Written by Michaela MacBlake Matthews
The idea of integration is often imagined as out there- or in there, somewhere. It doesn’t have a clearly defined form, and can easily become overwhelming, or hard to pin down. What if, however, you could hold it in your hands while you work on it? Better yet… what if you already do, without even knowing it?
What Is Integration?
Rooted in Jungian Psychology, integration refers to the process of bringing together the different aspects of yourself, and learning how to negotiate between their different wants and needs, to operate as a whole, single self. The concept of integration is also widespread across Eastern practices, and holistic health.
Why And How Do You Integrate Yourself?
Self-integration is a process that can go incredibly deep, down to the tiniest subconscious detail. To truly finish integrating would be a majestic, lifelong accomplishment! Typically, the average person is somewhat-to-mostly integrated, and we get along just fine that way. Or, fine enough, at least. So how do you know when you need to integrate…?
The key is to notice when you are in split minds, fighting with yourself, or generally incongruent in a way that is causing you discomfort. You could have trouble wanting to be more ambitious, and also wanting to engage in better self care at the same time. In personal relationships, you could want to be a more caring listener, but also want to be heard more. In the public, you could want to be noticed more, but also want to be judged less- Essentially, any conflicting interests that prevent you from moving forward, or that lead to moving ahead and then pulling back (especially in a never-ending loop) are telltale signs of the division of self.
The key to integration is to recognize that these various needs all stem from equally important aspects of self, and that no single one of them is going to ‘win’. We need to investigate and understand each of these aspects, so we can learn where they come from. In order to negotiate between all of them, we need to know what they’re afraid of, what they really want for us, and most importantly, what they need from us and the other aspects of self, in order to be fulfilled.
How Can Crafting Help With Integration?
One of the biggest challenges of integration is getting lost in the depths of self, where the subconscious mind is fluid and not easily organized or made sense of. Likewise, it can be difficult to focus on one aspect, while the others are fighting for our attention. When we engage in creative therapy, we dedicate time and focus to a specific area, or pairing of areas. It allows us to slip into a meditative state, while the task itself helps to keep us steady on a particular topic.
Tips For Self-Guided Creative Therapy
Creating Your Anchor
When choosing a self-care craft, keep in mind that the subconscious mind welcomes symbolism with open arms! For example, if you were caught in a split mind between wanting to have open-ended freedom and the desire to have a child, each of these seemingly separate selves would come with a persona. In your craft or creative practice of choice, what colors, notes, items, formats, or themes remind you of either path? Start by brainstorming what each of these would look like if they were solely and completely expressed.
Integrating With Your Craft
Whichever ‘you’ has the strongest impression, use this ideal as inspiration to start your project! As you go along designing the mood and feel, look for places where you can start to pull in influences from the other persona that has been fighting for space. Which elements can work well together, and what do these symbols represent?
As you work with these styles and ideas, you may find that the fresh turquoise-teal of communication and openness works well with both paths, and helps to bring them together- or that a lengthy song with steady progressions embodies the long-term viewpoint of both desires. Likewise, this process could also clarify some of the differences that stand between the two personas. If one is simple and clean, while the other is detailed and busy, how do these essences have to be arranged so that they can exist near each other, without feeling chaotic?
Art Imitates Life
At the end of the day, the process of being creative is designed by the human mind and soul, and reflects its nuances without even trying to. As crafters, artists, and creatives from all walks of life, this is the sense of integration we feel when we finish a project: to be made whole by balancing the many elements of our true colors.
"Mac" is on the Lifestyle Team here at Darn Good Yarn, and loves taking a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach to creative therapy. She is certified in neuro-linguistic programming, and is also the surreal artist and author behind Surrealismac.