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Podcast Episode 6: How Expressive Art Can Help You To Be Yourself Around Others with Shelley Klammer

Guest: Shelley Klammer, Expressive Arts Educator at Expressive Art Workshops

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Rose Burch
Hi friend. Welcome to the Quiet Connections podcast. Do you feel anxious and not good enough in social situations? Feel like you’re weird, broken or don’t fit in? You are not alone. Join Haley and Stacie on a journey to quiet confidence. Picking up key insights to help you feel more calm and confident. So you can finally Speak up, join in, and feel like you belong too.

Stacie Clark
Hello and welcome to episode six of the Quiet Connections podcast. I’m Stacie, and today I’m joined by our wonderful guest, Shelley Klammer. Shelley is a Counselling Therapist, and an Expressive Arts Educator who works with empathetic and introverted and sensitive people, like many of us here.

I loved this chat, so much, I just really enjoyed absorbing and taking in all the amazing insights that Shelley was sharing about how we can all – including those of us who perhaps don’t see ourselves as creative or artistic – how we can all use expressive art forms such as collage, poetry, drawing, to help us intuitively understand and know ourselves better, to practice feeling more comfortable with expressing who we truly are, and to help us explore and heal some of those unresolved emotions and those parts of us that can keep us feeling stuck and fearful, and transform those in to quiet confidence.

So, I hope this conversation inspires you, as much as it did me. And offers you permission to explore and play around with your own inherent creativity.

Hi Shelley, thank you so much for popping on and having a chat with me today. How’s your day been so far?

Shelley Klammer
Oh really busy, really busy. I’m in the middle of my therapy day, I work entirely online as an online therapist. And I did prior to Covid as well. So it’s right in the middle on my lunch hour and I was just happy to be able to take a break and chat with you.

Stacie Clark
Lovely, yeah. Well thank you so much for taking that time out of your day and for joining on, poppng on this call, and sharing your insights with our community.

So, I first came across you from actually signing up for one of your courses. And that was the Healing Trauma Through Intuitive Art course. And I must say it’s been so powerful already. I think I’ve only done three or four of the lessons, but yeah I’m definitely taking my time with it because your prompts are, like I said just so, so powerful and it’s gone really quite deep for me quite quickly. So I’d love to have a little bit more of a chat about that later, but for those who perhaps haven’t heard of you before or what you do, would you mind sharing a little bit about who you are?

Shelley Klammer
Sure, so as I said earlier, I’m an online therapist, a depth oriented therapist and I work with women who are creative, introverted, highly sensitive, emotional, empathic. That’s the, the niche that I work in and I also, as you mentioned, I’m an I am an online expressive arts educator and I’ve written many many courses on spontaneous creativity intuitive creativity for emotional healing.

Stacie Clark
Amazing. Yeah, I had a good look through some of the work that you’re you’re doing, and definitely sounds like there’s a connection there between, you know, feeling highly sensitive and empathetic, and

Shelley Klammer
Yeah. There is I think because, I think creative people are very multi dimensional. And, I mean, I started out as a creator an artist and, I mean, there wasn’t even a word for what I felt I was, but I just knew I was just really struggling with a lot of emotional pain and some of it was my own and a lot of it was just picking things up from the world and a lot of people, and so there’s there’s special challenges that come with that righ. So as, as the world has become more defined around what highly sensitive is, creative people really fit into that realm because we’re accessing intuitive information all the time. So that’s, that’s how it all fits together for me anyway.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, that’s beautiful, isn’t it. I can definitely relate to that as well, that sense of, you know, being highly sensitive and taking in so much information in one go. And especially I think as as a child not really feeling like I know how to process it all. And that can feel quite overwhelming.

So, I’d love to know actually a little bit more about your personal experiences and what kind of led you to what you’re doing now?

Shelley Klammer
Oh, for sure. So I actually started out more as a, as a gallery artist when I was when I was in my 20s and so I, you know, went to design school and followed a very traditional educational route. I studied interior design and when I graduated I worked in the field of interior design for a really brief period, but I very quickly started to paint for gallery sale and so I was just painting strictly for, my, you know, satisfaction around my artistic sensibilities you know and also I was very concerned back then about winning approval and admiration from others that I used to spend hours and hours and hours on my paintings.

