The conscious self

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Book Cover: “The Conscious Self”, MoMA, New York, 2015

Licencia de Creative Commons
Foto obra: Portada libro El Yo Consciente by Antonio Romoleroux is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional License.
Creado a partir de la obra en

This is a work of contemporary, interdisciplinary art, based on the concept of resilience, understood as the individual and collective capacity to overcome adverse experiences and emerge from them stronger than before. It consists of portraits, both visual and testimonial, of people of different ages and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, whose importance lies in their ability to overcome adversity.
These unpublished images and testimonies have been collected since 2010 on trips to various cities and towns in Ecuador, Chile and the United States.
The main aim is to draw attention to personal development processes, highlight resilience and help raise awareness that anyone and everyone, regardless of age, socio-economic condition or gender, has this ability throughout their life and that there is nobody who cannot develop it at a given moment.
Resilience is not a special ability belonging to a minority, nor is it reserved for remarkable people.

El Yo consciente de Antonio Romoleroux

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
My Dad struggled with stomach cancer for three years; when I turned 19, and he was 59, he died. Having not got to terms with this loss, I decided to go off the rails and I got into drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t so much my Dad’s death that marked me, but the choices I made afterwards.
2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development.
It wasn’t anything external. It wasn’t children because I don’t have any. It was something inside me, a decision to say “Enough’s enough. I don’t want to go on living like this”. I was 30 when I decided to go to university and study to be a vet. It was something I’d always wanted to do since I was a little girl and now I’m just a year away from graduating. I’ve changed my patterns of behaviour. I’ve focused on discipline which had been non-existent in my life before, on exercise, as it helps me with something that has always been very predominant in my life: my morale, my emotions.
3.- What helped your resilience?
Partly self-respect, demanding things of myself as a person, as a woman. I hadn’t done so before, I hadn’t felt the need. So I decided to leave my comfort zone, to make an effort, to grow up. Although it isn’t easy, it makes me feel alive. It’s not someone else motivating me but me being self-driven – to take care of myself, to look after my health. I decided to grow and I decided to live.
4.- How do you feel now?
Now I have peace of mind, I feel calm and motivated. My life isn’t a bed of roses, it wouldn’t be honest or true to say that, but I’m living a simple life, doing what I have to do, finding motivation, hope in the little things I do and living day by day. Life brings pleasant moments and hard moments, it happens to everyone. Simply enjoying life, every moment and not giving up, as I used to. Keeping going, always based on love for myself and love for others.

“Ale” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2014

1.- What adversity would you like to share?

I have a herniated disc in the lumbar region of my spine.

2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development.

The first thing was to accept it. I was afraid, yes, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to recover and of having to have surgery. However, the fear wasn’t stronger than love. The pain became less every day, but those were difficult times when my family and friends helped me. That’s when the doctor prescribed walking in water and, if possible, swimming. It was the water, and that alone, that was able to heal my body and soul. Every since then, about three years ago, I haven’t stopped swimming.

3.- What helped your resilience?

Well, constancy and the desire to change had a lot to do with it, the desire to get better, to rise to another level, mentally and emotionally. But above all, it was the fact that the kind of rehabilitation (walking in water and swimming) was, and still is, an activity that brings about absolute wellbeing, peace, harmony and love.

4.- How do you feel now?

I lead a normal life with a herniated disc. I have sensitivity and, most importantly, swimming has become my path. It is the path that has led me to find answers, about my behaviour, my perseverance, my self-esteem and in particular my reconnection, the integration of my body, mind and soul. Swimming and being in water enable me to live in peace.

“Carolina” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
When I was six, my parents separated. After that, the problems with my Mum, violence, abuse, and not only with her, but with other relatives too. When I was eight, my grandfather, who had taken of charge of me, died. I went from one home to another and that also affected me as I could never stay in one place. My Mum had gone to the United States and I was left largely in charge of my brother.
2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development.
It was when I left home. With the help of my psychologist, I started to feel good, as I began to study and work, to be independent and able to make my own decisions. I had to leave behind what I loved and the people I loved. I had to choose my priorities and a lot of things I liked weren’t priorities, weren’t things that made me feel good. It was giving up, sacrificing the enjoyment of pleasures, discovering myself, venturing into the unknown and that was an act of faith. I don’t belong to any church but faith grew in me, along with life, light and positivity.
3.- What helped your resilience?
My first four years of life were examples for me of what made me brave, in a home filled with love, where there was never any fighting, where there was discernment, art and music, and that was what I wanted to have again. Maybe not like it was then, my Mum wasn’t there any more, but something similar inside me, music, art, life, freedom, to look for inner freedom. All things considered, my Dad was a great example to me and he still is, because he taught me a lot of things that were tools that helped me to get over all that.
4.- How do you feel now?
Actually I don’t feel fulfilled yet, but I have goals. I have dreams and I can say that today is a great day, as it is no longer a stormy past or an unknown future; it is a marvellous present that I can share. I feel good, I have the will to live and learn. I think that now I have opened my eyes and the world is immense.

