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the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“The Codependency Dance” – November 15, 2017

Note: Narcissists and the codependents can be any gender. In a majority of cases narcissists are men who seek female codependent counterparts. For the sake of this article the narcissist will be referred to as “he” and the codependent will be referred to as “she”.  These labels are not intended to be limiting.

The world of psychology uses “the codependency dance” to describe the intimate relationship between two very broken, dysfunctional, opposing, but balanced people:  the fixer and the people-pleaser (the codependent), and the controller and taker (the narcissist) The destructive behaviors that each one has formed throughout their childhoods and into their adult lives seem to complement each other perfectly. The two of them mesh together in a seductive and dysfunctional dance where the codependent individual will give up her power and the narcissist will thrive on that control and power so that no one’s toes get stepped on.

The Dancers

Codependent individuals are enamored with the needs and desires of other people. They were groomed in their childhood to be servants and later in life they find themselves on a dance floor where they are attracted to people who are a perfect pairing for their submissive dancing style. They are natural followers, and most of them find narcissists extremely appealing because of their charm, confidence, boldness, and dominant personality.

The perfect dancing partner for a narcissist is someone who lacks self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. A narcissist looks for a dancing partner who he can manipulate, so that he can control the dance. He looks for someone who has a warped sense of reality and codependent people fit this role perfectly.  Individuals who have grown up knowing who they are, who are confident in their capabilities, and who are strong-willed (or normally-willed) rarely stay with the narcissist long-term, because they are able to see the red flags of the narcissist’s selfish personality early on.  (ie: they don’t put up with crap, like gaslighting).

Codependent people confuse caretaking and sacrifice with true love and loyalty. They are dedicated to their partners but feel used, which makes them bitter later on.  Her hunt for love is ultimately an unconscious motivation to find someone who is “familiar”. (Familiar isn’t always good)  It stems from childhood trauma and the lack of healthy love, respect, and being cared for by adults.  She fears being alone and her compulsion to control and fix things at any cost motivates her. She is comfortable in her role as a martyr who is endlessly loving, devoted, and patient.  She dreams of dancing with somebody who loves her unconditionally.  She believes that she must sacrifice herself in order to obtain this love because it is the only way that she has ever known how to express love.

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 2

First Dance, Honeymoon, and Return Home

In her eyes, at first sight, the narcissist is the embodiment of Prince Charming. He woos her and caters to her every whim, makes her feel like she is the center of the universe, pours out excessive expressions of love (love bombing), and he does his best to figure out what it is she likes and what she is looking for in a mate so that he can wear that mask for her, in the beginning. 

The honeymoon phase of the relationship lasts anywhere from a handful of weeks to about six months (but for more experienced narcissists, they could keep up the act for years) and after this threshold is approached the good graces of the narcissist start to dwindle swiftly. Complements and catering to his new love have been replaced with gaslighting and correcting, and she takes the criticism because she believes that he loves her and that he knows what’s best for her. If she argues with him, he will convince her that she is wrong, and because of her weak self-esteem and trust in him, she will slowly start to adopt his mindset and become the image that he wants her to be. She holds on, hoping for things to get better, and hoping for things to go back to the way that they were before; she hopes that after a period of time her partner will finally start to understand her real needs instead of critiquing her over and over again. She doesn’t know that he doesn’t have the ability to truly empathize with people. She has been trained to withstand the pain, and to power through, like she did when she was growing up. Her whole dysfunctional life has led her up to this dysfunctional relationship and she executes it beautifully.

In a sense, the narcissist is never completely whole without a partner to dote over his every need. As she is compulsively corrected by him, she starts to become a memory of herself for the sake of him, their relationship, and for her own survival. Any deviation from his plan is met with aggression and sometimes violence. His partner, always seeking the love that he had given her at the start, is forever confused. She doesn’t know what is false or what is true anymore. She will believe cunning lies that come from his lips, because he is a master gaslighter who is able to whip up verbally abusive concoctions that cause her to believe that she ‘needs to be corrected’.  The narcissist will isolate her, and start to cut her off from the rest of the world, including her own friends and family. She will become completely dependent upon him for every need, and she clings to him for safety.

