What is reality and what is my reality driven by emotion? The trouble with me is that the latter seems to take over and masks itself as Reality. I took the Meyers-Briggs Personality test, and the results spat out ISFJ – introverted, sensing, feeling, judging. A graphical illustration of this shows bubbles representing each area, but what was noticeable was the large, outstanding FEELING bubble hovering and intersecting with the others. It illustrated just how looming and all-consuming my feelings rule my life.

Feelings served me well in interpreting art, in engaging with artistic projects, of swooning at the piano, and feeling the rush of love. Feelings helped me paint large, illustrative pictures, whether with a brush, a camera, or with my own words. Feelings drew people to me and I to them. But these same feelings do not serve me these days.

When I have a feeling, it somehow becomes a perceived truth. I felt London was a dreary, grey, cold, and miserable place, and that is how the city is perceived by me. If I do not hear from a friend in a long while, I feel neglected, and this translates into believing that yes, I have been neglected by so and so. I felt my bank account was getting low, and reacted in successive panic attacks, but all the while, I worked and maintained it and my standard of living. These feelings, I have traced back to being a voice in my head. The voice is that of my mother’s. Even now, at the age of 34, I have not successfully separated my identity from her parental shadow.

I don’t wish to be ruled by my feelings. Being caught in this bind does not provide objective, rational thought. I do not wish to be ruled by my mother’s anxieties and method of being, because I know that is not me. This cognitive separation is produces a tortured existence, and I suspect it will take me many more experiences and years to make the break.

I woke up today, feeling again panicky, my mind filled with “shoulds”, i.e., I should do this, I should attend to that. Then I felt exhausted without having started anything. In this moment of darkness, of clumsy searching, my mind eye pierced through a sliver and images flashed in my head. It is one thing to deal with memories, and the past, but how to deal with my present reality? I’m dealing with my anxiety a way that is second-nature to me: artistic expression. My mother is larger than life, so let’s make her so, by virtue of my imagination, Photoshop, old photographs, an Epson scanner and printer. Let me play and create my own reality through art. Let me expose what I hold inside, the dominant and the diminished. Let me cleave through the past, emotions, and old habits. Let me make this start.

Erica, 34, London UK

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