“Emi” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

What adversity would you like to share?
My experience about one of those stages of life, that without one realizing it, everything is wrong. This all started in 2011, I had already left my parents’ house and had a university degree in art restoration, but this year it was not of much use to me, I had not felt so miserable and unhappy in my life. I had a lot of problems, I hadn’t realized how aggressive my appearance and way of expressing myself was. I decided to study a postgraduate degree in Art History, however I still couldn’t find a job. It happened that my parents had separated, it was a collapse, a blow that led me to depression; Money continued to be scarce and my self-esteem continued to decline. The separation from my parents, a love breakup, no job, no savings, debt and the biggest disadvantage: no hope of any kind.
What was your personal realization process?
I started to meet new friends, they listened to me about everything that had happened and they listened to my pain, that was key, because I was able to express what was happening inside me. I was finally able to have a well-paying job, it wasn’t what I liked, but it was already an open door, that filled me with a lot of joy because I could feel useful, it has been a constant change that never ends, weighing the good and the bad thing, stopping doing the same things without getting something positive, like blaming myself for everything, feeling inferior, remembering over and over again moments of great suffering, of feeling that life is unfair. I calmed my mind for a moment, I had my time to rest, another to search for answers and finally to put into practice moral and spiritual values, such as honesty, kindness, respect. After months of expressing my emotional pain, I remained silent to listen to others’ life experiences, I analyzed their words and above all, I let these stories touch my feelings, to recognize that this was not the end of the path, but the beginning of another. big.
What influenced your resilience process?
First of all, investigate what spiritual values are and mean. One of these is love, which starts from oneself, for example, today I take care of my body from toxic substances such as alcohol and tobacco, I take care of my mind by staying away from people. aggressive, the tabloid press, sexist and racist confrontations, I also do not believe in everything they tell me in the press, now I seek to form my own opinion from various points of view.
Love for others, being courteous, having respect for all kinds of life, the cultivation of patience and tolerance is essential to me. Be clear that I only and exclusively have the mission of changing myself, and that I can transmit it to others with a good example.
How do you feel currently?
Today I feel that I am a new person, that everything is new, now it is a continuous learning that has rejuvenated my entire life, like when you are a child and curiosity is awakened like an instinct, this is how I feel, free from every chain of bitterness and It’s sad, I know that problems are going to come, but that same curiosity will make me find the solution, that is another feeling: being a solution.
I have my home, I managed to graduate from my major, I have a diverse range of friends who we have in common facing life as it is, I have the love of my parents even though they are not together, I have a new relationship with a man with I share the same belief in life and faith, I have my work, patience and tolerance and finally I live with the hope that all the best will come to my life, I am and will be happy because I have chosen today to be like that.
“Magui” fotografía digital y texto 42×60 cm. 2014