Her gauge of reality is so warped that she wouldn’t even know what to do without him because she has completely lost herself and her ability to make decisions without his direction. She doesn’t want to make him angry by moving in any direction other than what he has designated for her. She will adopt the image of the type of woman he is attracted to, she will eat like him, she will absorb his political and religious beliefs, she will consult him on what she should wear, how she should talk, what job she should take, what she should and shouldn’t approve of, what friends she should have, what family members she can’t be around, how she should be in the bedroom, and how their home should look. She becomes a tool for him to use, so that he can create an environment for which he can impress people, not an environment where she will feel comfortable.

 

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 1

The Breakup

Narcissists are rarely faithful to their partners. If the relationship does not end with the narcissist cheating on her, and leaving her, it usually ends when she starts to discover her real self, and when she starts to find her own independence.  He needs to be with somebody who obeys him at all times.  Unfortunately most codependent people are deep into a dysfunctional relationship when their eyes start to open. She fell in love with an image all those years ago, but that image that he presented to her was not a real person. During a break up, and throughout her relationship with him, she mourns the loss of this image. She confuses the image with the abusive person.  The breakup will be a vicious battle between the functioning, healthy, and newfound realizations of her personality and the manipulation and tyranny of the narcissist. When a breakup finally happens, the narcissist will never provide closure and draws out the breakup as much as possible.  Stalking is not uncommon, and could continue for many years down the road.  Most narcissists like to keep tabs on their former partners.

Codependent individuals desire balance and harmony, but they typically fall for people based on initial attraction, and unfortunately this initial attraction is most prominent with narcissists because of their charm and boldness. If she finds herself without a partner to dance with, she doesn’t wait for somebody who is healthy, but she jumps into another dance, usually with the same type of person. Loneliness is too much for her to bear. She will continue dating the same type of person over and over again, and endure the same kind of abuse, until she realizes that she is a broken person and that she needs to fix herself. Until she learns that she is the root of all of her own problems, that she is the one who chooses abusive partners because of her own brokenness, and until she heals herself, she will keep on dancing the same dysfunctional dance.  The cycle continues until it is broken (and it usually continues for decades, through generations of family members).

His Crap and My Choice

This codependent woman was me.  As I said before, I grew up in an extremely abusive home, and the adults in my family did a fantastic job at raising me to be an excellent codependent woman.  They taught me the turns, the dips, and the footwork, so that when I became a young adult and ventured into the dating world, I would know how to dance with narcissists.  I would be lying if I said that I never enjoyed the thrill of each one of them in the beginning.  Each one was a ‘love-bombing’ prince and I was a lonely princess.

Not all of the men that I have dated have been narcissistic. I have dated a number of young men who have been absolutely pleasant, wonderful, and kind.  They were people who I took for granted because of my own brokenness.  I didn’t know how to love with proper boundaries and I still feel guilty for the pain that I had caused.  For that, I am sorry.

As for the three who were narcissistic, I don’t feel guilt except for the damage I did to myself.  I can’t feel guilty for men who had knowingly abused me and “debated with me” about the justifications for their actions.  I have been manipulated, I have been brainwashed, I have been made to feel like the scum of the earth, I have been the punching bag for their failings, I have been hit, I have been sexually assaulted, I have been verbally abused, and I have been mentally abused.

Sometimes, people are dealt crappy cards.  Crappy things happen to awesome people.  No one can control everything that happens to them, but, each of us has control over HOW WE REACT to the crap that is thrown at our feet.  We can either choose to step in it, or we can choose to walk away. 

Two years ago, a familiar pile of abusive crap was thrown at my feet.  I was tired of the same dysfunctional patterns, but I didn’t know why they were happening to me.  I was angry with my unhappiness and empty romantic relationships.  I confided in my friends who turned around and told me that I was my own problem.  THAT made me angry, but they were right.  I realized that I had dated a string of abusive people, but that I was also in control of my own narrative, and that because I was in control that it was my fault for making the choice to step in the crap in the first place.

So, I took a good, long, glaring look at that smelly, steaming piece of rancid crap at my feet.  Then I mustered up the courage to look up into his proud ‘know-it-all’ face.  And for the first time in my life, I made the choice to walk away from the abuse.

The first step to recovery is realizing that there is a problem…

But, breaking up with a narcissist is not something that you just do, either…

Codependency dance - RBG - high res
“The Codependency Dance” – 2017 – Digital Sketch – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

“Abstract Art: Part 2” – July 17, 2016

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

***The titles for the collection and each painting are listed below.  The end of this article also contains “behind the scenes” photographs.  Enjoy!***

This is part two of “Abstract Art”.  You can read “Abstract Art: Part 1”, here!  

