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Poem: "Energy Made Visible" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Energy Made Visible"
This poem is spillover from the April 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from Rutile and previous discussions with Dreamwidth user Dialecticdreamer and other fans.  It also fills the "neglected" square in my 4-1-18 card for the Spring Fest bingo.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $0.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
Sponsors include: DW user Daisiesrockalot, general fund, Soupshue, DW user Gingicat, DW user Zianuray

FULLY FUNDED
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Energy Made Visible


The craft room was quiet and familiar.
Shiv watched as Dr. G brought out
the creme pastels. Then he frowned --
something looked different today.

"What happened to the bigger set?"
Shiv said, eyeing the small carton.

"Well, those are mine, for people
to use in art therapy," Dr. G said.

"Then whose are these?" Shiv said.

"Yours, if you want to earn them,"
Dr. G said, waving at the set
of twelve creme pastels.

Shiv narrowed his eyes.
"Earn them how?" he said.

"Answering questions," Dr. G said.
"When I start working with a new client,
I customarily ask them things about
what they want and don't want from
therapy, what brings them to me,
what bothers them, and so forth.
Due to your situation, we skipped
that, and I'd like to get back to it."

Shiv lurched back in his chair,
hard enough to make it rock.
"You know I hate that shit."

"I also know that you haven't
fired me yet," Dr. G said with
a smile, "and that you love art.
I thought you might like to have
something of your very own."

"Then why not just give
it to me?" Shiv whined.

"Because I also know that
you feel uneasy about gifts,
and you don't like being in
anyone's debt," Dr. G said.
"This makes it clear that you
have earned your supplies."

Well, he had a point there.

"Let me start by showing you
my offer, as it were," Dr. G. said,
opening the carton of creme pastels.

The brilliant colors made Shiv
lean forward. "They're beautiful."

"Aren't they? I love these things,"
Dr. G said, grinning. "Here we have
red, orange, yellow -- for some reason
there's light green and dark green -- blue,
purple, pink, peach, brown, black, and white."

50 "So the whole rainbow, plus some extras
and neutrals," Shiv said. "Better'n I thought."

"The only thing really missing between here
and the set of twenty-four is gray," Dr. G said.
"The rest are just shades of other colors."

"Yeah, I remember," Shiv said. "I can
get gray by blending black and white."

"You sure can," Dr. G said. "Now,
I know you have some difficulty in
answering questions, so let's explore
what you could get with just a few."

He picked up the black pastel and
the white one. "Two questions would
get you all the shades from black to white,
or you could pick white and any bright color."

"Monochrome," Shiv said. "I remember
doing a worksheet on that once."

"Exactly," Dr. G said. "If you answer
three questions, then you could get
the primary colors -- red, yellow, blue --
or you could choose something else.
What other sets can you think of?"

"Blue, green, purple," Shiv said promptly.
"Them's the cool colors. The warm's
red, orange, yellow. But there's more here."

"Okay, go ahead and map some sets
on this," Dr. G said. He offered Shiv
a worksheet on the color wheel, which
Shiv had actually seen before, but it
had places to the side for making sets.
"Think about what you want most."

Shiv grabbed the page and
reached for the pastels, then
hesitated. "Can I use these?
They're not really mine yet."

"You may borrow any of them
during the session," Dr. G said.

So Shiv filled out the worksheet.
It made a cheerful splash of color.
"These are real nice," he said.

"I'm glad you like them, and I
hope you earn several today,"
Dr. G said. "Now what could you
get if you answered four questions?"

"Either warm or cool plus white,"
Shiv said. "Or the neutrals."

"What about five?" said Dr. G.

"Add black to white and
the warm or cool set, then
I could do tints and tones,"
Shiv said. "Or there's, um ..."

He could see the word on
the page, but he didn't know
how it was supposed to sound.
It started with "anal" so he
was afraid to guess.

"Analogous colors,"
Dr. G read, looking at
where Shiv's finger was.
"I think that'd be something
like red, red-orange, orange,
yellow-orange, and yellow."

"Sounds right," Shiv agreed,
coloring in that line of circles,
which he had skipped earlier.

"Suppose that you answered
six questions," Dr. G said.

"Basic rainbow," Shiv said.
"Red, orange, yellow, green,
blue, and purple. I could draw
all kinds of things with that batch.
Seven, add white; eight, black."

"Very good!" Dr. G exclaimed.
"All right, do you agree that
my offer has value to you?"

Shiv rolled his finger over
the red pastel that he had
been using. It rocked under
his touch. "The pastels, yeah."

"You're still not convinced
that therapy is any use,
are you?" Dr. G said sadly.

Shiv sighed. "You're not
really doing  anything, doc,
and if you were then it'd just
fuck up my head like before."

"You've been neglected and abused,
including in therapy," Dr. G said.

"Story of my life." Shiv shrugged.

"We're trying to make it better now.
All right, let me add something new
to the offer," Dr. G said as he put
a long wooden box on the table.
"This is an art storage box with
room for dozens of pastels."

"Why's it so big?"  Shiv said,
his eyes going wide. It was
beautiful, made of golden wood
with shiny brass hinges and latches.

Dr. G chuckled. "Believe it or not,
this was the smallest wooden box that
the art store had. Some artists collect
hundreds of pastels over time. I just
wanted to give you some growing room."

"Hundreds," Shiv whispered, shivering.

"That much seemed like a recipe for
choice paralysis to me," Dr. G said.
"I'm confident you can handle twelve."

"I doubt I'll get that far," Shiv said,
shaking his head so his bangs flopped.

