “inner critic” develops in childhood when we internalize the judgements of our caretakers, teachers, peers, and society.  The more oppressive our environment is, the more relentless and merciless our inner critic becomes.  Left unchecked, it can inhibit our learning, our healing, our ability to have healthy relationships, and our potential for success.


As we become aware of this voice, we begin to see how we created it to stay safe, avoid shame, and stay in the good graces of the adults on whom we were entirely dependent as children.  As we witness how this part kept us safe, but now oppresses us with fear and negativity, we develop compassion for ourselves, soften our hearts, and embrace all of ourselves with loving kindness.


This month’s video takes us through a process of meeting and transforming our relationship with our “inner critic” to live more dynamic, free, and connected lives.

Client Success Story

“For a long time, I held the familiar barrier of my inner critic around me. My desire for growth never subsided, but was filtered through the lens of lack and negativity rather than love and support. This barrier grew in me like mold, eventually infesting my everyday life with self-doubt and crippling thoughts. Understanding why this inner critic part of me became so loud in its attempt to protect me was like bringing light and air into a dark, moldy room. By bringing loving awareness to this part of me, I’ve learned to bring compassion to the little girl I was, who was hurting, but created this voice to make sense of the world.” - Adriana

Adriana explored how her “inner critic” took on the pain of her difficult childhood and invented ways to keep her safe.  She expressed how there was a bulls-eye target on this part of her that took the blows from others and kept her safe through isolation (Image 1). She explored how this part of her developed a life of its own, fueled by pain (Image 2). Finally, she imagined connecting with and honoring this part of herself, and imagined her life more stable, rooted, and connected (Image 3). She experienced compassion for this part of herself and felt relief and calm after the experience.



What are ways in which I can reduce the power of my “inner critic” that seems to come out of nowhere to hijack my days with negativity?


This is a great question. The “inner critic” is tied to shame, and when we are in a shame spiral we lose our ability to nurture and care for ourselves.


In addition to doing the above visualization that brings compassion to the critic, some other practices that may help include:


1) Tune in, breath, notice what you are saying to yourself and label it: “Oh, that’s my inner critic right now.”


2) Notice the feeling you are having – sadness, fear, loneliness, etc., that is covered up by the inner critic’s harsh voice, and give yourself permission to feel the feeling rather than listen to the harsh voice covering it up.


3) Separate your larger observer self from the inner critic and ask the critic to please step aside, “thank you very much, you can relax, I’ll take it from here.”


4) Create a symbol that personifies the critic – Create a puppet, a clay figure, make a mask, sculpture, etc., and get to know the messages of the inner critic.  Dialogue with this symbol and see what the deeper needs are.


5) Imagine putting all the inner critic’s thoughts into a container, or toxic waste can…separating these thoughts from more constructive, helpful thoughts.


6) Imagine the critic going off stage, into the darkness, becoming less and less present, its voice becoming softer and softer.


Be creative, loving, and kind towards yourself in this process no matter what you choose to do in daily practices, therapy, self-care, etc.


Renewal -  Becoming More of Who You are Meant to Be

April  23, 2019

I apologize that I’m late in launching the April newsletter.  After filming this month’s video, the juniper pollen overwhelmed me, and I quickly succumbed to allergic bronchitis. I’ve also been busy moving my riverfront office, with its fair share of logistical challenges, to a more functional, reliable, and spacious office on Aspen Drive. I’m sad to say good-bye to the river, but  happy to offer more art-making space for clients to experience the wonders of art as medicine.


In alignment with the theme of renewal, this month we explore how unprocessed feelings and unexamined thoughts can get stuck in our bodies and minds, limiting our growth and constricting our sense of what is possible.  Conversely, if we tune into our bodies and acknowledge our painful feelings and “stuck-ness,” we can more easily envision who we want to become during the next phase of our development. It’s as if our bodies and minds are like the earth’s soil that needs to be tilled, the rocks removed, to make way for new growth.


In this month’s video, I take you through a process of envisioning who you are becoming.  As you go through the video, notice what comes up that you may need to let go of, clear yourself of, shift…  Healing ourselves is always a process of becoming more self-aware, honoring our feelings, examining our limiting beliefs, and developing the skills we need to become happier, more whole, and more connected humans.


Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Client Success Story

Adriana’s “check in” drawing shows negative energy in her belly and her mind and shows her heart contracted and “squeezed” (image 1).  After facing what was in her body, she visualized meeting her future “self” (image 2) and felt a sense of empowerment at imagining who she wants to become.  Her final image shows her future self-merging with her present-day “self” (image 3). There are seeds in her right hand suggesting the potential for new growth when she is ready to plant them. After the visualization she felt grounded, present, powerful, and hopeful.


“Approaching life from the inside-out has felt like shifting from a state of constant instability to being grounded in my truth and my inner vision. I have been able to know gratitude on the experiential level, not just the intellectual. This healing process has supported me in continually returning to the present moment to feel deeply connected to myself and life."



Why is it important to visualize who we want to be?


“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild, but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth.  If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fell therein and will continue to produce their kind.”


Some of the reasons why visualization helps us heal and become more of who we want to be:


1) The brain doesn’t differentiate between a real memory and an imagined one.  As an imagined memory or picture of the future self takes hold, our physiology responds and can help shape our experience of what is possible.


2) Imagination is one of the quickest ways to relax. When we are relaxed, we can change our physiological state including blood pressure, immune response, pain threshold, and blood flow among many other biometric parameters.


3) Imagination helps skills develop faster – Many world class athletes include visualization as part of their training as it helps provide a template for sustained motivation.


4) Visualization programs our inner GPS as it communicates what to focus on to the mind.  The object of our focus determines our perception of reality.


5) Visualization helps to override limiting beliefs and opens us to other possibilities.


Embodiment Leads to Empowerment

March  5, 2019

The winds of spring are kicking up, the snow melting, and the light changing.  The earth, long dormant, will soon sprout new growth.  My practice is swelling with individuals seeking their own growth – to improve relationships, create more happiness, experience more love in their lives, actualize their dormant potential.  It’s an exciting, but challenging, time on planet earth and whereas the negativity seems to have increased of late, I’ve also witnessed that people’s threshold to wake up, heal, and embrace life has been lowered. In my office, that often translates into people “getting,” and feeling “better” faster.  The stakes, but also the opportunities for awakening seem to be high during these turbulent times.


Recently I came across an article saying that the future King of England, William, along with his wife, Kate Middleton, and his brother Prince Harry have created a non-profit in England called “Heads Together,” to explore mental health issues in England. Raised in a culture of stoicism, these modern-day members of the royal family are using their own personal experience of tragedy and triumph to look directly at the costs of unprocessed feelings on society.  William states: “I know that if I hadn’t taken the action that I did then, I would have definitely gone down a slippery slope and I would have been dealing with mental illness on a different level.” In a recent interview, Harry shared: “I can safely say that losing my mum at age 12 and therefore shutting down my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a serious effect on not only my personal life, but my work life as well.  I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions. “When I read this article, I KNEW we are indeed in different times.  Rather than seeing “mental” health issues through a lens of stigma and shame, we MUST get more comfortable with witnessing our own and each other’s pain and releasing stuck feelings.


Too often unprocessed trauma and loss as well as the busyness of life cause us to leave our bodies (also called dissociation) and with that experience we lose power, presence, and purpose.  The video below shares a way of coming back into the body that we can do daily for ourselves to offset the imbalance of mental activity we engage in our modern technological age. Let’s all get grounded in our bodies, behind our eyes, and connected to our authentic power.

Client Success Story


“Approaching life from the inside-out has felt like shifting from a state of constant instability to being grounded in my truth and my inner vision. I have been able to know gratitude on the experiential level, not just the intellectual. This healing process has supported me in continually returning to the present moment to feel deeply connected to myself and life."

Molly began our work together looking outside herself for validation, approval, and direction  (image 1).  She had experienced a life threatening physical injury at age nine that ruptured her experience of feeling safe in her body.  With this estrangement from herself along with her unprocessed feelings of fear, sadness, and hurt, she constantly projected rejection and criticism from the outside world.  As she has learned to release her emotions and ground herself back in her body, she now knows what it is like to live from the “inside out”, rather than from the “outside in”(image 2, 3, and 4). By coming home to herself, she now feels more connected, more present, and more able to nourish rather than punish herself.  She is learning to listen closely to the sensations of her body, and rather than reject it, she tunes in to what her body needs, respecting its’ amazing intelligence (image 5). What had once been a battleground, she is now embracing her body as a sacred vessel of wisdom, insight and power.



