Touchstones and Talismans for the Journey

by Krista Wissing, MFT

In my years of working with people who’ve experienced acquired brain injury (ABI), one of the more common themes I hear is how destabilizing ABI can be.

The thing about ABI is that nine times out of ten there is no warning. Be it a head trauma, stroke or a virus attacking the brain, ABI barrels in like an unexpected wind and divides one’s life narrative into two – life before and life after brain injury.

It’s the kind of phenomena that rocks one’s foundation to the core.

It’s the kind of phenomena that leaves the bearer asking tough questions. Why did this happen to me? What kind of life lies ahead? Where do I belong?  Why do I feel so alone? And what of my dreams? My purpose? My identity? My faith? What does this all mean?

It’s the kind of life altering experience that holds the transformative potential of the Hero’s Journey and merits the healing elixirs of poetry, art, community and circle.

When a life once familiar is suddenly jarred into something radically unfamiliar, our need to ground ourselves in a touchstone, talisman, ally, mentor or muse grows.

In her book How to Read a Poem and Start a Poetry Circle, poet/author Molly Peacock illuminates how a poem can become a talisman. She writes, “But a hold on life is what I got from my favorite poems, and I tote them around like amulets against the world, using them to ward off every evil.”

The creative process can bring us a talisman that roots us, that comforts us, that inspires us. A poem, a collage, a painting, a special stone, a beaded necklace, a page out of a journal – each can carry the vital energy needed to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

This week, I invite you to reflect upon your own life affirming touchstones, talismans, allies, mentors and muses. If you feel compelled, create a collage using images that symbolize an energy you’d like to ground yourself in. You’ll need magazines, paper, scissors and a glue stick.


  • If you only have use of one hand, placing a weighted object on the page you’re cutting can be helpful.
  • Ripped images (rather than using scissors) can also create an interesting effect.
  • If you need assistance, ask someone you trust if they can set an hour aside to help you create your talisman.

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