We know that emotions have both mental and physical components. During this Creative Invitation, we’ll explore a difficult emotion by transforming it into an image and then noticing what happens both in our body and in our relationship with the emotion.
Paper, paint brush, and paints (be sure you have a strong yellow on hand).
- On your blank sheet of white paper, please make a big, yellow blob. No need to think too hard about it; it will simply provide a starting point and anchor for whatever image you create in subsequent steps.
- Set aside your paper and gently close your eyes. Next, please bring to mind a situation that’s bothering you right now. Allowing that situation to emerge. What happened? Who was there?
- Next, naming the dominant emotion you experienced during this difficult situation.
- Now, do a brief body scan and notice where that emotion resides in your body. Check into it a bit. What shape, texture? Is it undulating or diffuse? Solid or rocklike? Is it a picture, or just sense impressions?
- Once you’re able to sense into the emotion on your body, simply open your eyes and begin to transfer that emotion to your paper. Your yellow blob will already be there, and you may wish to use that as a starting point or anchor for whatever image(s) you’ll build around it. This step will require some willingness to be imperfect and to let loose the mind in order to make space for intuition to speak. If you find yourself getting stuck for how to do it “right,” press pause by making an agreement with yourself simply to make marks. Dots, lines, squiggles. Given time, your hand will know where to go next, and you’ll find flow again.
- It might be helpful to refresh your memory of the emotion, checking back in with the bodily sensation as you continue to add to the image.
Notice whatever emerges as you create. If you are able to remain open to the unexpected (as opposed to focusing on how “good” your painting is), you might receive new words, new images, or other emotions. Allow them to also play on the paper. Give voice to all that emerges, even if you need more paper. (Note that if you need to use more paper, you may simply tape it on to the current piece of paper and continue the drawing there.) Is there space for humor to emerge as you create? If so, allow it! Allow, allow.
Once the emotion has mostly spent itself and you feel that you have no more to add to the paper, simply sit back and release the exercise. Returning for one final scan of the body to notice what’s now happening inside.
Questions for inquiry:
- Did you notice any shifts around how you feel about this particular emotion you illustrated? Any decrease or increase in resistance or judgement toward this emotion?
- Were there any surprising images, thoughts, or emotions that came up for you during this exercise?
- How does the body feel differently after having done the exercise?
- How might you use what you now know when this emotion arises again in your daily life?