"That's okay," Dr. G said. "My offer stands.
One meaningful therapy question in exchange for
one creme pastel -- these are studio pastels,
by the way, suitable for college classes.
They are not cheap stuff for children,
although nowhere near the top end."

"I like the way they feel in my hands,"
Shiv admitted. He rubbed a finger
over the page, smearing the colors.

"I'm happy to hear that," said Dr. G.
"Now I'm offering you the wooden box
in exchange for an actual therapy page.
Don't worry, it's a coloring page too."

He slid the paper across the table.

Things I want to talk about today,
read the top, and Shiv flinched away.

"If you hate the idea, just color in
where it reads, 'I don't want to talk.'
Then the box is yours, but you'll
have to buy your own pastels,"
Dr. G said. "Color in any other bit,
and we get to play the question game."

Shiv grabbed the paper and blue pastel.

He hesitated over the downward arrow.
He didn't  want to talk, but the pastels
were just so pretty, and he wanted those.

Instead, he colored the blank space
around the downward arrow, buying
himself some time to think of a plan.

He definitely didn't want to talk about
Fears. There was a triangle for Dreams,
and he put a dot in that -- because therapy
gave him nightmares -- before realizing
that it would be a bad thing to reveal.

"It's okay if you're not quite ready
to talk about your dreams," Dr. G said.
"We know you're thinking about it.
What else catches your eye?"

Shiv didn't have friends or
family or pets, and he wasn't
being bullied at present.

"I'm thinking about art?" he said,
looking at the cloud. "Does that
count, if we're already doing it?"

"We can certainly talk about
art," Dr. G said. "Color it in."

Shiv colored that pink and purple,
because he thought of art as lively.

Under that was a question mark, and
he felt confused basically all the time now,
so he smudged that black and white and blue.

Then he saw the sideways arrow that
read, Things are going okay. He
colored it yellow, because life in
the standard wing was doable.

Finally Shiv pushed the paper
back toward Dr. G. "Good enough?"

"Yes, you did very well," Dr. G said.
"A lot of visual thinkers like this kind of
interface. Now we both know what's
on your mind today -- and you are
the proud owner of one art box."

"Wow," Shiv said. That had
actually been worth the effort.

Dr. G brought out some paperwork
to file the box as Shiv's personal property.

"We'll move on to the pastels next,"
he said. "Now that you're living in
the standard wing, you can keep
them here in the craft room or in
your cell. The guards might balk at
the wooden box, though -- I guess
I didn't think that through earlier."

Shiv shrugged. "It's okay," he said.
"Either I can keep the wooden box
here, or just leave the pastels
in their cardboard box."

"Well reasoned," Dr. G said,
his fingers drumming on the lid.
"So here we have the box and
the pastels. What do you think
they have to do with counseling?"

"I dunno," Shiv said. "I guess ...
you know that I like colors, so
it's a way to keep me talking,
instead of me just telling
you to go fuck yourself?"

"That's part of it," Dr. G said.
"Another is that art therapy works
because it relates to the self. Color
is simply energy -- energy made visible."

"You make it sound like magic," Shiv said.
"I thought that woo-woo stuff wasn't real."

"The line between art and magic is pretty thin,"
Dr. G said. "Superpowers may blur the line, but
psychology matters too. Colors stimulate or inhibit
the functioning of different parts of our body and
minds. Therefore, working with them can help
restore balance and healthy functioning."

"I know I'm fucked up," Shiv said slowly.
"The colors ..." He stirred a fingertip through
the stormy swirls of the question mark space
on the talking worksheet. "... they can show
what I think, or feel, when I can't say it out."

"That's an excellent description of art therapy,"
said Dr. G. "Shall we begin with the questions?
Try to answer verbally, but you can draw pictures
too if that helps you to work out a response."

Shiv looked at the brilliant colors of the pastels
and tried to imagine owning them. "Okay,"
he said. "Wait, what if I get a bad one?
I mean, a question I don't want to answer?"

"Just say 'pass' and I'll ask a different one,"
Dr. G said. "Use that wisely, though, because
I tried to put the easier questions first."

"What if you run out?" Shiv said.

"I won't," Dr. G said gently. "Shiv,
I don't think I'll ever get to the end of
the things that I wonder about you."

"Hit me," Shiv said, and when
Dr. G winced, "Sorry. Ask me."

"How would you describe
your personality?" said Dr. G.

Shiv was pretty sure he'd get
in trouble if he said 'fuckup' again,
and besides, he had to test this.

"Pass," he said, shaking his head.

"Okay," Dr. G said. "What are three
of your biggest life accomplishments?"

"Uh ..." Shiv said. "I'm still alive?"

"That's one," Dr. G agreed.
"You have two to go."

"I had a job I liked, before
I wound up here," Shiv said.
"I'm learning a lot more about
how to use my superpowers."

"Pick one," Dr. G invited,
waving a hand at the pastels.

Shiv reached for the blue,
then hesitated. "Can I
change my mind later?"

"Of course," Dr. G said. "You're
playing for a number, so you might
make different choices if you earn
three than if you earn five."

"This one, for now," Shiv said,
pulling the blue one toward him.

"How are you sleeping these days?"
Dr. G asked, leaning forward.
"That can affect a lot in life."

"Okay, I guess," Shiv said.
Then he remembered. "Better
than I used to, because now
I have the Microfyne. It helps."

"I'm so happy for you,"
Dr. G said. "Pick again."

Shiv grabbed the white.
Now he could do tints.

"Are you happy with your diet?"
Dr. G asked after he did so.