But, you know, there was something that was really left untouched and being with that, and I did feel as I was doing this art, for gallery sale, that I had a lot of unknown emotions boiling underneath my socially cultivated personalities. So, when I was in my late 20s and I became pregnant with my daughter, I, I couldn’t hold my emotions inside anymore, I started to cry all the time. And I felt the need to start drawing differently, less for show and more reflective of, of how I felt inside.

So I started to do these little spontaneous doodles of faces and they all had no mouth, which was really sort of horrifying and kind of delightful for me because I felt like, Oh, this is really gritty, this is really real for me. But, you know, they were quite, those early drawings, they were quite grotesque looking because I think that whatever has been in the dark or in the shadow for a long time, when it first comes out it often comes out quite rough and almost gargoyle-ish at first.

So, so they were not very pretty. They weren’t like my gallery art at all, they weren’t suitable for gallery sale and they were in no way sort of socially presentable, I wouldn’t show them to other people. They were just in my private journals. But it was all very thrilling for me when I started to draw like this because it rang very true in my body, and obviously too it also became clear to me that my drawings of faces without mouths, they were telling me that I was stifling, my, my true self expression in my life at that time, not only to myself but I was also living my life to please others and to fit in, I think, like so many of us do feel pressure to do so.

After that I just I couldn’t stop creating spontaneously. I pulled my art out of the gallery. And I went on to paint spontaneously and I did a lot of freeform writing and intuitive collage and so, I was just in my 30s, after I pulled my gallery, my art, out of the gallery, I just became very obsessed, I just carried a sketchbook wherever I went and I drew my little intuitive drawings everywhere, at parties, at the beach, and it just felt so so good to be honest with myself about how I felt. And, and I must admit I fell in love with myself as, you know, I discovered that I had so much inside of me so many different parts and sides and angles and so much depth and breadth to me that I didn’t know that I had because that was not reflected back to me in, in my social life so it was interesting.

Stacie Clark
Beautiful.

Shelley Klammer
Yes, thank you. You know I think once we find ourselves interesting it’s like, oh, and it’s a little bit easier to be more socially outgoing. It’s just I had to find that inside of myself before I started to feel better in a social context.

Stacie Clark
Oh wow. That is just powerful to hear that and yeah that sense of connecting back with yourself first in order to, like, fall in love with yourself that’s just, what an impact that that can have for us. And your story sounds so, like, such a wonderful journey it sounds like you’ve been on. I actually feel a little bit speechless. Just amazing.

So what, what benefits would you say come from, perhaps exploring this more artistic creative side within us? What, what do you feel like, is the value within that?

Shelley Klammer
Well. I think, I think it is very similar to what I just said it’s around, finding ourselves interesting to ourselves, you know, like I think for myself, when I was in my, my teens and 20s I thought I had to present a perfect picture of myself to the world and I know, you know just working with young people in my therapy practice that’s just really a common thing. We’re sort of raised that way in our culture to to present a perfect self and for me, I was, I was a teen model and beauty pageants were revered in my family, so I was really strongly encouraged to to compete with other girls based on my personal appearance.

So, you know, looking back I was a very deep person living a very superficial life in my younger years, and I looked confident, but I felt very insecure and socially anxious inside. So, you know, because I shared so little about myself with other people. I was also really utterly bored with myself when I was in my teens and 20s and so I thought it was a very boring person, until I started to create expressively and honestly in my journals in my, in my 30s and 40s and so I think that is the advantages, that once they become interested with how we work inside, then that we have so much more to bring to others. And I often think that sometimes for multi dimensional, for people who are, have lots of sides and lots of facets, which frankly I think so many of us do, if it’s not reflected back then we just don’t even have any idea of even what to bring to life, you know, so I don’t know if that answers your question.

Stacie Clark
Oh absolutely. I think, well I know many of our listeners can really relate to what you’re saying that that sense of feeling like there’s so much inside of us, but that, almost feeling trapped, and not feeling like we can express it and share ourselves with the world. And I love the way that you just put that there, about it being reflected back to us, and when we don’t have, almost that that mirror there, it can be quite hard for us to actually see who we are in some ways. I know I can certainly relate to that.

