Betrayal trauma is a deeply painful experience, and individuals often seek various ways to process their emotions and find healing.
Carin, a talented artist, shares her journey of using art to heal from trauma, offering insights into how creativity can serve as a powerful tool for emotional recovery. Tune into The BTR.ORG Podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Anne (00:00): I have Carin Fasset on the podcast today. She is an artist, and I would like her to introduce herself because she has a very interesting story. So welcome Carin.
Coping with Childhood Challenges
Carin (00:11): Hello. I think I relate to a lot of people; difficult childhood. I was visually and hearing impaired, so that isolated me a lot. That became a problem later on in a marriage where I needed to know how to communicate. I needed to know how to solve issues instead of just hiding. It made the situation more difficult. I needed to use what I did have, which was the artistic ability to communicate, to study addiction, to study recovery.
Artistic Journey in Recovery
Anne (00:47): I wanted to have Carin on the podcast because I don’t have a lot of recovery artists that I meet every day, and I looked at her art, and it was so beautiful and moving. So Carin, let’s start by asking you, how did you begin your life of learning about addiction and coping?
Trauma and Coping Mechanisms
Carin (01:06): It was kind of a baptism by fire. I got married. I thought I had a good foundation only to find out that my husband’s family had a lot of issues that I wasn’t aware of. This led to him living the way he thought that relationships and families were supposed to be. It involved, lying involved, covering things up. It involved a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms that were very hurtful, and that led to a lot of trauma where I would put up walls, isolate myself even further, not communicate, and of course, nothing would get solved. Very, very dysfunctional. It became a really bad cycle because I needed to take responsibility for my actions, but I didn’t know how this led to my shopping, eating anger, really not healthy cycles.
Anne (02:07): So it sounds like these patterns of addiction and betrayal trauma started showing up in your family up until we met. You had processed these within the context of codependency, and then when I wrote you very interested in your art, and I said, we use the trauma model. You were like, oh, that’s super helpful. So tell me about how the patterns showed up in your family and then what you thought of them in the context of codependency and kind of where you are at now with this first introduction to the trauma model.
Carin (02:42): So I did notice a cycle of betrayal that resulted in trauma, this unseen wound, which led to PTSD symptoms within myself, which created a wall within myself. So I was not able to receive or give love.
Building Emotional Walls
Anne (03:01): Did you notice that with lots of people around you? Did you start forming this wall with friends and family and other people?
Carin (03:08): I became very selective in who I would talk with. I would function, I would talk to people, but I wouldn’t let people in. I was very good at just doing what was expected, getting along, making things smooth, but I was not good at being personal and talking to people in a real way.
Anne (03:29): Being really authentic.
A Turning Point
Carin (03:31): Yeah, exactly. And so I became very non-authentic for a long time, and it really hurt me. It hurt my art, it hurt my relationship. Just a few years ago, it kind of came to a head where I could see what I had done, and it happened when my son, he came clean about his addiction. It really hit me that things had to change. Obviously we can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves, and so that meant I had to do some really deep work on who I was, what I was doing and why, and I had to get to the root of it, and when I was able to do that, I was able to start healing.
Healing from Trauma with Honest Communication
Anne (04:14): So as you focused on your own healing, what kinds of breakthroughs have you seen in your marriage and in yourself and in your sons? How have these breakthroughs played out?
Carin (04:26): I remember one night coming back from a class, and I knew I had to be honest with myself and with him, which meant I would have to talk to him in a real way about what was really important. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in the past couple of years, and I’ll tell you, finding out about two of my sons having porn addictions, that was harder, harder to talk to my husband about what I really felt because I didn’t feel safe. I, in my head, did not feel safe talking. I had shut down that much. I had shut down my feelings. I had shut down certain memories as a protective measure, and so I was able to get really honest and have that breakthrough in that I had to communicate even though it was so difficult. Another breakthrough was with my sons. Of course, I was so glad that they could talk to me about what they were going through, but it was really hard. One of the best things I learned was that I needed to trust them to be themselves, which meant that they would mess up. It was vital for them to have a chance to fail or succeed.