"Aww, yeah,"  Shiv said with a grin.
"Dr. Bloch came up with this new thing,
did he tell you about that? It's called
the Get Your Shit Together Diet."

"I heard he was working on something
to support health and self-control, but I didn't
know it was in effect," Dr. G said. "I would
enjoy hearing more about that study."

"He told us it's not a study  yet because
he wants to see how it works for us here,
and wants it open to everyone interested
in trying it, so it's just a program," Shiv said.
"Then if it looks good, he'll do it up fancy and
ask people for money to make it bigger."

"That's a good description of the process,"
Dr. G said. "So the food appeals to you?"

"It's fantastic," Shiv said. "Okay, well,
some of it's weird, but there's a lot of
great stuff. We get lots of fruit, and
some veggies I mostly don't care about,
a little meat -- we've had salmon twice!
There's this mixed hot cereal that's
pretty good, or you can get oatmeal
and put whatever you want on it."

"Are you sure you're getting enough?"
Dr. G asked. "That was a concern earlier."

"Yeah, I still get bigger portions, along
with extra snacks and stuff," Shiv said.
"I like this program, though, it's the only one
I've ever been in that actually did me any good."

"You mentioned the Microfyne earlier,"
Dr. G pointed out. "Does that count?"

"Oh yeah, I guess it does," Shiv said.
Somehow he had forgotten that
it came out of a study to keep
the inmates tame and quiet.

"That's three," Dr. G said. "Do you
want to stick with your current choices,
or would you like to pick something new?"

"New," Shiv said. He put back the white,
taking the red and yellow instead.
"Now I've got the primaries."

"That's right, and with those you
can make the secondaries," Dr. G said.

"Orange, green, purple," Shiv said.
"I want those too. Ask again."

"Overall, how would you describe
your mood?" Dr. G said next.

"Pass," Shiv said sharply.
He didn't need another lecture
about his 'bad attitude.'

"All right, what’s guaranteed
to make you feel up?" Dr. G said.
"Try to give me at least three things,
preferably one of them I don't know yet."

"Art," Shiv said, rolling his three pastels
under his hand as a reminder why he
was dragging himself through this shit.

"Good one," Dr. G said. "I'm glad that
you recognize the value in this. Next?"

"Sharp things," Shiv said. That was
going out on thin ice, but it was so big
for him, he couldn't fairly leave it out.
"Tolli's helping me learn more about
making knives and stuff like that."

"He's good at that," Dr. G said.
"You and I haven't known each other
for very long. I bet you can come up
with a favorite of yours that's new to me."

Shiv thought about what he had already
given up and what he'd kept closer
to his chest. "Music," he said.
He hadn't played much in prison.

"Jazz, blues?" Dr. G guessed.

"Yeah, I like what we play at
Blues Moon," Shiv admitted.
"Some other things, too, but
I don't know all their names."

"That's okay, it's something
we can explore later if you'd
like," Dr. G said. "Choose."

Shiv hesitated for a moment,
torn between the set of neutrals
or the colors he currently held.

In the end, he added the white
back to his set, because he
preferred the bright colors.

"People come to therapy for
a reason," Dr. G said. "What is
the problem from your viewpoint?"

"Oh, fuck no," Shiv snapped.

"That's fine," Dr. G said. "How
do you think you learn best?"

Shiv's chest tightened. "Pass,"
he managed to squeak out.

"Remember, the questions get
harder as we go along," Dr. G said.
"You can stop whenever you want."

What Shiv wanted was more
of those creme pastels.
"Ask me," he gritted.

"On a scale of one to ten,
how content are you with
your life?" Dr. G said.

That wasn't unbearable,
just hopelessly confusing.

How could you count your life?

"I ... dunno," Shiv said. "I guess
it's okay? I want to answer this one,
but I don't really understand it."

"We can go into more detail
about this later," Dr. G said.
"For now, imagine your life
as a can of spray paint. Ten
is full, so you can go out and
paint the town red. One is empty,
and you're bummed about that."

"Oh, I get it," Shiv said. Then
he had to think about it. "Maybe
in the middle? It's been way worse.
You keep talking like it's supposed
to be so much better, though."

"This is about how you feel now,"
Dr. G said. "Middle numbers
could be four, five, or six."

"Five," Shiv said, clutching
at Dr. G's explanation.

"And that's five questions,"
Dr. G said. "Take your pick."

Shiv thought about analogous colors,
but that was too limited. Instead,
he added the black to his set.

"That's a nice set," Dr. G said.
"Do you want to stop there,
or keep going a little longer?"

"Keep going," Shiv said.

He could take it.
He could take worse.

At least this time,
he was actually getting
something out of the grilling.

"Do you have a clear sense of
where you want to take things
in life?" Dr. G asked him.

Shiv winced. "Pass."

He might not be as
completely convinced that
he was going to die young as he
used to be, but he had no idea
what to do about that yet,
let alone talk about it.

"Is there anyone who you
feel really understands you and
is close to you?" Dr. G said.

"Boss White," said Shiv,
then hunched in his seat.
"I shouldn't talk about him,
though, it's not fair when he
hasn't said that I could."

"Most of these questions
are open-ended, but some can
be answered simply," Dr. G said.
"I'll count this, and you did a good job
thinking about the ethics of it. Choose."

Shiv put back the black and white,
taking the orange, green, and purple.
"Now I have the whole rainbow,"
he said with a pleased smile.

"So you do," Dr. G said.
"What is different today from
the last time you were here?"

Shiv frowned. "Can I go back farther?"
he said. "It's been a little bit since we came
to the craft room together. The last time we met
was that group therapy thing, and before that,
you hauled me in to negotiate for it."

