“The conscious self” Photography and resilience

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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 https://www.antonioromoleroux.com/es/the-conscius-self/.

–This is an interdisciplinary project, based on the concept of resilience, taken as the human individual and collective ability to overcome adversity and emerge stronger for it. It consists of visual and testimonial portraits of people of different ages, socio-economic settings and cultural backgrounds, whose importance lies in their ability to overcome. The testimonies, which have been carefully drawn up, go hand in hand with the photos and videos, and depict the adversities that the protagonists suffered, how they overcame them and how they feel they have been strengthened by them. The main aims are to assert the therapeutic value of the testimonial portrait, to promote the notion of resilience and to contribute to raising awareness that we have this ability throughout our lives and that nobody is incapable of developing it at a given moment. The unpublished pictures and testimonies were gathered on trips to various cities in Ecuador, Chile and the United States, 2014.

1- ¿What adversity do you wish to share?
My Dad was fighting, for three years, against stomach cancer, and then he died. Then as I was not able to accept the Loss, I decided to consume drugs and a lot of alcohol. It was not so much the death of my Dad but what I chosed to do after that after that.

2- Which Is the Process of your personal development?

It was nothing external, because I do not have any, it was something internal, a decision to say that is enough I do not want to keep living like this anymore, and I the when I was 30 years old I decided to enter the University to study Veterinary, which was the career that I allways wanted since very
I was little, and now I need one more year to graduate. Besides that, I changed patterns of my conduct I enfoqued instead in discipline, which for me did not exist before, I excercise because
it helped me in something that was very well marked in me, the state of mind, the emotions.

3- What did influenced in your resiliencie?
As much as the love to myself as a human being, as a woman, and because I never did that before, I did not see the need, then, that now I decided to get out of my comfort zone to push myself and to mature and that things cost me, it makes me feel alive. It´s not so much that another persons encouraged me, but that I pushed to care for myself, to care for my health and I decided to grow and to live.

4- How do you feel at the present?
Today I can say I feel in peace, tranquil and motivated, I can´t say that my life has been marvelous, it would not be honest or real, but I am living with motivation and hope in the little things that I do and to live a day at a time, that life will bring pleasant and difficult situations, and we all go through that. Simply enjoy life, each moment and not to give up like I used do it , to continue having allways as a fundament the love for myself and the love toward others.

1- What adversity would you like to share?
I have an herniated disc in the lumbar part of the spine.
2 – How was the process of your personal growth?
First was to accept it. There was fear, yes, there was the fear of not being able to get out of that state and having to accept surgery as an option, however, fear not win to love.
The pain was daily. Those were difficult days in which my family and friends helped me. Later, the doctor sent me to walk under water, and, if possible, swimming.
It only took water to heal my body and soul. Since then, for about three years, I have not stopped swimming.
3 – What influenced the process of resilience?
Had much influence perseverance and the desire to change, to heal and move on the next level, mentally and emotionally. But above all, I was influenced by the fact that the type of rehabilitation (water, walking and swimming) and still is an activity that produces absolute welfare, peace, harmony and love in me.
4 – How do you feel today?
I live normally, but with an herniated disc. I feel more sensitive and especially swimming became my way to feel me better. It is the path that has led me to find answers about my behavior, my perseverance, about myself esteem. My reconnection, the integration of my body, mind and soul. Swimming and being in the water makes me to live in peace.

lilith comprimida1.- What adversity do you want to share?Sexual aggression at 17 2.- Which is his process of personal accomplishment?The first years after the event were very difficult and painful. It was a before and an after. Sought wherever protection. Take rash decisions, I feel that forced the natural process of life. Then, when I come to study theater, start a process of personal “recognition” that allowed me to understand life itself from another perspective. I realized that is the highest percentage of attacks on women and children, a practice of submission that infuses fear, guilt, shame, and especially the silence. I realized I had to talk. Talking to create support networks for complaining and education. 3.- What did influence your resilience?I feel that when I premiered the monologue “Lilith” did a tribute to all women, especially those that cross my personal story. By claiming the character of Lilith, expelled from Paradise, the forgotten, the damned, I find a woman who does not submit to adversity, rising from loneliness and desert, strong and integrate, free to make their own decisions. The theater allowed me to recognize myself as daughter of her caste and talk about her to who listen to me. Cheers Lilith! 4.- How do you feel at the present?I walk serene, with fullness and eyes open to others.