“Am I Willing to Let Go?”
Anne (05:51): I don’t know if I would use the word trust. I would probably use the word let go because I might not trust that someone’s going to make the best decisions for themselves, but am I willing to let go?
Carin (06:07): The way I think of it is I trust them to be themselves, which means I’ve seen their mistakes. It leads me to being able to say, okay, I know this person. I know what they’ve done before. I trust them to be themselves. I trust me to be me, to expect anything different is counterproductive. And then that was a step up for me.
Anne’s Perspective on Trust
Anne (06:37): I’ve never heard of that before. So for me, I would say if I’m going to trust my ex-husband to be himself, then I know I can’t trust him.
Carin (06:46): Yeah.
Understanding Boundaries and Trust
Anne (06:48): Right. I’m going to trust my son to be himself. Then I know I need to set boundaries around this because I don’t want the chaos to come into my home or something like that.
Carin (07:02): Because what they’ve shown us, right?
Anne (07:04): Is that what you’re saying? That’s interesting. I haven’t thought of it that way before. I’m just processing that for a minute. So what would you say are the most helpful insights that you’ve learned over the past 25 years?
Discussion on Helpful Insights
Carin (07:14): I kind of tried to narrow this down. The first and foremost thing is that we cannot control other people. We can model what we’d like them to do. We can show them. I think that’s more effective than telling anyone what we want them to do, just modeling what we hope we can give them choices that we are comfortable with. For example, I am happy to pay for your cell phone if it has protection software on it. We can set boundaries. For example, I will be making food for the people who are kind to me, or I would love to go out with you when you are a fun date. Also, we can create peace within ourselves that others will gravitate to. I’ve seen it time and again. Basically, I think it’s really important to be the peace and love that you want to see, and always acknowledge and remember that you get to choose how you feel no matter what the people do around you, and this is probably the hardest thing to do to choose how you feel, but it is perhaps the most powerful.
Insights on Setting Boundaries
(08:29): One of the last ones would be we cannot and should not try to force or coerce another person to our way of thinking or living. This always backfires. It is always important though, to set boundaries. Don’t try to take responsibility for anyone else’s choices. It will destroy you. So it’s best if I focus on myself, my healing, my responsibility for my choices, and to be lovingly honest with myself as well as my family. And in fact, just this week I had to get really honest and examine my own behaviors again, where they were coming from and what kind of help I needed to feel peace again so that I can achieve what I want.
Exploring Art as a Healing Medium
Anne (09:22): So let’s talk about your art because I love it and I looked at your paintings and thought they were so beautiful. I want to know about your addiction recovery exhibit. I want to talk about the different ways that women can process their trauma, the creative ways that they can express themselves. We have never talked about this form of processing on the podcast, and so I would really like you to spend some time talking about how you processed your experience through this medium.
The Role of Art in Recovery
Carin (09:53): Oh, awesome. I love this. As far as the addiction recovery exhibit goes, that is something that resulted from when my oldest son came clean and he actually told his entire story on Facebook, became public with it, gave up the complete secrecy of it all, and I saw this weight
Creating Art to Explore the 12 Steps
(10:16): Lift off of him from this dark self-centered space into this space of light and hope, and it didn’t mean he did not mess up again, he did, but he was able to continually move forward in a really positive way. Because of that, I started painting the 12 steps to study them. I was able to see it from a whole different perspective. It’s a visual perspective instead of a word, a language, so it’s more about feelings. It’s about your heart and your head being engaged instead of just logic or emotion. Separately. When I started this 12 step series, I was able to bring in organizations that support addiction recovery, and we are gathering artists who are also able to now submit their artwork and tell their story, their resurrection in a way that’s the name of the show, because when you let go of all of that, you become essentially a whole new person, and so you’re able to realize that you are a powerful being, that you can move forward and that you can help other people.