What does Locus of Control mean and how is it related to healing?


In my work as an art therapist and life coach, as I witness clients take responsibility for their feelings and their journeys towards wholeness, I often introduce the concept of “locus of control.”   A term originally coined by Julian Rotter in the 1950’s, LOC refers to an individual’s perception about the underlying causes of events in their lives such as whether a person believes their destiny is controlled by oneself or by external forces. Research shows that it is a sign of psychological health to perceive that one has control over those things which one is capable of influencing.  Here in lies a challenging place in healing work.  For people to really get better and embrace their lives, even if they were victims of abuse, they must choose to get better, learn skills for higher functioning and exert influence over their lives.


The Serenity Prayer is relevant for understanding the process of exerting influence where you can and letting go of the rest: “Grant me to courage to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  My job as a facilitator of growth is to help people identify where they CAN make changes, focus on those areas of possible empowerment while learning to let go, grieve, and forgive those people and events they cannot control.  Fortunately, as an art therapist I can always refer people back to their ability to create, through images, a new way of being.  With this process people see where they are creating more negativity for themselves, work on transforming those areas, and focus on themselves and their ability to create.  This is a pivotal moment in the work where people make the shift from VICTIM to CREATOR.


Accessing Your Heart's Wisdom

February 1, 2019


At The Heart of the Matter


With Valentine’s Day in the air, this month our thoughts turn to love. In fact, in the work I do leading people on transformational journeys, love is the most consistent theme: learning to love the self, finding love, trying to help those we love, deepening love, expressing love. Due to less-than-positive childhood experiences, many of us learn to shut down our hearts as a means of protection—but this makes it challenging to feel compassion as adults. I call this “contraction of the heart.” In my role as art therapist, clinical counselor, and life coach, I often have people draw from their hearts, talk about their hearts, or do the simple exercise in the video below. This brings forth expansion of the heart—elevating self-esteem, reducing stress, increasing self-love, and improving relationships.




Access Your Heart’s Wisdom

Client Success Story


"When I first started my journey with Carrie I was consumed by fear and overcome with darkness in both my mind and heart.  With the healing work  I've learned to trust and love myself which is making a huge difference in my life."

Talking isn’t the only way I lead clients to understand their emotions and heal. Sometimes, words just aren’t enough. That’s where art therapy comes in. Lorraine came into therapy anxious, depressed, and showing signs of love addiction. What little self-esteem she had stemmed from the attention she got from a certain unavailable man or how important she seemed to people she deemed more powerful than she. As a result, Lorraine was deeply divided in her mind and heart. Over the course of weekly therapy, she was able to feel and process unresolved childhood traumas and learn to trust her heart and the wisdom of her body. Gradually, her relationships have become more positive, and she has started to recognize manipulative, inauthentic people and set better boundaries with them. Her artwork illustrates three aspects of self: her inner child, her inner adolescent, and her adult self. Over the course of her journey, Lorraine has learned to nurture and integrate all three, forgive herself for past mistakes, and connect with the divine presence of the Holy Spirit. Today, she feels worthy of love and has improved self-esteem and a diminished need for validation from others.



The term narcissism is bandied about so often in pop culture these days. What exactly is it, and how does it relate to self-love?


Great question!

Narcissism comes from Greek mythology, in which the young, handsome Narcissus falls in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. In everyday speech, one often hears the word narcissism to describe garden-variety human vanity, but in psychological terminology, narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from admiration of one’s idealized self-image rather than from love and connection.


It is also noteworthy that the mythological Narcissus fell in love with his reflection. After all, a reflection is not what the observer truly is, but its mirror image, or opposite. Likewise, the narcissist’s picture of him or herself is frequently the opposite of what others perceive.


Because intimacy means “in-to-me-you-see,” people plagued by narcissism who value only idealized versions of themselves run from being truly seen, often keeping themselves at an elevated distance from others. As a result, they cause deep emotional pain to the partners, children, siblings, co-workers, and friends who want to get close to them. In my practice, I often treat their victims who come to me with their self-esteem shattered, their life forces drained. However, by doing deep, authentic work around recognizing boundaries and healthy self-love, these individuals demonstrate a remarkable ability to heal and grow.