What adversity would you like to share?
I’ll start by answering the last question …..
I’m sure that if we joined forces, the world would be different. And to do so, we always have to start with ourselves, using our willpower, making the decision to do so. I feel blessed, grateful and humble.
I come from a family that, like most, worked for a living. My parents, with all their love and dedication, instilled the ethics of work, responsibility and honesty in me.
As a woman, my dream was to have a big family, be a mother, bring up my five children. Plan with them and be very happy … like in fairy tales ….the normal dreams for a mother/girl of 21. Now I’m 49.
However, life had something else in store for me. My beloved son, the first of my children, for whom I had countless dreams, was diagnosed with brain damage when he was six months old. According to the doctor it was irreversible and would get worse as he grew. The doctor told me that he would be a vegetable.
Love of life, the force underlying my existence, love and faith in God, that force or energy flowing in everything that exists, the hope that lives and remains in my heart forever, gave me the courage not to accept it. I decided not to accept that circumstance in my life. I decided not to accept that for my son’s life. I decided to work, to do everything I possibly could, using science and technology, so that the doctor’s words wouldn’t come true.
Time has passed and now my son is 27. I thank God for giving me the strength and above all the love to face up to that challenge in my life. After gruelling therapy for both of us, Luis Alejandro managed to hold up his head, then crawl, walk and run; he even won medals in school competitions. … While we made big progress with his general psychomotor skills, it was very hard to deal with the epilepsy that he got when he was seven. That was very difficult, on top of the mental impairment he had from his brain damage. But now he is learning the skills to become autonomous in his daily activities.
As for me, it was terribly painful to accept the reality. My life suddenly took an irreversible turn. I cried until my tears were dry but, faced with the situation, I had to keep going. I started to research everything I could, look for the best doctors, give him all the therapies I could, and nourish his body, mind and heart with a mother’s love for her son, accepting with responsibility but also with a lot of heartache and frustration.
I’ve tried to read as many books as I can to attempt to understand how our brain works and to understand Luis and support him as well as I can. And that was how the miracle happened. Precisely by trying to help Luis, I helped myself, without realizing it.
All this reading and researching has made me understand and become aware of who I am, accept myself as I am, with all my rough edges, understand that I have the right to cry, understand my limitations and go beyond them. The most wonderful thing I’ve come to realize is that, with love, passion and will, the desire and the decision, you can do anything.
And that is also how my love of mountaineering came about. Feeling infinitely tiny in the face of the grandeur of life and nature has made me humble, but has also given me the strength to achieve my goals. I believe mountains can be seen as an analogy of life itself. Thanks to one of the “angels” God has put in my life, I decided that, for me, being in contact with nature and climbing mountains is my best cure, instead of taking anti-depressants as the psychiatrist had recommended some days before.

“Ligia” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

Joaquin comprimida
1.- What adversity do you want to share? Depression and low self-esteem.

2.- What does your process of personal fulfillment consist of? Something that I found in my life and that I did not know how to address is internal rebellion, until I realized that I have never liked discrimination, hatred or segregation; I am still a rebel but now I do something for people who are defenseless, common well-being is what marks my life professionally, of course this implies many distancing necessary to transcend materially, spiritually, professionally and socially.
3.- What influenced your resilience? Psychology helped me to detach myself from certain precepts that have been wrong, professional treatment with a psychologist and psychiatrist has helped me a lot, as well as finding very cool people who help me grow In my life, I have been taught, above all, spiritual paths that give me a lot of strength; One of the main things that has contributed to my process has been talking, because with depression what I have done is withdraw and isolate myself, instead by talking I free myself; It helps me a lot to do things collectively, I think it’s easier to do it together. I’ve also stayed away from drinks because they pull me down. Sport, which implies the discipline of getting up early, of eating healthier. I have to point out how much support my family has been, talking to them, accepting my parents, I am learning this day by day. The strength of spiritual love is very important.
4.- How do you feel currently? Finding answers about myself through inner work relieves me; Just like directing the rebellion and doing something specific for those around me, it really relieves me. Some things I have already completely overcome, but every day I have to be in contact with my spiritual part, which is not a religion or a single God, for me there are many Gods. I can say that now I am living a more focused life, a little more organized, calm in some aspects and in others with that anxiety to continue working, it is very nice that feeling of saying “you have achieved things, but walk further, you have to keep moving forward.” ”.

“Joaquin” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

Helena comprimida

1.- What adversity would you like to share?

My role as mother/big sister in my adolescence due to my mother being seriously ill (I was 14 when I was left in charge of my younger brothers and sisters) and the fight to survive. Daughter of a divorced mother. My mother died after her second illness. One year later, my grandmother on my mother’s side died. Those early deaths also split up the family. Once I was alone (when I was 23), I started my last year of art studies with a scholarship and at the same time I began to work to be able to eat and have a roof over my head.

2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development?

Art. The ability to create from instinct and sensitivity, to mould clay and sculpt wood. With clay I’ve escaped from the harshness of reality and loneliness and I’ve been able to re-create myself healthy and joyful, at one with nature, happy and in harmony; I materialized the deepest wishes of my soul and all the tenderness that I was, and am, capable of. I was curious about learning independently; I started to study English and Italian with some private courses but mostly by self-study. I didn’t accept value judgements about myself. There was always a noble voice inside me, that stayed faithful to a positive image of me no matter what.

