Expressive Arts Reflection from Student Mushkan Defilippo


These first images were produced for the course Trauma and Addiction.

The first panel represents trauma. The images convey the different causes of trauma, childhood abuse, natural disasters, violence, war. The idea that I want to convey is that trauma shatters the inner world. Reality looks like a broken mirror, the images don’t fit, the feelings don’t fit. The traumatized person loses the natural ability for self-regulation, therefore the inner world is chaotic. There is very little awareness of feelings that seem to actually take over, the person feels overwhelmed. It is common for people living with trauma to not remember what happened, and be unable to explain why some feelings are so overwhelming. The white part of the panel symbolizes this, the lack of memory of traumatic events.

The second panel symbolizes Healing using the symbol of the Milagro, which is very popular in New Mexico and other areas of Latin America. The Milagro is a votive symbol used for healing purposes. I chose to use it because the image of the heart and the flames makes me think of coming back to life. I see the recovery process as a coming back to life not only in practical terms but also in terms of hopefully gaining balance, the ability to feel life in a way that is not threatening or overwhelming but that can be enjoyable. Part of the effects of trauma is a decreased capacity to enjoy life, because the nervous system cannot handle the fear of the invasion of past events. The inability to place events in the past tightens up defensive boundaries making life in the present very limited.

Traditionally the image of what or who needs healing is placed on the Milagro. I placed the heart because I see that as the place where we all have wounding and need healing. The heart is a symbol of receiving and giving love to oneself and to others.

I made this collage (the third image) during a seminar at the fall residency. I called it identity deconstructed. I was asked to bring images that spoke to the sense of myself. I printed images that I have collected for years and that speak to me, that recall a part of myself. While working on the collage I started ripping those images in tiny bits of paper as I realized that, although there are some things that are solid in me, other things are merely images. I had a sense that my sense of self is transformed every moment as I live my life ordinarily, therefore the images as well have to be transformed to convey the ever changing grounded sense of me.

That is why most of the collage is made of torn pieces of paper to symbolize the ever changing concept of self, influenced relating with the world. This relating changes me and changes the world continuously; all that remains is the experience of living.

by Mushkan Defilippo (MA PSY)

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to

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