The only requirement of an abstract artist is to make people feel.  An artist might touch a white canvas with shades of misty purple and powder blue to invoke the feeling of calm, or the thought of peace, or emptiness.  These critiques are welcome and subjective.  At this point, the artist has done his job:  their work is “good enough” to absorb into the public eye, so that they may “feel”.

If “White Fox in a Snow Bank” is deemed the title for the same piece then the interpretation changes.  The free-floating composition that was once left to graze the mind is placed in the artist’s mental gate.  It is a part of the experience that the artist wants to guide you though.  There are large debates in the art community in regards to titling works of art, and it is even more relevant in the abstract world.  I think that titling artwork has its place.  Sometimes, it is less appropriate.  But, this decision should be made by the artist and accepted as an element of the art itself.

The artist should title their piece if they do believe that it will “open the eyes” of observers and guide them, so that they may see clearer, and so that they may be able to further melt themselves within the piece.  If the artist believes that titling their work will hinder the excitement of feeling what is on the canvas, and if it is not specifically associated with any other relevant outside items, the work should not be titled.

In the case of my first abstract collection, I have decided to reveal the titles.  They are a group of actions and feelings and each one is a part of our lives, in one form or another.  The planning process was difficult, because researching the theme hit so many emotional nerves.  Focusing on the goodness of people can be refreshing.  Diving into the worst characteristics of humanity is gruesome, and those laced in what seems to be goodness makes one reevaluate their own nature.  Trying to create art that represented and embodied these feelings and actions was a challenging feat.

The only tangible pieces of research that were obtained for my collection were the assignment of colors and the order of their display.  At the time of their “creation”, each feeling had an official hue assigned to it.  Their order is from least to greatest.

I hope that revealing these titles will enhance your understanding of the collection, and maybe lift the curtain back so that you may be able to see.

Enjoy!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

The Seven Deadly Sins
July 2016 – Erika Robertson
Lust
“Lust” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Lust

Color:  Blue

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Lust is extreme yearning.  Because it is the only sin that is shared with animals, and it is a sin of the flesh, it is labeled as the least of all sins.  It is more often labeled as a sin of perverse sexual desire, but it can be applied as a yearning for almost anything: lust for money, power, food, the latest iPhone, and so on.

It is the movement of lust, and the feeling of lust, in all of its smoothness and sensuality.  It can be the silk sheets of two lovers, or the smooth finish of the next unneeded electronic gadget.  Lust is the calm movement of desire, or the supple air of breath from a kiss that is wrong “but feels so right”.  Sleek, comfortable, and often described as beautiful.

gluttony
“Gluttony” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Gluttony

Color: Orange

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Gluttony is overindulgence.  It is consumption to the point of waste.  Society often pinpoints gluttony as “eating”, but the sin covers so much more ground.  Overeating, under eating, and purging, can all be labeled as gluttony.  It is hoarding money, wasting material goods or non-material items.  And as a whole, putting your desires and your needs above everyone else and their well-being.

It is too much.  It is abundance.  It is waste.  It is no coincidence that most food companies use a combination of yellow and red in their business logos.  Most fast food chains use these two primary colors because when they are seen together they trigger hunger on a subconscious level.  It is also no coincidence that gluttony’s color is the combination of yellow and red: orange.

greed
“Greed” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Greed

Color:  Yellow

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Greed is a sin that is linked to material possession.  People think of money, gold, wealth, and over-indulgence.  It is a sin of desire and cupidity.  A person can also be greedy in love, feelings, and actions.

In its purest form I saw greed as wealth.  It is yellow and gold, it is diamonds.  In our society wealth is beautiful.  More is better.  Greed is the finish line that no one will ever reach.  Greed only spends on  what it wastes.

sloth
“Sloth” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Sloth

Color:  Light Blue

A sin that contains no love or is the deficiency of love

Sloth is to be “without care”.  It is the ONLY sin that revolves around a LACK of action.  It is the absence of interest.  Boredom, apathy, slow responsiveness.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I do think that “Sloth” was the most curious and disconnected from the collection for the people who saw them face-to-face.  When displayed side by side, left to right, it is the center of the display.  It is also the most blinding with its foggy color, and confusing in its lack of movement.  It sits there, doing nothing, as if wandering through a mist.  The brush strokes are boring, lacking, lazy.

wrath
“Wrath” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Wrath

Color:  Red

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Wrath is unbridled feelings of rage, anger, and hatred.  It is seeking vengeance.  It is the “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite”.  Anger, in itself, is not a sin.  Anger is a natural feeling, but it becomes a sin of wrath when it is directed toward an innocent person, when it is abnormally strong or enduring, or when it fancies overindulgent “justice”. (punishment).