Shelley Klammer
Yes, yes and I do, you know, we all know that from birth onwards we’re taught to socially conform to usually very very narrow standards of self expression. So, any expressive arts process that takes us out of that very narrow conformity that we all are raised in, unless we have really unusual, you know, families, you know, it can be, you know, expressive arts they can provide a way to become uniquely ourselves in a way that we might not be able to access in our social groups.

So, yeah, that’s, um, you know, I love to include the element of surprise in all my art and writing directions because I think we have to shock and surprise ourselves out of our socially careful ways of being. And so yes, I do as a counsellor, and an expressive arts educator tend to work with people who are afraid to be socially seen in certain neglected parts of themselves, and you know, in the sense that they’re not sharing their truth with the very many people in their life. And so, if certain aspects of ourselves, felt like they don’t belong as you know we usually, place them, right, deep down into the basement of our psyche and then we become unknown to ourselves and we become unknown to others. So,

Stacie Clark
Yeah. Yeah, you are hitting all the feels right now. So much beautiful insight in that. And what I’m hearing there is that, really, this can be a really wonderful tool for those of us who perhaps are feeling quite disconnected from, who we are and needs a space, or that that mirror, but perhaps taking those steps to trying to do that in those social situations, where we are perhaps feeling quite fearful and anxious, that we can use other ways, and perhaps expressive art is one of those ways and the tool that we can use in order to help us actually start that process within ourselves.

Shelley Klammer
Yes. Yeah, so, so that’s the first stage in this thing we are talking, I love to create very simple art and writing prompts to support honest expression. So, I think the first stage to sort of coming out socially as ourselves is to to practice being ourselves with ourselves. Right?

And so I always tell people that after you fall in love with your honest self expression then you could start to share your truth with supportive others, such as in like an online classroom or community, or your online community or my classroom, you know, that kind of thing.

And then when you start to get that good feedback loop from others for who you really are, then it just feels safer to share, share ourselves more honestly, with the world right? So it’s looking for that good, that good feedback loop that says, that celebrates who we are, instead of, perhaps, you know if we’ve been ridiculed or criticised or bullied in the past that sets up a, you know a, probably, a bad feedback loop. So once we start getting an, an affirming feedback loop for who we, we truly are. Then we could start sharing more with the world at large, such as in our own businesses and communities. So, starting with self to self and then self with safe others, and then out in the world seems to be the stages that I see people go through.

Stacie Clark
I think that’s such a lovely way to put that, starting with self to self, and then moving outwards to, to people that do feel like a safe space in order to do that. Yes. Wow.

And, actually I just want to come back to something that you said a little earlier, where you mentioned about shocking and surprising ourselves. Would you mind expanding a little bit on what you meant by that? That sounded just really interesting.

Shelley Klammer
Yeah, well we get so conditioned don’t we, as to how we need to be in the world so, i think we stay quite tight and careful because we have a nervous system imperative, shall we say, to, to belong, you know, and so it can be very scary. And the reason I like to shock or surprise or just sort of come in the back door around with, with really surprising creativity prompts is because, we all form a very firm social guard about what we can and cannot express to to others and even to ourselves.

So, I like to, that’s why I send out prompts every day as part of my courses, it’s just like, it’s just giving you an idea that from your, your socially guarded self you wouldn’t think to do, and so that’s why I’m always looking for the element of surprise you know, in my, in my, in my coursework because yet sometimes we just have to. Yeah, come in the back door.

Stacie Clark
Yeah. And I know that from my own personal experience and from the clients I work with, we can quite often experience those mental blocks that almost like, almost prevent us from going to those places. And as far as I’m aware that is, you know, a protection strategy. And I like what you’re saying there about a social guard as well. And yeah, coming in through the backdoor… that very much sounds like it’s going straight to the subconscious almost as opposed to us, accessing it consciously where that block can happen.

Shelley Klammer
Yes. Yes, and and that’s why spontaneous art is so wonderful for that, and, and, like, even just pulling one picture out of a magazine and just writing your emotional response to it. It’s not something that you would just sort of think of to do but even just that kind of a practice is enough of a projective technique to tell you something new and surprising about yourself.

So you just, you know, flipping through a magazine, finding an image that’s really strong and then writing some impressions about that, because, you know, that is just really simple, it’s enough to tell you how you’re feeling inside in a way that you might not even be able to tell yourself because all the guards and structures and protective mechanisms that are in place and they’ve been set in place by society and your nervous system and your brain are telling you what’s safe and what’s not safe to say so. It’s a bit of a trick to get behind that and see what’s really down below.