"Yes, as long as you follow the spirit
of the question," Dr. G said. "It's meant
to help you think about changes over
time in our therapy sessions."

"Kind of ... a lot," Shiv said. "I can't
put it all in words, though." He fiddled
with his pastels, putting them in a line from
red to white. "It's like, I dunno, you showed
me the art stuff and it helps somehow.
Clears my head. Then I think, maybe
this isn't total bullshit after all."

"Thank you, Shiv, that shows
wonderful progress," Dr. G said.
"I always want you to feel that
therapy is doing you some good.
Which color will you pick next?"

Shiv took back the white one.

"You could do quite a bit with
that set," Dr. G said. "If you
could wave a magic wand,
what positive changes would
you make happen in your life?"

The question hit Shiv like
a punch in the gut, and
he nearly doubled over
from the shock of it.

"All right, that's enough,"
Dr. G said. "Easy, Shiv,
take some deep breaths.
You don't have to answer
that question today."

"But I'm not finished,"
Shiv said, voice breaking.
All he could think about was
the colors left in the box.

"That's frustrating, isn't it?"
Dr. G said. "The goal wasn't
to finish, though, just to begin."

"I want them all," Shiv whined.

"Of course you do," Dr. G said.
"The colors are so pretty, and
you love the creme pastels."

"Uh huh," Shiv said.

"Today you earned seven,"
Dr. G said. "I was confident that
you could get three or four, and I
hoped you might manage five or six.
Seven exceeds my expectations."

"I didn't flunk the test?" Shiv said.

"It wasn't a test, it was an opportunity,"
Dr. G said. "You didn't fail it at all.
You did an excellent job."

Shiv took a deep breath,
trying not to sniffle. "I
wanna keep going."

"I'm sure you do, but
not today," Dr. G said,
his voice gentle but firm.
"Don't push too hard."

"Yeah, but --" Shiv protested.

"Shh, now, listen to me,"
Dr. G said. "If you overreach,
then you could hurt yourself.
Will you follow my lead on this?"

Shiv slumped in his seat.
He really wanted the black one,
but he didn't want to drive himself
into a meltdown, because that sucked.

"I guess," he said grudgingly.

"Here you go," Dr. G said,
handing him the black pastel.

"But -- I didn't answer
another question," Shiv said.

"Yes, you did," Dr. G replied.
"You agreed to follow my lead and
let me set a boundary to keep you safe.
That's all I needed to hear from you."

Shiv scooped all eight precious pastels
toward himself, patting them with his hands.
They were really his this time. These were
the ones that he got to keep today.

"Are we done for now?" Dr. G said. "If you
need to rest, we can wrap up a little early
and you can go back to your cell."

"No," Shiv said softly. "I'll be ...
as okay as I ever am, I think."

"All right, then let's double back to
something more successful," Dr. G said.
"Remember the ten-point life assessment?"

"Yeah," Shiv said. "Numbers are hard."

"They can be hard in abstract, but they're
a lot easier to visualize with a picture,"
Dr. G said. He offered Shiv a new page.
"This is called a Life Wheel, or Circle of Life."

Shiv looked at the picture. It reminded
him of a pie chart, only all the wedges
were the same size. "Aren't they
supposed to be different sizes?"

"You're thinking of a pie chart,
and this is a little different, so they're
supposed to be equal," Dr. G said.
"What do you think of the labels?"

The first two words in the pie
read Spirituality and Learning.

"God's a bastard and school sucks,"
Shiv said with a shrug. "So what?"

"And nutrition?" Dr. G prompted.

"That's ... pretty great, actually,"
Shiv said. "I like my diet."

"Would you change anything
about it if you could?" Dr. G said.

"No," Shiv said. "Dr. Bloch knows
more about it than me, let him do it."

"Then let's call that a ten," Dr. G said.
"You have a very low opinion of
both spirituality and learning.
Consider those your ones."

"Okay, I get it," Shiv said,
tracing the wheel with a finger.

"Physical activity?" said Dr. G.

"That's decent," Shiv said. "I can't
go exercise whenever I want, but I get
enough. People bug me if I don't.
It's somewhere in the middle."

"That might be a five, then,"
Dr. G said. "Does that feel right?"

"Yeah, that's about right," Shiv said.

"Here's a blank chart. See how it goes
from one to ten in each wedge?" Dr. G said,
passing him a page. "Draw a line for each topic
that shows how 'full' it is, and color them in.
Use whatever colors you like on yours."

"Okay," Shiv said. It made a lot more sense
now that Dr. G had explained it than when
they were just talking about numbers.

Shiv thought about having cans of
spray paint spread in front of him, and
he filled in the chart with different colors.

Then he looked at the results.

"It's not totally  fucked up," he said,
startled. "I ... didn't know that."

Dr. G grinned at him. "Then today
has been absolutely worthwhile, because
you learned something about yourself."

"Yeah, I guess so," Shiv said. "It's just
so much clearer when it's laid out like this."

"Jumps right out at you, doesn't it?" Dr. G said.

"Uh huh," Shiv said. "Is it supposed to look
like this, though? It seems kind of ... broken up."

"Well, you have high areas and low areas,
so that's unbalanced," Dr. G said. "It's okay,
lots of people have that kind of pattern. Let's
look a little closer. Nutrition and creativity
are your tens. Spirituality and learning are
your ones. Physical activity, career, and
health fall in the middle, and the rest
are somewhere toward the bottom."

"Yeah, that's right," Shiv said,
his fingers following the stairsteps
of categories around the wheel.