3.- What helped your resilience?

Making positive relationships with other circles of the family has taught me to have a good attitude to life, getting away from the role of being a victim, working, moving on and improving myself. Partly help from a psychologist. The healthiest thing was getting away from conflict and focusing all my energy on self-study and self-discipline. The deep inner world and a tolerance for loneliness developed my ability to focus on myself to boost my skills. I improved my verbal communication, which was non-existent when I was a teenager. My painting teacher gave me a lot of confidence, security and positivity.

4.- How do you feel now?

I’ve got over a serious, dangerous depression. I’ve read a lot about psychology and that has helped me to understand what I went through. Art is my salvation. There is also the awareness of my own ability to heal myself. Today I get on well with all my family and am extremely grateful to them for that. It plays a very important role in my emotional health, my identity and adapting to living in Germany. Three years ago I learnt to sing and I’m keeping up my dancing. My motto: No to the role of victim.

“Helena” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2014 Leipzig-Germany

1.- What adversity do you want to share?
I fell and broke a vertebra; Being a mother who copes with her children alone, you feel helpless, helpless, you even wonder where the higher being that takes care of you is, why is this happening to me when my children depend on me and I can’t move?
2.- What was your personal realization process?
I had to be hospitalized for a week, little by little I regained the strength in my arms, I had to wear a vest with rods that I couldn’t take off, I had to sleep with this on, I spent six months like this, luckily the work of illustrating with the digital pen that I use, made me resume my activities of my profession; When you have this job of illustrating, you work non-stop, you feel that you control time, with this episode I realized that time is controlled by a superior force, that these accidents can happen at any moment; one must wake up aware that it is a new day and give thanks for everything one has; That was the great lesson of all this, saying “this day I’m fine, the sun is shining, I’m moving forward.”
3.- What influenced your resilience?
My world of story illustration that always allows me to marvel at beautiful things, my work helps me a lot in that sense, the freedom of drawing, of living within art, I feel in this process of evolving; Being aware that the body must be treated well makes one take care of and value oneself more.
4.- How do you feel currently?
I always feel blessed by my children, by the tenderness of being a mother and by the art of illustration that was given to me and that I think is the most valuable thing in my life.

“Eulalia” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2014

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
At the beginning of 2013, when I was having the routine gynaecological tests that I do every year, I was detected with breast cancer. It was detected in time, that’s the consolation that the doctor tells me even now. The news was totally unexpected and shocked me through and through. I felt as if all my plans were being curtailed but I had to be strong to break the news to my husband and children. In October I had an operation to remove a small part of the mammary tissue and then I went back to work five days later. I couldn’t stay in bed feeling bad about what was coming the following month: 45 radiotherapy sessions and then, three months later, starting hormone therapy that would go on much longer, for five years.
2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development?
The process is unconscious, only the will to live, to feel, to look, to enjoy that fragment of time that is life.
3.- What helped in your process of resilience?
Love, the will to live and keep dreaming.
4.- How do you feel now?
I feel fulfilled in the knowledge that, although everything is not positive all the time, there is always the possibility of turning it around and being happy.
Santiago de Chile, 2013

“Alejandra” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2013, Santiago de Chile.

1.- What adversity do you want to share?
I was dependent on corticosteroids for many years as a result of a skin problem. I remember having an allergic rash on my skin for a long time that was magically “cured” by a cream – expensive but effective – that at first was wonderful but ended up being a headache. It was becoming less and less effective and required larger quantities, I spent a lot of money on it. Additionally, the allopathic conception of medicine presented me with an almost insoluble crossroads: I could not eat “anything with colorings – even natural fruits and vegetables -, chocolates, nothing irritating, chili peppers, no white flour, no alcohol, no citrus fruits, no tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, meat, sausages, fried foods, oils, etc.”,… I asked what could I eat? …the answer “eat the rest” surprised me a lot, even more so because of the lack of practical support, professionalism, nothing creative, cold and lacking empathy.
Without options, I had to face a situation that brought enough fear to paralyze me and not have the elements to continue standing in a dignified manner.

