Creating with Feelings
Hello everyone, how are you all weathering this prolonged shut down? Kind of crazy isn’t it! I find I am still swimming in feelings of depression and lethargy for most of the time.
Lately though there has been a bit of a shift, an edgy-ness that needs movement… sometimes it feels like I need to explode or yell or… something… in between the periods of lethargy, sleeping and eating of course. It feels nuts!
In my last two posts I talked about how I have been learning to just be with whatever I am feeling, allowing it to come up, breathe through it and not feel I have to fix anything. This has been an important concept for me to learn and is helping my overall healing.
However now it feels like the grief has lasted for so long that it’s turning into a prolonged depression. It’s no longer just about the break-up of my relationship, loss of work and the corona virus, but has now turned into a state of mind that feels like it will never go away. I feel like I am drowning in a miasma of sorrow and general malaise and I really need to un-stick myself.
As most of you probably know I love being artistic and tend to paint, draw or create from a place of joy. I have had therapists suggest creating something when I am in a place of sadness to help get those feelings out. It has felt very uncomfortable and awkward to try that, as I like to make pretty things, art that brings joy and happiness. The last thing I feel like doing when I’m down is creating something that reflects that.
Over time however, I have learned that creating is just simply a process. It is the act of making a representation of an object, idea or a feeling. It is not just about the final product. The end result doesn’t always have to be high art, or look pretty or feel nice. Normally I strive for that however I have learned that creating is merely a tool in my tool belt, a way of navigating life and not just about creating something nice to hang on the wall.
So with that said I decided to make something during a particular moment of thick depression. It took a bit of effort to get off my backside and “do” something but I was getting so tired of the awfulness that I would try anything. I gave myself no agenda other than allowing the feelings to express themselves. It felt a bit odd at first but eventually I found myself getting lost in the creative process. It felt so… I was going to say good, but that doesn’t feel quite right. It was more like a suspension of feelings, kind of just being present in the moment. I didn’t cry all the way through like I though I would. It was more of a sensation of curiosity, watching and seeing what would happen. I found that the process of making something that reflected my emotions allowed me to gain some perspective. I was outside of the feeling kind of watching it, no longer immersed in it. There was relief in that. The process didn’t take away the depression completely but it did loosen it a bit. Somehow seeing it from the outside gave me some distance from the intensity, which has helped a lot.
I feel a little vulnerable posting pictures of what I created but I do so with the idea that there maybe something of value in it for you as well.
What I ended up making shows a very tiny bee in the center, which represents me. It is so very small and almost totally lost with in the layers of thick dark fabric.
I think it manages to convey my overwhelming feelings of depression, grief and the muffling sensations of depression. It is good for me to see this, to get a visual handle on what has been happening.
I see many of you posting on line about feelings of grief and overwhelm. We all go through times in our life where we experience this. Right now however, with the corona virus and the uncertainty it’s causing many people are buried pretty deep in these uncomfortable feelings. I think it’s also possible that we are picking up on each other’s sadness and fear thus adding to our own already overwhelming emotions.
If this is true for you then I imagine those who are close to you are feeling anxious as well. Especially if you are the spiritual or emotional back bone of a family or group of some kind. This realization could also be adding to your feelings of stress. I realize that you may not feel able to allow yourself to fall to pieces completely, however I offer that you give yourself and those around you the gift of developing a method for coping with prolonged stress, sadness and fear. If you acknowledge your feelings then by example it gives them permission to feel theirs also. If you have a process for working though intense feelings then you give them a gift that will help them through out their entire life. So with that said I have some ideas below that I hope will help.
I offer that right now in these trying times you consider setting aside a daily time for creative expression. This works whether you are by yourself or part of a family. It is wonderful and so helpful if you are feeling sad, angry, scared or even if you are feeling happy or joyful. The practice of creating from your feelings is a wonderful process. It can be everything from cathartic and healing to fun. It is simply another way to express yourself and is especially effective when words are confusing or not enough.
For your times of creative expression the sky is the limit as to what you can choose to work with. Initially consider starting with some simple supplies like crayons, markers, pens, pencils, paper, tape, glue and scissors. This will work for either children or adults.
