Monday, November 2, 2020

Anchored in Art: What to Do with Complicated Emotions


Feelings are a natural part of life. We respond to people and events with various feelings or emotions.

A good way to start looking at emotions is to be aware something is stirring inside. Name the emotion, if you can. Then know what to do when an emotion happens.  For example, one day I felt strong anger. I didn’t know what to do with the intensity of my feelings. I grabbed an old magazine and tore out every page. I felt a lot better handling my anger in a constructive way.

But there are days when the emotions are more difficult to understand or name. Making simple, easy art when unnamed stirrings happen can be a helpful way to deal with emotions.

Sometimes Sharon asks me, “Where are you today?’ or “How are you feeling?”  and I don’t know how to reply because I feel empty inside. I may have a feeling, but no name for my awareness. For these days of unknowing, I ask myself, “What color do I feel?”

I have a small set of watercolors, but markers, crayons, chalk pastels, or any other collection of color work too.  I look at the colors. I ask myself, “Which one do I Like?” There may be more than one color that appeals to me on a particular day. When I find a color that feels right, I draw lines, squares, or circles. Then I paint the shapes with the color or colors I choose. Using art can help loosen what is inside. Perhaps a name for the emotion will surface. Repeat as often as necessary.


Often, I have an unpleasant, uncomfortable, unnamed emotion that lingers. Drawing squares creates a container for my emotion and I gradually experience relief.  The emotion transfers from me and is held by something I make on a piece of paper.  I can look at the squares and say, “I have a picture of what is happening inside, and now that it is outside, I can manage it.”


One day I came to Sharon’s office and told her I was feeling adrift. I felt unanchored, bobbled by waves in the middle of the ocean – no shore in sight, moving at the whim of the water. I told her feeling adrift was uncomfortable and disruptive.

Sharon suggested, “Why don’t you make an emotional vision board. Glue some magazine clippings to a page and illustrate what you want your insides to feel like.”

I had no magazines at the time, but a few old catalogues offered ample pictures. I was drawn to couches covered with blankets, stacked pillows on a chair, kitchen towels arranged side-by-side on a rack and a set of nesting bowls. I arranged the pictures on a large paper leaving a lot of space between each one. My heart needed a lot of space. I filled myself slowly with objects reflecting comfort, light, softness and order, the needs I felt within.

Putting pictures on a piece of paper, helped to “reel me into shore.” I was finally relieved of feeling adrift. I had visible anchors for what I craved in front of me. Hanging the paper in my office was a reminder of what I wanted my insides to feel like.

Making art helps make the inside visible so we can name our emotions and create a sense of order in our lives.  



No comments:

Post a Comment