2.- What was your personal improvement process?
Rather than searching for spaces, things, alternatives and beings that helped me at the right moment to overcome some beliefs; I found wonderful situations and people who helped me with patience, love and light to find myself from different aspects and facets.
Firstly, I had an introspective look to locate some of the reasons why these things were happening to me, until I intuitively made a trip – really short – of just 15 centimeters and arrived at the place where my emotions reside. Then with several teachers I understood that the dynamic between feeling and thinking was not coherent with me and this was expressed physically and unconsciously in my body in the form of an allergy, a product of the rejection of a non-conformity with various aspects of my life. Part of the process was working with new ideas, thoughts and attitudes to change my state of being.

3.- What influenced your resilience process?
Wonderful people that I have met throughout my life, whom I am deeply grateful for, my personal decision to change to sustain myself until I eliminated my impulses until I stopped using chemical medications and tried alternatives that worked effectively for me.

4.- How do you feel currently?
Very good! I continue working daily on positioning ideas and thoughts that help me change, feel and sustain the achievements achieved.

“Camilo” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
I had polio when I was born and that set me a difficult path, with a lot of things to learn, right until now.
2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development?
When I was a girl, I learnt to look at the simple things of life. I shared long moments with children with other health problems, spending several months in hospitals. I learnt to get on with them, be sympathetic towards their suffering but at the same time not lose the ability to laugh, play and express myself. Then, when I grew up, I realized that I needed to value the strength I had to keep going. I had to connect with my spiritual side, to look for ways of personal growth to become more aware of what I am. I became the mother of two beautiful girls, I developed my ability to relate to children and to be a teacher, respecting them as they are. More recently I’ve looked for another path and connected with my childhood rebelliousness, feeling that there can indeed be a better world and wondering how I can contribute to society, to the planet, and be more conscious that we are all responsible for what we experience. That’s why I’m now a member of a fair trade project.
3.- What influenced your resilience process?
What I experienced in my childhood. Looking at the pain very close up. My sensitivity to simple things. Being a mother. My contact with children. Discovering in the present that I have other abilities that I hadn’t explored, and the people who support me emotionally.
4.- How do you feel now?
I’m a happy woman. Every day I feel that I’m alive and that helps me to face a new day. I love what I do. I believe in universal love and in a better world. I love myself!

“Alex” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2014

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
I suffered severe cranial trauma and paralysis of the right side of my body. I was in a coma for about three weeks following a car crash, with a lot of after-effects.

2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development?
The process of personal development, I think I felt it years later as I spent nearly three years recovering with countless kinds of therapy, such as physiotherapy, learning to turn over in bed, through to occupational therapy and other kinds. According to one of the therapists, my right hand was dead. Now, nine years later, I have a university degree in Jewellery Design and Gold and Silver Work. A lot of people know what happened to me, but the ones that don’t wouldn’t ever guess that anything had happened.
My personal process of getting over it is carrying on every day, leading a normal life like anyone else.

3.- What influenced your process of resilience?
The infinite love of my family and friends. I am 100% sure that I wouldn’t have managed it without them.

4.- How do you feel now?
Now I feel like any other person. I think that’s the best reward.

“Maria Jose” digital photography and text 42×60 cm. 2014

Addiction, Recovery and Resilience.
I went through a stage of consumption from the age of 12 until I was 19, when I entered a therapeutic community in the city of Milagro in the province of Guayas.
As a result of the experiences gained during the time of consumption and the subsequent stage in recovery, they marked the guidelines through which I have gone through with successes and mistakes, committing them at every moment, but above all learning from them, although not from all of them.
Today, thanks to these learning stages that I went through in my life, I have been allowed to support people over the years who are going through similar problems, either directly or indirectly and from very different scenarios that allow me to shake hands from different scenarios, knowing that it is a phenomenon that is difficult to explain due to the factors that cause it and the problems it generates not only for the person but for the family and the community itself.

A few years after that situation in which my life was surrounded, stripped of any opportunity and hope due to mental rather than physical barriers, losing every positive aspect that one day I thought I would have, immersed in a world of chaos, a world in living was a vicious circle, a routine of self-destruction living off fantasies and ghosts of better days, I saw myself hitting rock bottom after rock bottom every day. I thought that was normal, that that was how I should live, that was what I liked and it allowed me to delve deeper into that false reality that my mind was responsible for creating under those circumstances.

A timely confinement, meeting people like me, who shared the same prison in our minds, allowed me to open mine and realize that there is a world different from the one I had created, that my abilities and skills were still intact that I simply had to relive them, that they were waiting for me, that the world and my life were not that routine and that I make the opportunities, not the world.

“Andrés” digital photograph and text 42×60 cm. 2014

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