Far fewer narcissists seek my healing and guidance, though they do, usually via prompting by a loved one. Despite their confident exteriors, narcissists are often riddled with shame, their more fragile parts disowned and unsupported. Because they view the world as a competitive rather than a cooperative place, favor dominance over healthy give-and-take, and have little empathy for the vulnerability of themselves or others, their progress can be slow. It doesn’t mean such a person can’t evolve, but the path is longer, steeper, and rockier than it is for a non-narcissist. For those who love narcissists, it is important to remember their limitations and to celebrate each hard-won victory.


The Power of Doodling

April  13, 2018

I love to doodle. To me, doodling is aimless, playful, unconscious fun. Time to shift out of “to-do” mode and into “let loose” mode. For years, my doodles were in pen-and-ink on the corner of notebook pages executed during boring lectures, but over time they’ve become bolder, more outrageous, more colorful, and more life enhancing. One day, I realized that if I finished the doodles to completion, messages came through them. The messages seemed to arise from my unconscious, the wiser, more connected part of myself. I now make time for them rather than having them be unintentional accidents. I engage them if I feel a bit out of sorts, bored, flat, or simply want to have some fun.


Just before I sat to write this blog, this bold and present turkey-like bird emerged from swirling colors, just days after Thanksgiving and a trip to the magnificent “Bosque del Apache,” in south-central New Mexico where thousands of migratory birds in flight darken the sky at dusk and dawn. The birds seek sanctuary each winter where it is safe, on the shallow waters of the Rio Grande.


This “she–bird” I’ve drawn is the perfect inspiration for what I hope this blog will be about—a sanctuary for anyone healing from trauma, looking for a happier, more creative life, or wanting to reinvent themselves after loss or disappointment.


As an art therapist and life coach, I’ve witnessed how, if left unexpressed, un-engaged, or unexamined, trauma contracts the soul. As a result, these painful experiences can cause us to lose our joy, our ability to speak up, to be bold, to tell the truth.


Creating art—especially the kind free from rules of technique or the intent of being sold— is a form of pure expression that helps the soul to heal, to gather its colors, and reclaim its vitality.


This is a remarkable time on the planet. Victims of abuse, trauma, and exploitation are coming forward in great numbers to speak, to be heard, to break through the silence and the shame that abuse engenders. I am hopeful that my sharing of what has helped me heal from trauma, as well as what I’ve witnessed in working with hundreds of clients, can reach more of you who feel there is a larger life calling. I hope to empower those of you who yearn to express, create, be bold, heal, and embrace life.


Call to action:


Jump-Start Your Own Doodle Process


1)   Start with black or white drawing or construction paper and chalk or oil pastels. (These items can be purchased on-line at any art supply site for less than $25.00)


2)   Go where you can be alone, without distraction for at least 20 minutes. (Turn off your cell phone, etc.).  You may want to light a candle to invoke the sacred.


3)   Clear your mind of anything you think you are supposed to be doing and take three deep breaths inhaling to five and exhaling to five.


4)   Ask yourself the question: What color aligns itself with the way I feel right now? Select it from the box.


5)   Now ask yourself: What shape best expresses what I feel right now? Draw it.


6)   Let yourself explore how you feel through colors and shapes, letting each addition signal what wants to be expressed.  Let it flow, don’t judge it, and follow what your intuition tells you to do next.  Allow yourself to play without a focus on the product.


7)   Continue to work until you have a strong sense that you are done.


8)   Put the image on the wall, away from you at least 5-10 feet and let yourself gaze upon it.


9)   In your journal, write down what the image seems to be saying.  You can even ask the image questions and see what comes up.  Journal whatever thoughts and feelings arise for you. If you relate to this process allow yourself to do a “doodle-a-day.”  You may notice that you feel less constricted, more open, more alive.  You may also find your dreams are more vivid and memorable.


Most importantly  - HAVE FUN!!!!



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(505) 670 0686

1925 Aspen Dr #100B

Santa Fe, NM 87505

© 2019 Carrie Ishee   |  All rights reserved

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