"Would you like to do anything
about this?" Dr. G asked.

"I dunno," Shiv said. "Like what?"

"Well, you could work on one or
more of the lower categories
to bring them up," Dr. G said.

"Why would I want to do that?"
Shiv said, staring at him. "I hate
school and I hate church!"

"Perhaps another category, then,"
Dr. G said. "What about joy?"

"I'm not really a joyful guy," Shiv said.

"Do you ever feel joy?" Dr. G asked.
"Try to think of times when you do."

Shiv had to think about that one,
and it made him a little uncomfortable.

"When I'm doing metalwork with Tolli,
or drawing," Shiv said after a minute.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm flying."

"That's joy," Dr. G confirmed. "You
could also look at categories and test them
for accuracy. For instance, you ranked
social life at two, but you seem to have
some positive relationships now."

"I could change it," Shiv said,
reaching for a pastel. "People are
always telling me I have to have friends."

Dr. G held up a hand. "No, Shiv,"
he said. "You don't have to have
friends. It's just healthier if you do.
This chart is about how you feel,
not what anyone else says."

"That's not how therapy works,"
Shiv argued. "The whole point is
to make me like somebody wants
me to be, instead of how I really am."

"This is how client-centered therapy works,"
Dr. G said firmly. "You set some goals, and
I help you reach them, or I suggest things that
seem useful for the challenges you encounter."
He touched a corner of the page. "Do you
see anything you'd like to work on here?"

"I dunno," Shiv said. "Maybe? It's just
all so much. I wouldn't know where to start."

"Okay, let's try a slightly different approach,"
Dr. G said. "You've said that your life
used to be a lot worse, right?"

"Oh yeah," Shiv said tightly.
"I don't want to talk about that."

"We don't need to right now,
I'm just setting up the background,"
Dr. G said. "Since your life has already
improved, can you imagine that it might
keep getting better in the future?"

Shiv tried to imagine that.
It just made his brain hurt.

"I guess?" he said, not really
understanding what Dr. G wanted.

"Well, is it already perfect?" Dr. G said.
"If there's nothing you would change,
then you don't need to work on anything."

Shiv rolled his eyes. "My life ain't perfect."

"Then it has room for improvement,"
Dr. G said. "Since your life is getting
better, you could decide to help it along
by working on one of the low areas."

"That sounds really hard," Shiv said,
drumming his fingers on the table. They
left faint smears of color. "I've got a lot
on my plate already. I don't know if
I want to add more work to that."

"Ah, now that I can help with,"
Dr. G said, taking out more pages.
"Let me show you another picture."

It had a staircase with little cartoon dudes
sitting or standing on the stairs. Actually,
the one on the bottom was lying down.
Shiv snickered, hand over his mouth.

"This is the pre-contemplation phase,"
Dr. G said, pointing to the bottom dude.
"He doesn't feel that he has a problem,
so he's not doing anything to change."

"Smart guy," Shiv said, who appreciated
the chance to loaf around when he could.

"Smart guy, if he doesn't have big trouble,"
Dr. G said. He moved up a step, to a dude in
a thinking pose. "Next is contemplation. This guy
is thinking about his life. He knows change is
hard work, so he wants to make sure the payoff
will be worth it before he does anything."

"Guess that makes sense," Shiv said.

"Good, because you're here," Dr. G said,
tapping the second step. You are thinking
about the ups and downs in your life, whether
there are solutions to some of the challenges,
and if those are worth the work to fix."

Shiv rolled his fingers over
the pastels, pushing them
together and then apart.

"Usually when it comes to
that, people just claim that I'm
dragging my feet," Shiv grumbled.

"It doesn't mean that you're
ambivalent or procrastinating,"
Dr. G said. "It means that you're
undecided. That's great! You know
where you are. You're aware of
some pros and cons of changing.
You can think about whether this
is something you want to do now."

"But I still don't know ..." Shiv said.

"That's okay," Dr. G said. "If
you want, I can guide you through
the pre-contemplation phase, or
you can tackle it on your own."

Shiv thought about trying
to hack through this himself
and put his face in his hands.

At least Dr. G had some idea
what the hell was going on.

"Maybe not ... all by myself,"
he muttered into his fingers.

Dr. G looked like Shiv had
dropped a whole salmon
right in front of him.

"In that case," Dr. G said,
"I'm happy to help you.
We can explore this in
more detail another time.
For now, how would you like
to give those pastels a spin?"

"Yeah," Shiv said. "That'd
be great. I need to relax."

"Here you go," Dr. G said,
passing him a blank page.
"Draw whatever you feel like."

At first Shiv just made
aimless scribbles, but then
he noticed some of the blue ones
were twisting into clouds, while
the yellows made a path of light.

He drew a sky and a rising sun
above a lake riffled with waves.

Like Dr. G said, the colors
were energy made visible,
confused and yet hopeful.

"How do I know that this is
even working?" he whispered.

"This, meaning therapy?" Dr. G said.

"Yeah," Shiv said. "I mean, before
people just judged based on how much
I was pissing them off, and if it was less,
then they said something must be working."

"Well, if the client has goals, then moving
toward those means it's working," Dr. G said.
"Without specific goals, I generally just ask
if they feel better or their life is less of a mess."

Shiv thought about what his life had been
like before he had met Dr. G, and
what his life was like now.

"I think it might be working," he said.

* * *

Notes:

“Color is simply energy, energy made visible. Colors stimulate or inhibit the functioning of different parts of our body. Treatment with the appropriate color can restore balance and normal functioning.”
Laurie Buchanan, PhD

The prison craft room has several long tables for working on projects, plus shelves and cabinets for materials.