To start, create a framework for the activity. Set the intention that everyone will create something that represents what they are feeling inside right now. This doesn’t have to be a challenging feeling, instead it could be joy or happiness, everything is welcome as long as it is authentic to what is actually going on inside. It does not have to be pretty or nice and ultimately is the private property of the person who made it and can be destroyed afterwards if the creator wants to. They don’t have to talk about their piece if they don’t want to. Or if that feels like the right thing for the person to do then that’s fine too. There should be no evaluation of the finished product and no talking over who ever is sharing. This is their time and theirs only. If the person is open, questions may be allowed but no analysis or suggestions or trying to fix anyone. This is just a process for getting what’s inside out.
You can also create a space where you or each child or person can get up and say something or make a sound or move in a way that shows how they are feeling. Sometimes words can get in the way or distract from the feeling so even just a sound or a color or wrapping up in a colored cloth can be enough. You or they can even be prompted to point to where the feeling is in their body. If anyone is having a hard time expressing themselves in this way, you can instead create a display of different things that they choose from. Maybe provide an assortment of solid colored papers and or cloths, various objects and figurines as well as magazine illustrations of people showing different emotions.
Then have the person choose which things best represent them in that moment. This process can be turned into a “Feelings Box” and have everything inside to be used as needed or daily in a morning ritual.
If there are words or a description it helps for the listeners to say back to the person who is sharing exactly what they said. This allows for the sharer to feel like they were truly heard. Make sure you use the exact words and if you can’t remember ask them to remind you. For most of us we really just need to be heard to feel better.
Everyone also needs to agree to say things from their own point of view such as “I feel” or “when X happened I felt” not “You did something” or “you made me feel”. This is important so no one is blamed or shamed and needs to be corrected the minute the speaker veers off using “I” statements.
If you end up doing something other than a three dimensional creation and venture forth into using your voice or a movement of some kind then there should be a framework and some agreements to keep everyone safe. I recommend that if the participants are going to use their voice there should be no screaming or yelling if you have neighbors that could be concerned. That could be saved for a future date where you all go into nature and scream and yell your hearts out. There should also be an agreement that no one is to hurt themselves or anyone else. Boundaries of some kind are important in the expression of emotions. I would also recommend that if there are young children involved in this process that the adults supervise and not participate.
It would be too much for a child to see a parent or a guardian expressing themselves in a tumultuous way. Set aside a time for yourself or with other adults to express your feelings in a private and cathartic way.
One last thought, if you end up with a group sharing about their creation or doing a movement piece there should be some formality is setting up the space where this happens. This should occur in a place where there are no interruptions or distractions, no cell phones, radio or TV. A set time limit will help keep things from becoming overwhelming or potentially going on indefinitely. Everyone should verbally or by a show of hands agree that whatever is said or whatever happens in the space needs to stay there. This is all very important in making the sharer feel safe and free to share.
For the most part other that the agreements there are no right or wrong ways to do any of this. I offer that you simply allow for a free expression of whatever is going on inside within a space that is safe. It doesn’t have to be fear or sadness, it might me joy or love too. It may also change from moment to moment.
I imagine you are starting to see some of the possibilities here with no one thing being the absolute right way to go. Just come from your heart and allow everyone to show up as they are, feeling whatever they are feeling in the moment. This is so important in times of stress and hardships. It creates a space of acceptance, support, healing and a true loving connection.
I am leaning more and more about being real in the moment, not pretending to be happy or gloss over situations with pie-in-the-sky positivity. If I allow myself to feel whatever is happening I seem to more easily let go and move naturally into happiness or curiosity or peace. This also seems to create a space for a quieter mind that is open for solutions, gratitude and being in the present moment.
I am developing self-love and acceptance, which feels so very good. I am aspiring to be like a two year old that doesn’t hold on to any emotion but moves quickly from crying to giggling in three seconds flat.
I share this with you to shine the light on a possible gift within these momentous times… or consider instead, times-to-be-in-the-moment.