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Agonizing Restraints – Unknown Expression

The first and most dominating experience associated with one or more chronic health conditions and/or disability is that of restraint. The symptoms, limitations and disabilities can be multiple: mobility, energy, mental clarity, physical disfunction of any nature, emotional and mental stress.

These restraints, in turn, affect professional and personal roles. Family participation suffers, not to mention needing help with many regular tasks, such as domestic chores and transport-related obligations.

Naturally, our first conviction is that our condition diminishes us as a person; that now we are ‘less than’. Less than we were before, less than others, less than we should be, less than we could have been, less than...

And for some time, that experience will be fought with, swaying us between feeling inferior and ashamed on the one hand and wanting to explore and develop unknown options on the other.


In this area, as indeed in many emotional and mental areas, a threshold needs to be crossed: previous abilities and talents may have to be left behind for good whereby, in doing so, space is created to explore and develop entirely new areas of expression. This can even bring a turn-around: whereas first we found our condition to be restricting our identity and life’s purpose, now that same condition can be a source of inspiration and unique expression.

But how can it be that something which seems to only restrict us, actually carries within it our greatest potential for expression?

The Power of Limits

“An artist needs a medium to express herself creatively. Using paint and canvas, wood, marble, a musical instrument, words, voice, or body, a painting is created, a sculpture emerges, a song or a dance is performed.

However, from the moment the artist uses a medium to express herself, that very same medium will limit her. There are things that paint, wood, marble, and the body simply cannot do. Any medium restricts the artist’s creative expression, but without it, expression would be impossible altogether.

Any dancer will relate the agonizing pains she goes through to make her body give form to music or poetry. A sculptor will tell you about the struggle of liberating the shape trapped within the stone. Many a painter has discovered that no picture of any beauty or reality can be painted without the sombre brown and grey shadows that show up the bright colours and highlights.

The power of limits lies in finding the possibilities within a given context. This is in itself a matter of inner transformation, since it requires a much more conscious and inventive way of working than before.’
(from the program ‘Mental and Emotional Renewal in Chronic Illness’)

Turning base metal into Gold

The first phase in any profound life transition is: separation. At some point you were separated from much that you held dear; independence, function, vocational fulfilment, intimacy, and future expectations. In this context, it deserves noting that Seperatio was an operation the alchemists considered essential to the process of turning ordinary metals into gold.

Could this introduce a new dynamic in your journey where the ordinary is lost, so that the extra-ordinary can emerge?