Graham's art carrier has a large central section for paper or pictures, with several side pockets for supplies.

This is the set of 24 creme pastels that Graham uses for art therapy.  There are enough colors to draw pretty much anything, but not so many as to feel overwhelming.

This is the smaller set of 12 that Graham offers to Shiv.  That gives Shiv room to stretch a bit asking questions, without feeling like an impossible task.  Once he earns the set, he'll have an excellent start on a collection, and he can draw most things.

Here is the wooden storage box for pastels that Shiv gets to earn.

Local-America has chalk pastels and oil pastels. T-American creme pastels are retro-engineered tech. They have intense colors with a silky, creamy texture that blends very easily across all the formats. The sticks come in soft or hard, for drawing in broad stokes. The pencils also come in soft or hard, for finer details. The paste is held in small jars, meant to be applied with sponges. Some artists like to use their hands or other tools for working with creme pastels. There are various techniques for using pastels, including portraiture. You can even make your own soft pastels.

In this worksheet, the color theory wheel shows relationships among different colors.

This monochrome art worksheet explores tints and shades.  Watch a video on making a value scale.  See an artist paint a monochrome scene in blue.  Because creme pastels blend so well, they function a lot like paints in this regard.

Art therapy is a real form of therapy.  It does the most good for visual thinkers and/or problems that don't fit into words very well, but anyone may benefit from it.  In local-America, there are elaborate requirements for becoming an art therapist per se, but many counselors just incorporate bits of it into whatever else they're doing.  In Terramagne-America, you don't actually have to be an artist to be an art therapist, just understand art and psychology.  There are many techniques to explore, including interpretation of drawings.  Art therapy is good for promoting calm and expressing emotions.  Here are some therapeutic art activities that you can do at home.

Visual thinkers often benefit from a graphic interface such as the therapy worksheet that Dr. G offers to Shiv.  See an example of it blank and colored in.

Some people like talking about themselves, while others hate it; Shiv usually hates it. Talking in therapy gives people a chance to tell their own story.  Understand what to tell your therapist.  There are suggested topics and techniques for talking about yourself in therapy.

Asking questions is a fundamental skill for therapists.  The questions that therapists commonly ask may involve openers and survival needs.

In local-America, starvation and malnutrition contribute to bad behavior in prisons.  This is somewhat less common in Terramagne-America, because the prison system is liable if inmates suffer any harm from the diet. Adding better nutrients tends to reduce bad behavior and criminal tendencies.  Eating wholesome foods can also improve mental health.

Dr. Bloch introduces the Get Your Sh!t Together Diet as an option for inmates who wish to participate. It starts with an appointment to establish their current baseline, with followups later to track progress. They also get multivitamins for the first month, because so many inmates have deficiencies, but after that it relies on a healthy diet unless dropping the vitamins lowers the effectiveness of the program for an individual.

The diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables with some whole grains and dairy, plus a little meat and other healthy proteins. As many items as feasible are organic. Featured nutrients include Omega-3 oils (oily fish and other seafoods), folic acid (dark green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, brown rice), magnesium (green leafy vegetables and nuts are best; also bread, fish, meat and dairy foods), Vitamin D (oily fish, liver, eggs), and zinc (meat, dairy, seafood).  Omega-3 oils can reduce cigarette cravings and stress.

The Eat a Rainbow goal aims to serve at least one item per day from each color group (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white) which leads to many multicolored foods such as rainbow chard. The most nutritious vegetables include onions, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, kale, mushrooms, peas, red bell peppers, broccoli, beets, potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, and carrots. Each day features three to four servings, and several of these routinely appear on the salad bar. The most nutritious fruits include grapefruit, pineapple, avocado, blueberries, apples, mango, strawberries, cranberries, lemons, durian, watermelon, olives, blackberries, oranges, bananas, grapes, papaya, and cherries. Each day features four to five servings. Grapefruit is always available at breakfast; whole apples, oranges, and bananas at lunch; and many of the others as snacks. The most nutritious proteins include fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb or mutton, bison, pork, beans and legumes, low-fat dairy, tofu, nuts, eggs, and sweet potatoes. Each day offers 50-100 grams of proteins. Tofu, nuts, and eggs are always available in the salad bar; some proteins are also available as snacks.

High-fiber foods include avocados, berries, coconut, figs, peas, okra, acorn squash, turnips, black beans, chickpeas, lima beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds. At least two servings are offered per day, including snacks. Hot and cold cereals made with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are always available for breakfast and lunch. High-fiber cookies and crackers are also available as snacks. Probiotic foods include live cultures of yogurt, soft cheeses, miso, natto, tempeh, olives, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and dark chocolate. At least one serving is offered per meal, and some are available as snacks.  These may help improve moodPrebiotic foods include dandelion greens, leeks, jicama, bananas, garlic, onions, and asparagus. At least one serving is offered per day, and some are available as snacks. Mood-boosting foods include salmon, bananas, coconut, lentils, kale, ginger, nuts, quinoa, asparagus, and raw cacao nibs. Ginger tea and nuts are always available, and the others served often. Dishes are made with sea salt or mineral salt instead of less-nutritious table salt.

Lessons are optional but earn extra points. These include basic nutrition, basic food preparation, the effects of food on mood, how to choose foods to regulate moods, how to have a healthy relationship with food, and self-awareness. Participants may also choose a module on mood regulation with worksheets, which is a separate program run through the mental health services that just happens to mesh well with this diet plan.