1. What Adversity do you want to share?
Disability due to meningitis, exacerbated by a car accident.
2. What was your process of personal growth?
I did not have too many sorrows because of the love of the people who were with me, but what makes it difficult for a person once, for us we have difficulty twice, is twice as hard, I accept that I can’t do a thing but I can do three more.
I studied and graduated at the University, I was a mother is the greatest happiness of my life.
3. What influenced your resilience?
In the performance of work, I had an accident which aggravated the situation, because I almost lost my right arm, but my reaction was immediate, I said: here I do not want to die, I thought of my children, I still had a lot of joy to live.
The factor that helped was work, my boss said “I need your head, not your hands” went to work right away and that helped me get through it all and move on, I realized that I am still able to live a happy life.
4. How do you feel today?
I love life, to feel alive, I am in love with life. My children are a very important factor that made me feel needed, useful, with all the enthusiasm of love, which is most important.

Joaquin comprimidaWhat adversity would you like to share?Depression and low self-esteem.Can you describe your personal development process?Something I found in my life and didn’t know how to handle was inner rebelliousness, until I realized that I’d never liked discrimination, hatred or segregation. I’m still a rebel but now it’s for people who are defenceless. What guides me in my working life is the common good. Obviously that means distancing myself from certain things to grow materially, spiritually, professionally and socially. What influenced your resilience?Psychology helped me to break away from certain ideas that were wrong. Professional treatment with a psychologist – that has helped me a lot. I’ve also met some great people who’ve helped me to grow in my life. In particular they’ve taught me spiritual paths, which have given me a lot of strength. One of the main things that has contributed to this process has been talking. When I was depressed, I went into my shell and cut myself off, but talking is a release. Doing things in a group helps me a lot; I think it’s easier to do things with others. I’ve also kept off the drink, as that used to pull me down. Sport, which means the discipline of getting up early, and eating more healthily. I should mention the great support my family have been, talking to them, accepting my parents, I’m learning to do that day by day. The force of spiritual love is incredibly important. How do you feel now?Finding answers about myself through inner work relieves me, as does channelling my rebellious nature and doing something real for those around me, it really does relieve me. I’ve got over some things completely but every day I have to be in touch with my spiritual side, which isn’t a religion or a single God, because for me there are lots of Gods. I’m now living a more focused life, a bit more organized, in peace in some ways but in others I’m anxious to keep on working. It’s a great feeling to tell myself, “You’ve achieved some things but keep going, you have to keep moving forward”.

1.- What Adversity do you want to share?My role as a mother-sister and fight for my survival. My mother divorced. Mother dies after suffering his second disease, I am in charge of my younger siblings. A year before my grandmother died, these early deaths caused family dissolution. I undertake my final year of study in arts with a scholarship while I start my fight to get shelter and food with my first job. 2.- What was your process of personal growth?The art. The ability to create from the instincts and sensitivity, modeling in clay and carving in wood. In the clay to escape the harshness of reality and loneliness and could project myself healthy and happy, integrated to the nature, happy and in harmony embodied the deepest desires of my soul and all the tenderness of which I was and I’m able. Curiosity to learn independently, started my studies in English and Italian with some private courses and most self-learning. No accepted value judgments on me, there was always a dignified voice that stood true to a positive image of myself, after all. 3.- What influenced your resilience? Recovery of positive family relationships with other family circles taught me to have a good attitude towards life, leaving the victim role, work, go ahead and beat me. The partial support of a psychologist, the most healthier was to isolate conflict, and focus all my energy on self-learning and self-discipline. The deep inner world and the ability to tolerate loneliness, develop verbal communication skills, my art teacher instilled a lot of confidence, security and positivism. 4.- How do you feel today? I have overcome a serious and dangerous depression, I read a lot about psychology and that has helped me to understand the problem for which I passed through. Art saved me. It is also being aware of my own ability to heal. Today I maintain cordial relations with all my family, so I’m very grateful, this contributes significantly to my emotional health, identity and adaptation in Germany. Three years ago I learned to sing and continue dancing. My motto: no to the role of victim.Leipzig-Germany, 2014

