Several posts ago, I told you that I have a better time expressing myself in pictures than in words. I’ve found that other artistic people are like me. That’s why I often recommend visual journaling exercises to my counseling clients for homework. Malchiodi (2003, p. 19) explains why art is useful in therapy,
Images and image formation, whether mental images or those drawn on paper, are important in all art therapy practice because through art making clients are invited to reframe how they feel, respond to an event or experience, and work on emotional and behavioral change. In contrast to mental images, however, art making allows an individual to actively try out, experiment with, or rehearse a desired change through drawing, painting, or collage; that is, it involves a tangible object that can be physically altered.
One of the exercises, I recommend is called “How do I feel?” I adapted it from the book, The Creative Journal (which I don’t exactly recommend-I’ll write more about that at a later time). It is a good exercise to sort through emotions and explore what is going on internally. For the last few days (maybe weeks), I’ve been fighting with several emotions. I have had a hard time figuring out what is at the source, so I decided to pull out my visual journal and do the “How do I feel?” exercise. Here’s my drawing.
I couldn’t figure out why I was seeing an asterisk. Weird, huh? Then I looked up that an asterisk is to indicate to a writer that there is more information or clarification given in the footnote. I guess that’s how I’m feeling…there is more information in the footnote. As you can see in my drawing, I used words like “intense,” “overwhelmed,” and “restless,” which I am. But what about that asterisk? Then I was reading “Radical” by Platt (2010) and this sentence stood out for me, “So the challenge for us is to live in such a way that we are radically dependent on and desperate for the power that only God can provide” (p. 45). At that moment, I thought, “That’s the asterisk. I am feeling all those emotions, but I am also totally desperate for the power that only God can provide.”
Now, you try- Get out some paper, pencils, crayons or whatever and try it. You may be surprised at what you discover…
Close your eyes and think about how you feel. Notice what’s going on physically as well as emotionally. While your eyes are closed, do you see any images, shapes, colors etc.? Open your eyes and draw, doodle or scribble it down on your paper (don’t worry if you can’t draw worth beans). Now, look at what you did. Does anything stand out (like my asterisk)? On a separate sheet of paper, write down your reactions.
1 John 4:18-24 (the Message) My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.
Platt, D. (2010). Radical. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2003). Art therapy and the brain. In C. A. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (16-24). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.