Swiss chard comes in an interesting "rainbow" variety.  Other multicolored vegetables include lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and corn.  Different colors may have different flavors and nutrients.

The Eat a Rainbow program presents a color wheel of food which encourages people to eat different colors of food. It explains why each color is beneficial. It offers worksheets on the food rainbow, fruits to color, and color circles. Shiv responds well to bright colors in many different contexts. Here is a lesson plan for Eat a Rainbow.

You can make your own instant hot cereal.  Start out by powdering some oats.  Then add whatever you want.  There are also paleo recipes such as apple cinnamon hot cereal or quick grain-free hot cereal, which rely on nuts and seeds rather than grains.

Coping with stress is an essential life skillBreathing exercises can help.  There are ways to calm an upset person or help them destress.  Shiv didn't get much help with emotional regulation growing up, but now that people are offering it, sometimes he finds it useful.

The Circle of Life or Wheel of Life is a self-awareness tool that shows the respective strength of different aspects using a round chart.  This chart shows 12 areas, and this one shows 11 areas.  Choose areas that matter to you.  Follow this process to make a stairstep style chart.  Some versions make a starfish style instead.  Here is a blank worksheet with 8 areas.

Change comes in stages.  Each stage has its own characteristic thoughts and behaviors.  This affects how people are perceived at each stage.  However, change must be voluntary.  Forcing people to change tends to backfire for many reasons and nagging them to do so can be harmful.  There are ways to encourage change without forcing it.  People will change when they're ready, and not before.  Helpful worksheets include identifying the stage of change, ambivalence analysis, a readiness ruler, a change plan, 5 Steps to Making Peace with Change, Prioritize Personal Values, Priorities Worksheet, Project Prioritization Worksheet, Project Task List,

This is Shiv's sunrise picture.

It can be challenging to tell if therapy is working for you or making matters worse. Here are some signs of effective therapy and tips for making therapy sessions more productive.

This is all new to Shiv, whose previous experiences with therapy have largely sucked. Bad therapy can make matters worse, and forced therapy is downright abusive. Obviously those things make it difficult or impossible for someone to respond if good therapy later becomes available. Shiv has one of the world's best therapists sitting with him, and barely makes it through seven introductory questions. The eighth is even harder on him because it requires, if not emotional trust, at least practical reliance on Dr. G.

Therapy can be complex.  Know the signs and skills of a good therapist.  Explore different types of therapy.  There are ways to recognize good therapy.

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 28th, 2018 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)

An auspicious beginning

This is going to be amazing, especially so close to the publication of "A Well of Sorrows." Your poem happens months before, and I can already see where it has connections to the story I posted.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 28th, 2018 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: An auspicious beginning

>> This is going to be amazing, especially so close to the publication of "A Well of Sorrows." <<

Yay! I'm glad you like it. I agree the timing is convenient. :D

>> Your poem happens months before, and I can already see where it has connections to the story I posted.<<

I think this poem lays the groundwork for how Dr. G learns more about Shiv, and how Shiv learns to talk about himself in therapy. It's going to take longer for Shiv to learn how to answer questions fluently though. He has so much damage, it's not going to get fixed until he gets tired of not being able to get through a whole list when it is to his advantage, enough to work on that problem.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 12th, 2018 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)


• Now we both know what's
on you mind today
-> your
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 12th, 2018 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

That wasn't in the original, so I don't know what happened.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: June 28th, 2018 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Go, Shiv!

I am delighted that he "exceeded expectations" in this part! Therapy is HARD WORK.

It seems he is greedy hungry for the pastels -- first, they are COLORS, second, they will be HIS, earned and paid for by his effort, and third, they are an acknowledgement that he earned them. Good on Dr. G for picking up that would motivate him.

I can see him going through the first half of the blue in very short order, then painfully hoarding the last bits because he is afraid to ask for the chance to earn another. :(

I think I'm picking up a little more about why he likes Elsa -- part of it might be her theme colors.

I can see Shiv negotiating to RUN one of his therapy sessions at some point, maybe way in the future. "You asked some questions last time that I didn't want to answer. I am gonna do some of that calming shit you taught me about, and you can ask again, and maybe I will answer this time, but maybe not. OK? Begin."

Edited at 2018-06-28 06:42 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 29th, 2018 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Go, Shiv!

>> I am delighted that he "exceeded expectations" in this part! Therapy is HARD WORK. <<

Absolutely.

This hits one of Shiv's major weak spots: he developed an inability to answer questions as a defense against people prying into his life and using answers against him. It's actually a torture-resistance technique: if you decompensate, they can't force usable information out of you. That was great while Shiv was stuck with people who worked against him. But now, it's costing him opportunities. He couldn't even get through the food checklists that Dr. Bloch was offering him when that got him free food. So it's one of the things that Shiv will want to work on, eventually, when he gets tired of it being in his way. He's not there yet.

Dr. G really was close to the mark. A handful of difficult questions is about all Shiv can handle. Easy ones, he seems to wear out somewhere between ten and twenty. He got farther with the test pages in the library that one time, but he was dragging himself through those.

Shiv struggles with therapy in general for a variety of reasons. One is that it's almost never his idea, except that now he's seen how it can work, occasionally he manages to ask for help. Dr. G isn't pushing precisely because he believes that forced therapy doesn't help and often hurts -- that a person has to be ready for that kind of work and the changes it brings -- so instead he's been focusing primarily on laying the groundwork, building trust, helping Shiv get comfortable with the relationship. That's working. Shiv needs a lot more coping skills before he'll be able to face the giant pit of doom that is his past. The other main reasons are that most of his previous therapy has been at best useless and at worst actively counterproductive. Finding some that actually works, and doesn't make things worse, is a big change.