Stacie Clark
Yeah. And speaking of which, that’s one of the exercises that I’ve done in your course that I’ve started taking. And yeah, I definitely had that moment of, well, surprise, I would say, and pulled out such a wonderful picture of. It was a horse and it was a horse dancing in a field, and the words, because you quite often include an associated writing prompt to go with with this, don’t you, yes, the words that came out of me were Dance Dance Wild Beauty and I just sat there and cried and was like, Oh my god.

Shelley Klammer
And that all came from deep down within you and it was that element of surprise that that likely sounds like it bypassed your, your social your social guard and told you something fresh and new about something that was deeper than your social personality so that’s just gorgeous. I love that.

Stacie Clark
Yeah. And I think even more so as well it’s the feelings that you can experience whilst you’re doing that as well. I think that can offer quite a lot of insight and and feedback that perhaps doesn’t have words, necessarily.

Shelley Klammer
Oh, it’s so true it’s so true. I started with the spontaneous collage, and that’s an amazing projective technique that can just show you instantly inside, you know, how you feel inside. And it doesn’t need any words like, it’s just enough to look at the pictures there there’s a, there’s enough imagery and colour there to describe for me how I how I feel inside and that’s just such a simple process that, you know, doesn’t require any artistic talent.

It just involves choosing words and imagery that have a strong emotional charge, either positive or negative and just glueing, glueing them down in an intuitive way and then, you know, there you go you have an instant collage portrait of your inner life. And, and really what you did in that one prompt, with just the one image, that’s just a form of collage too, that’s just one picture. That’s a very simple collage. You know choosing an emotionally charged image will always, always tell you something about yourself and if you can put some spontaneous words to it, it’ll tell you more.

Stacie Clark
Such a wonderful process.

So, I know that there’s a lot of people within our community who perhaps don’t consider themselves to be creative, and many perhaps have received messages growing up that they’re, they’re no good at art or that, you know everything needs to be perfect. Colour within the lines. And all that type of stuff. So, if, if there is someone listening who sees themselves in that way. What advice or tips would you have for them to perhaps start exploring this process as something that they can use for themselves?

Shelley Klammer
Right. Yes. So the focus of my business as a, as a counsellor and expressive arts educator it’s more about practising, honest, self expression in creative ways like we, we’ve been talking about here. It’s got really nothing to do, expressive art has nothing to do with artistic talent and so you know, I do, I have some foundations courses and I have some very very, some deep more involved courses for down the line. But for people who have never created before, anybody could create, can create a really simple spontaneous poem, and messy little expressive drawings, simple torn paper collage, like you were describing, you know something like pulling something out of a magazine. And I have really simple story writing prompts as well.

But, you know, It’s, it’s, it’s interesting, like even. It’s all there, it’s all there underneath the surface for all of us. You know we all have a social guard that said we all find a way to fit in to belong. And then at some point comes the job, it’s a very big job, of kind of really figuring out who we are inside so we can find our place in life, right? So that can come through the expressive arts and also, I always say too, you know, whatever, whatever you’re called to. I,I work as a psychotherapist. That’s my full time job, and a lot of this very same kind of deep diving for what’s hidden inside can come through just deeply sharing with, you know, somebody, you know, in a friendship or a therapy session or, you know.

For me in a therapy session I can listen for different voices and different ages in a person’s speaking voice too right, so it’s always there, it’s all there it’s just we just have to find our favourite ways to access it. So, you know, if you’re drawn to try a little bit of creativity, that’s a fun way, but I’m sure there’s many, many ways to as well, you know, you’re just trying to get below the social guard and access that type of information about who we really all are.
Yeah so permission to to follow the thing that actually feels most comfortable or that feels most interesting for you in order to access those parts.

Stacie Clark
Yes.

I mean, that was just so insightful. I really really really enjoyed listening. Wow, thank you so much for sharing all the information with us.

And, one final question to ask. If you had a message to send back to your younger self, what would that be?