It is decay, rot, death, and blood.  It is unfounded war.  It is unjustified death.  Wrath is an abundance of spilled anger.   It is the slitting of the throat of a lover, and it is the pools of blood in fields that were once green.  She yells at him.  He hits her.

envy
“Envy” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

Envy

Color:  Green

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Envy is the second worst sin.  It is the result of pride, the greatest sin, becoming wounded.  Envy makes good things feel bad.  It lowers another person’s reputation.  It finds joy in another person’s misfortune.  It grieves at another person’s prosperity and causes sorrow and hatred.   “Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin

If you want to know what your greatest desires are, pay attention to who you envy.  It calls into question everything that you think you are.  It exposes what you value and where your heart is.  You experience joy in another’s sorrow, and sorrow in their joy.  It is a never ending whirlwind of suffocation and destruction.  If you cannot prevail, and become better than the person who you envy, then you try to bring that person down to your level.  Envy is the great leveler.  It is wanting something you never had.

pride
“Pride” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Pride

Color:  Violet or all of the colors

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Pride is the father of all sins.  It was known as the devil’s most prominent trait and is viewed as the “anti-god” state.  All other sin acts out because of pride (which is why purple is used in all of the paintings – what looks like black, in some of them, is purple).  It is the abundant admiration for one’s self.  It is failing to acknowledge accomplishments of others, and the twisted belief that one is better than others.  It is disconnected from people and reality.  Pride honors those that the WORLD sees as worthy.  It is hungry for attention, respect, and worship.  It searches for fault in others.

Pride is deceiving.  It is best at hiding beneath good qualities, such as humbleness.  It is the donation that you give that flaunts your name so the world may see your generosity.  It is the shy individual who is preoccupied with how the world views him, and what he will do when the spotlight is flashed on him.  It is the voice inside your head that says “I’m better at that than her”.  You don’t even have to speak; it is there.  It is self-centered love that sparkles and gleams behind tainted humility.  It is all about you.

***********************************************************************

A short glance behind the scenes:

7

8

1

A collection, like this, starts with notes and sketches.  What looks like random spots and lines and colors are planned movement and a combination of elements.  There should be cohesiveness in the painting.

3

Here is some of the aftermath of Wrath.  The trees suffered a little with all of my gashing and slashing movements.  (It was a lot of fun though.)  I might have shared a hand-full of orange paint with the neighbors when I was working on Gluttony, too…woops….

2

Here they are sitting out to dry, with Greed.

9

I struggled the most while trying to capture Envy and Pride.  I wanted their flow to relate to each other more than between the others.  Envy is pride that has been broken.  And pride is the root of all evil and all sin.  It is fitting that when most people look at Pride, they see the universe.  And isn’t that the point?  I was very happy with the response to the piece.  I felt like I did my job, as an artist.

4

Envy was the most difficult.  It’s okay to make mistakes!  How many times was the Mona Lisa re-painted?  (too many!)  I scrapped the first version of Envy, and painted over it.  The flow wasn’t right and the colors were not what I had envisioned, and the texture I wanted was non-existent.  When it comes to artwork I rely heavily on instinct.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

5
Envy – the one we won’t talk about……
6
When all else fails, start over!

I had to sit down and try to revamp what I had wanted.  I tried salvaging it, at one point, but it got to be too much.  When all else fails, paint over it and start over!

ody
This fat!  Odysseus.  Aka: Ody

Sometimes you need a little helper to motivate you and keep you going.  This is one of my helpers, Ody.  (Short for Odysseus).

envy
Envy – the final version

After all was said and done, I was very happy with the result.

Thank you for joining me on my first journey through abstract art!  I hope that you were able to open your eyes a little, like I did, and expand your understanding of the strange and subjective art style.  I hope that you pick up a paint brush and try some, yourself!  I promise that you will have a lot of fun!

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS
“The Seven Deadly Sins” – Erika Robertson – Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

‘Til next time! 

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