>> It seems he is greedy hungry for the pastels -- first, they are COLORS, second, they will be HIS, earned and paid for by his effort, and third, they are an acknowledgement that he earned them. <<

Absolutely. Shiv craves bright colors. He's a very visual and tactile thinker. The creme pastels meet all of those needs.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 29th, 2018 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Go, Shiv!

>> Good on Dr. G for picking up that would motivate him.<<

Dr. G understands that Shiv needs concrete markers of success. The kid just doesn't have the kind of mental or emotional appreciation of therapy that most adults in T-America have. Normal folks there will go "Aaa, my boyfriend ripped my heart out!" and call their community clinic instead of eating a gallon of ice cream, same as they'd go, "Aaa, I sliced my hand, I need stitches!" Shiv can't feel positive effects from most therapy. He can, however, grasp the idea of trading points for something he wants. He understands that behaving himself in Dr. Bloch's office gets him candy and fidgets. So Dr. G is building on that with something Shiv likes and can collect. There are probably 500 shades of creme pastels. They can keep working this forever.

>> I can see him going through the first half of the blue in very short order, then painfully hoarding the last bits because he is afraid to ask for the chance to earn another. :( <<

Of course. But that's probably something Dr. G expects and even plans for -- when they're doing art toether, he'll see when Shiv is getting low on blue and ask if Shiv wants to play for replacement colors instead of new ones. It's a patch that Shiv needs. He grew up with so few resources, he doesn't have all the skills he needs to handle an expanded set. He has a lot more money than he used to, but he still thinks poor because it's so hard to break out of. Just being around the Finns, with their wider range of incomes, will help a lot. He'll see different skills.

>> I think I'm picking up a little more about why he likes Elsa -- part of it might be her theme colors. <<

Absolutely. Their coloring is almost identical. Hers is just a touch warmer than his, you can see a little pink in her skin. But they can wear most of the same colors. Shiv would have to be careful with those deep maybe-tones of teal and plum, but all the icy colors they share in common. Conversely, he can do the pure black and white tones that wouldn't look as good on her.

*laugh* He's not that fussy about it. He's bought every color of t-shirt the farmer's market has, even the yellow and orange shades that aren't his best colors. He wears that fool maple t-shirt he got for free, too, because it came with buying a bunch of maple syrup for the restaurant.

>> I can see Shiv negotiating to RUN one of his therapy sessions at some point, maybe way in the future. "You asked some questions last time that I didn't want to answer. I am gonna do some of that calming shit you taught me about, and you can ask again, and maybe I will answer this time, but maybe not. OK? Begin."

I could totally see that, some months down the line. Dr. G could bring in creme pastel pencils or pots for variation. (It comes in those soft sticks, a paste, and hard pencils -- all of which blend because share most of the ingredients in common, just the consistency varies.) This would really build on what they've done earlier.

I heartily encourage you to prompt for this in future events. :D
zianuray From: zianuray Date: August 14th, 2018 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)

RE: Re: Go, Shiv!

>>He wears that fool maple t-shirt he got for free, too, because it came with buying a bunch of maple syrup for the restaurant.

Sort of an earned trophy, again?
I need a "sort-of-not-quite-a-question" mark.

thnidu From: thnidu Date: October 30th, 2018 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Go, Shiv!

Mental Floss has a page of 13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using. One of them is the
2. Percontation Point or Rhetorical Question Mark

The backward question mark was proposed by Henry Denham in 1580 as an end to a rhetorical question, and was used until the early 1600s.
There's an image there, but I can't get it to show here. It's at https://images.mentalfloss.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/percontation-point.jpg, and it's a mirror-image question mark.



zianuray From: zianuray Date: August 14th, 2018 04:42 am (UTC) (Link)

RE: Re: Go, Shiv!

>>Shiv can't feel positive effects from most therapy.<<

I've picked up in several places that Shiv has started to notice that PROPER therapy is giving him useful coping skills, though. It's been mentioned when he starts the breathing different places or does the grounding counts (six of this, five of that...).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 14th, 2018 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Re: Go, Shiv!

>> I've picked up in several places that Shiv has started to notice that PROPER therapy is giving him useful coping skills, though. It's been mentioned when he starts the breathing different places or does the grounding counts (six of this, five of that...). <<

Just barely. He uses some of the techniques almost routinely now, but tends not to think of that as a benefit of therapy very often. Once in a while, it snags his attention. That contributes to the mixed feelings that Shiv has about therapy now, which is an improvement over just plain hating the whole concept.

Eventually, I think Shiv will start to wonder if there's more they can do together, and Dr. G will help steady him through figuring out actual treatment goals. Up to this point, it's been building rapport and handling emergencies as they come up.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: October 16th, 2018 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Overdoing?

Shiv took a deep breath,
trying not to sniffle. "I
wanna keep going."

Good that he wants to keep going, but I hope he's not working toward a meltdown. Of course, he could have a meltdown over NOT continuing today as well. Dr G has his work cut out here.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 16th, 2018 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Overdoing?

Shiv doesn't have a good set of brakes, or self-awareness. He's thinking about what he wants -- more colors -- instead of how much energy he has. Also, he's not in therapy because he wanted to fix his life, but because he fell into it; that makes it harder for him to gauge motivations and choices well.

Fortunately, Dr. G knows all this and has ways of compensating for it. A lot of what he's doing is aimed at teaching Shiv self-regulation skills. A few more verses will reveal how.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: December 6th, 2018 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Like this.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 6th, 2018 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed it. :D
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