Art as a Tool For Emotional Expression
(11:32): As far as the idea of using art to recover from something seriously, it’s one of the most powerful things. You can give a child some artwork, supplies, and you can say, tell me how you feel. They may not have the language to do it, but they can portray how they’re feeling. It doesn’t matter that this piece of art has not been put in a museum. You can feel how they’re feeling just by looking at it, and you can get a really good picture, a story, even though they don’t have the language to tell you everything. You can do meditation and then get really centered, and then you can have an image in your mind that you can put on paper or canvas or in clay and start to understand yourself even better and where you’re coming from and what you need to learn in order to progress. A lot of people have had breakthroughs just by doing that.
The Power of Art in Healing
Anne (12:42): What I find really cool about the idea of art, even though I have not myself used it to process my trauma, is that I don’t have to talk. I share the same story over and over again. I’ve already said it a bunch of times, which is helpful. I’m not saying that I haven’t really benefited from it, but I just like this new idea of processing it through another way and perhaps reaching it in a way that I couldn’t reach just by speaking, I’d love to have you help me out here because I am very artistic when it comes to writing. I love creating with words. That’s just another form of explaining it. But my artistic talents in terms of drawing or painting, I’ll put it this way, if I could do Zumba and not have a mirror, I love it, but the second I look in the mirror and I recognize how absolutely ridiculous I look, then I, I can’t do this anymore. And this is kind of the same thing with art.
Self-Expression Through Art
(13:46): If I could close my eyes and just create and think, oh, this is so cathartic, I’d be fine. But the second I open my eyes and realize this art is so bad, kind of shuts me down a little bit because it really is terrible. What are your thoughts about that? Even talking about it, I’m just thinking, oh, I was the person who did toll painting, try my hardest, and then I’d end up just literally throwing it in the trash on the way out. Even after I had tried as hard as I could, I still would be like, this is terrible.
Carin (14:16): Well, when we are doing things like to painting, we are actually trying to do someone else’s art, and that’s the problem. We’re not doing our own art. When you find a medium that is yours, this may require getting a little messy, trying some different things, and not just a medium, but a style that is yours, then it won’t feel awkward and you won’t have to feel like you’re trying so hard. One thing you can do is to look at different painters, maybe color field painters, maybe different line qualities. It’s not about displaying a figure, it’s about an emotion. I was able to teach a class at Addict to Artist,
Focusing on the Emotional Impact of Art
Carin (15:10): We were talking about is there feeling in this picture, it’s a Mark Rothco, it’s just color blocks, but there was this resonance, this vibrancy to it, and you could feel it, and because of that, it was a good piece of art. It wasn’t, oh look, it looks just like a person. That’s what a camera’s for. What we tried to focus on was how does it feel, and it’s really important when you’re trying to heal somehow to figure out how you’re actually feeling.
Anne (15:46): I think also to recognize that I’m not ever going to be a professional artist clearly, which is fine, and being okay with the process of it rather than the result. I’m doing this because it helps my healing process, but not because I’m really expecting to have something that I could hang up on my wall afterward when I do attempt to do it, which is never because when do you just randomly pull out a canvas? I’m also thinking about, for example, I love gardening.
Expressing Art Through Gardening
Anne (16:21): Asked one of my neighbors, how do you know if you’re a really good gardener? And he said, if your garden is better than any of your neighbors, and I laughed because I said, then I’m the best.
Carin (16:32): You’re a landscape artist.
Anne (16:34): I can say I’m an artist, I’m a garden artist, and this is the way I express my artistic abilities. Maybe if I start looking at other ways that I express myself or process my emotions that are not necessarily talking or writing, I’d just like my listeners to think about how you are processing your emotions. You’re always going to process them through speaking and having your voice and owning your voice is a really important part of healing. And then what are some other nonverbal ways that you can express your emotions and process your emotions? Because like I said, I really doubt that everybody has a four by four canvas in their home and a full workup of oil paints, or maybe they do. I don’t know.
Recognize Your Voice
Carin (17:22): The important thing is to recognize your voice and to communicate verbally and non-verbally because that leads to connection. You’re going to find solution and coping mechanisms that are really healthy, that are going to support you, support your family, and you’ll be able to actually heal from secrets or shame and to be able to move forward.