1- What adversity would you like to share?
At the age of six my parents got separated. Later, I had mistreatment problems with my mom, and other relatives too. At the age of eight my grandpa died, he got the one who was in charge of me. I went from one home to another which also affected me very much, because I could never have a place of my own. My mom had travelled to the United States and I remained to a great extent so I had to look after my brother on my own.
2 – How was the process of your personal growth?
It was when I had already gone out of left the House; with my psychologist’s help I started to feel better, because I started studying, working, being independent and being able to take decisions of my own. I also had to leave what I loved, and to whom I loved; I had to choose priorities, and many things which I like wered not priorities, there were not what it was good for me it was to sacrifice, a sacrifice of the tastes of the pleasures; to reveal myself, to give myself to the unknown, and it was an act of faith, I do not belong to any church but it grew in my faith, in life, in light, in optimism.
3 – What influenced the process of resilience?
My first 4 years of life were my bravery examples that made me be brave, in a home full of love, where there were never fights, where there was criterion, art, music and it was that what I wanted to have back. Maybe, now is not as it was back then. Now, mom was not there anymore, but inside of me to have something like that, musical, art, life, freedom, to look for an interior freedom. In spite of everything, my dad was a great example for me, and he still is because he taught me many things which are my tools to overcome this situation.
4 – How do you feel today?
I really do not feel complete realized yet, but I have goals, have dreams and I can say that today. I have a great day because already it is not a stormy past anymore, and it is not an unknown future, it is a great present that I can share. I am feeling good, I want to live more and learn more. Now, I believe I have opened my eyes and that the world is immense.

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.

1.- What adversity would you like to share?
I had a fall and broke one of my vertebrae. Being a single mother in charge of your children, you feel helpless, disabled and you even wonder where that higher being who looks after you is. Why is this happening to me when my children depend on me and I can’t move?
2.- Can you talk about your process of personal development?
I had to stay in hospital for a week and little by little I got back the strength in my arms. I had to wear a brace with rods in it and couldn’t take it off. I had to sleep in it. I spent six months like that. Luckily I was able to resume my profession, illustrating with a digital pencil. When you illustrate, you work non-stop. Normally we think that we control time. But with this episode, I realized that time is controlled by a higher force and that an accident can happen at any moment. We should wake up aware that it’s a new day and give thanks for everything we have; that was the greatest lesson of all, saying “I’m fine today, the sun is shining, I’m making progress”.
3.- What helped your resilience?
The world of illustrating stories is always a way for me to feel wonder at beautiful things. My work helps me a lot in that sense, the freedom to draw, to live inside art. I feel that I’m in this process of evolving. Being aware that you have to look after your body makes you look after yourself and value yourself more.
4.- How do you feel now?
I always feel blessed by having my children, feeling the tenderness of a mother, and by the art of illustration that was given to me and I think that it’s the most important thing in my life.

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

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!

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.

I’d gone through years of living a life where I felt hemmed in, stripped of any opportunity or hope – more due to mental barriers than physical ones, losing anything positive that I thought I had at some point, submerged in a world of chaos, a world where life was a vicious circle, a routine of self-destruction living off fantasies and daydreams of better days. Every day I hit rock bottom, each time deeper than before. I thought it was normal, that I had to live like that, that it was what I wanted and I let myself get more and more sucked into that false reality that my mind created in those circumstances.

A well-timed confinement, finding myself with other people like me, who had the same prison in their minds, enabled me to open mine and realize that there is a very different world from the one I’d created, that my abilities and skills were still intact and all I had to do was revive them, that they were waiting for me, that the world and my life were not the same old routine, and that it was up to me, and not the world, to make the opportunities.

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