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  • Toni Jo Coppa

Repressed memories and IFS


This piece is called "Not Ready for a Relationship" and was created in 2013. It is a representation of one of my most disturbing and enlightening IFS sessions to date. I made the sculpture long before the session and didn't see the connection until I was ready to emotionally.

During this intrapsychic journey with my therapist, I came across an invisible androgynous being sitting at my childhood dining room table. It was only known by me because of the way it emanated points of light from its body. It had glass long fingernails that it slowly tapped in a linear progressive fashion as if marking time while being annoyed. The dining room table was glass and its fingernails were glass, so the sound was very distinct and jarring. As it drummed its nails against the table, repeated called me a "pussy". "You f-ing pussy, your such a pussy" it kept taunting me over and over. I was terrified. It was daring me and disgusted with my refusal to do something.

In fear, my therapist stayed with me and walked me through what was happening. She helped me access some energy of Self, like courage and compassion, which was possible by giving me and this entity more space between so it was less intimidating. I became aware of a velvet curtain just like in the old theaters. It magically started pulling up and away to reveal the show.

I watched a traumatic traumatic event from beginning to end. It was disjointed but I certainly got the full picture. I experienced flashbacks of sounds and bodily sensations that helped me connect the actual memory to the witnessing that happening as an 'outsider'. In the session with my therapist the being did not have a mouth. It did speak in a whisper of disgust that I heard, but again, it was only points of light that made it possible to see.

Anyways, at a later date I had a new perspective on this sculpture I made. The scream symbolized the pain within me that I was not willing to see. No wonder it had no eyes! The points of light are perfectly captured by the points at the end of the nails. The trauma was partly a sexual trauma which explains why I intuitively put the hands over the genitals. The only thing that was a little "off script" was that in the sculpture I had surrounded the mouth with porcupine quills as evidence of a struggle.

I was able to understand the repressed memory as a way to explain a lot of strange behaviors in my lifespan. It helped me make sense of some things and make meaning from it. No other talk therapy helped me like IFS and I have never been so passionate about my work as I have when it has been inspired from within.

It takes a village and I would like to take a moment to thank mine. Thank you Marcia Taylor, my therapist, for being so skilled at what you do. Thank you Dick Schwartz for sharing IFS with the world, my session with you at Kripalu and especially for the hug. I want to thank Lauren Fensterstock for the personal encouragement and also for being the best role model ever. I also want to thank the Hewnoaks Artist Colony for the artist retreat I was awarded which enabled me to actually make this thing. Without the time and space it would not have been possible. I also want to thank Anthony Serino who had helped me move this dangerous sculpture to numerous shows over the years. Everyone involved is simply the best. Forever grateful - T

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