Shelley Klammer
Well, I think I would say to my younger self. One day you’ll be free. Because I felt very very when I was young, in my teens in my 20s I felt very enslaved to societal standards in a very big way. I was very concerned about fitting in but I also knew that there was so much more to me but I wasn’t quite sure how to access it. So I would say to her. One day, you will be free to be you.

Stacie Clark
Lovely. And again I can really relate to that feeling as well of, constantly feeling like there’s so much more to me and no one is seeing it. And actually, like, a lot of the struggle that I feel like I experienced throughout my life was, was that conflict and that feeling of, you know, I want to express what’s inside. But, you know like, like you said, all those social protection guards, and just feeling like that, just like I just couldn’t do it. And it’s taken, you know, years of practice and exploration and getting to know myself to be able to actually start start doing that. So yeah, it’s definitely a journey.

Shelley Klammer
It’s a journey and it’s practice. I love how you said practising, because I, I do creative practice every day and I remember years ago, I, I was doing the the morning pages which I think are so good, by Julia Cameron from the Artists Way, where I was writing three pages longhand every morning of just whatever was in my mind, and in a way, it was the precursor to me practising my speaking voice with others. And so I found that the more honestly I shared with myself, it just started to spontaneously come out in my, in my social interactions.

And so it does take practice. I do think we have to find ourselves as you say and explore ourselves. And once we find out who we are. It really is our job to tell other people, and then we become interested to ourselves and others don’t we.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I just love what you said about that being the precaster to your speaking voice, because I feel like for those that, at Quiet Connections, that we’re working with, then that can, that can feel like a much safer way for us to start just, yeah, getting to know who we are, what is it that we want to share with other people.

Shelley Klammer
Yes, yes. What do we want to share, how do we, how do we want to share all the richness of ourselves with others. We have to find it first.

Stacie Clark
I love that. Yeah, and you’re absolutely right, we all do have that richness within us and we are all interesting. We may not, perhaps see that right this moment, but we are.

Shelley Klammer
But we are, yes.

Stacie Clark
Yes, absolutely.

And so, do you have any final last words of kindness that you’d like to offer to our quiet community?

Shelley Klammer
Ah, well, I just I, I am so in love with the word practice because I feel like we can do anything we practice, and it’s just really essentially when, when I really think about it all of the courses that I offer are just different practices, different practices, different ways of expressing. And I love, choosing practices that helped me sort of draw out the deeper dimensions of myself so that I can find, find words and ways of expressing them.

Because, what we’re really talking about here I think today is this self expression and how do we draw it up from deep within, and how to we start to communicate who we are to others.

Because I think for sensitives and empathic people. We can tend to kind of quietly sit back and listen to everybody else, but we have a lot to offer too. And case in point, you bringing this beautiful platform to the world, for people who struggle with social anxiety. You know, that comes from deep, deep within, and I think we all have our place and so practising that self expression that helps us find a place.

Stacie Clark
That’s so lovely. Thank you.

So, if anyone is interested in perhaps taking one of your courses or reaching out to you, where would they best be able to find you?

Shelley Klammer
Oh, you can find me on ExpressiveArtWorkshops.com that’s my course site. And I also have an online therapy practice at ShelleyKlammer.com

Stacie Clark
Lovely, thank you. That was such a wonderful conversation and thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom and your insights with us all.

Shelley Klammer
Thank you, Stacie, such a pleasure talking to you.

Stacie Clark
And you! You’re welcome to come back on anytime.

If you’ve been inspired to have a go at using any form of expressive art to support yourself in your own healing and your own development, then I’d love to invite you to come and join our community, on the Quiet Connections app, where you can gently stretch your comfort zone in this safe space by sharing any poetry, paintings, photography, anything that you’ve created that expresses parts of who you are and what you want to share. And use that space, as an opportunity to gradually connect with safe, others, just like Shelley mentioned.

In the next episode, myself and Haley are going to be looking at how to survive college when you feel anxious about speaking up. We reflect back on some of our own experiences and the challenges that we faced. This is going to be a great episode if you are currently a student who feels anxious in social situations, or if you are a parent of a student or a teacher at college or university, who wants to understand better how you may be able to support your students. So please tune in next week for that episode.

And in the meantime, stay connected.

Rose Burch
Thanks for listening. You can find the show notes for this episode at QuietConnections.co.uk.
Join the quiet community on the Quiet Connections app. Download from your app store today.

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