Emotional Intelligence is trendy, but just how much emotional intelligence do we need? We should not allow emotions to rule us, but neither should we fear them. Ignoring them is not wise because trapped emotions in the body can cause chronic illness. Using art to understand your emotions empowers you to explore your emotions objectively. Art therapy is one of the best methods for exploring difficult emotions and releasing them in a healthy way.
While we may not permit emotions complete rule or sway in decision making, we still need emotions. They help us determine needs and our reactions to the world around us. But emotions themselves are neither good or bad, right or wrong. Some people process life through their emotions while other process through their thoughts. Either way, it’s important to both understand and manage the way you feel.
Emotions are great servants but terrible masters. They contribute depth and value to our lives. But, we must remember, that how we feel isn’t always how we are, and how we feel isn’t who we are. Understanding our emotions begins with realizing they comprise a part of how God created us.
God created us with emotions and the ability to sense what is going on inside of us, so we can respond appropriately to the world around us. Emotions like fear, or sadness signal something needs attention sooner rather than later. Emotions like joy or pleasure signal certain activities are life giving and good. If you focus on “negative” emotions, you may tend to shut those down. When you disconnect those emotions you risk disconnecting positive emotions. Disconnecting from your emotions leaves you confused and disconnected from your surroundings. Using art to understand your emotions removes the fear from difficult emotions.
created in the image of god with emotions
Emotions are an essential element in the way God made us. They are signposts, giving us helpful information about ourselves and our environment; spiritually, physically and relationally. Growing in your awareness of what and how you feel, allows you to pursue bringing your needs to God, others or yourself.
Scripture describes God expressing emotions like love, joy, grief, delight, anger and jealousy. I’m not suggesting we lower God, making Him in our image, but the truth remains, we are created in His image. Therefore, our emotions are a reflection of His emotions, though distorted by sin. To say we are like God, means we have and express emotions. In heaven we will express emotion (Revelation 6:10, 7:10) as well as intellect. Randy Alcorn commented, “Emotions are part of God created humanity, not sinful baggage to be destroyed.” Our current emotions remain distorted by sin, as is the image of God once perfect. But in heaven all will be restored.
using art to understand your emotions
While we can look forward to God graciously restoring His image in us and redeeming our emotions in heaven, managing them now still remains. Using art to understand your emotions is an effective method for processing difficult emotions. I discussed some basic ways of using art through painting and drawing in this post. Today, I’ll share various art methods you can try relating to all types of emotional experiences. Many are super easy, and you can start with less threatening emotions until you feel comfortable enough processing more difficult ones.
Try these techniques first as a non-threatening way of letting your guard down. These exercises help you relax and feel what you’re feeling without an agenda. Don’t look for anything, just let out what’s inside non-judgmentally.
- Paint to music. You can use any type of paint, acrylic, water colors or markers. A simple sheet of paper, or you can invest in a tablet of heavier paper designed for the purpose. You can pick your favorite playlist, or mix it up. Put the music on, don’t think about it, just enjoy painting. Don’t think too much about color choice or how it looks. It’s important not to overthink this, but let it flow. Afterwards, notice the color choices, objects and designs you made.
- Finger paint. Finger painting isn’t just for kids. It’s incredibly relaxing to swirl your fingers in the paint and make designs. Start with a few minutes of mindful breathing, then begin slowly and allow yourself to feel the flow of the paint through your fingers. Psychologists found five minutes of finger painting calmed agitated mentally ill patients.
- Use color blocks. This exercise uses the colored paint chip samples you can find free at any home improvement store. Pick out only colors that make you feel calm, collect several paint chip strips. Cut out the little color blocks and glue them on paper making a collage. have fun arranging them, you can even change the shape of the color chips. No rules here!
Art therapy is not only for processing difficult emotions, but identifying positive emotions and the life giving activities that generate them. Try these exercises for exploring your personal happiness.
- Make a collage illustrating a Bible verse. Start with a favorite Bible verse, then cut out pictures that help bring it to life. You can draw, or paint to add depth or simply add color that speaks to you in relation to the verse. This is very similar to Bible journaling, and you can do it that way also. Be sure to illustrate which emotions the verse evokes when you meditate upon it
- Draw your heart. This can be used for all emotions, but it’s especially encouraging to do it with positive emotions. Draw a heart on a piece of paper. Then think of a happy memory. Begin coloring the heart with a different color for each emotion you felt during that time. Label each one when you’re through.
- Build a “home”. Make a list of things that help you feel “safe”, cozy and loved. Cut out pictures to represent those items or draw them. On a piece of paper, draw the outline of a house and fill the house with everything that helps you feel safe, cozy and loved.
We can never spend too much time expressing gratitude for how much God richly blesses us. Here are a few projects to add variety to your gratitude expression.
- Gratitude tree. Perfect for autumn! Grab an empty branch that will fit in a vase of your choice. Cut out various leaf shapes on colored paper, using templates you can find online, or trace actual leaves. You can also paint them if you like. Write on each leaf something for which you are grateful. Using string or yarn to make a loop and hang on your “tree” branch in the vase.
- Visual gratitude. Draw, or cut out pictures that represent things for which you are grateful. You can also use photos that you take of people, places or things that are meaningful to you. Construct a collage and frame it!
- Personal gratitude. Make a collage out of pictures you draw or cut out, words, phrases or Bible verses that describes your gratitude for a particular person. Give as a gift of encouragement to that person.
Trauma or Loss
Grief and trauma are not easy emotions to process, and there is no finality to them. The best way to move towards healing is to get these hard emotions outside. These activities are designed to help you do that.
- Sand painting. Sand painting is incredibly relaxing. You’ll need some heavy paper or canvas boards, tempera paint and colored sand. Choose colors that calm you. Using a wider paint brush, paint on the canvas according to your feelings, use different brush strokes. Sprinkle sand over the wet paint as you desire. Enjoy the textures created.
- Draw or paint your safe place. Visualize a place that brings you peace, it can be real or imagined. A scene for example, of the ocean or the night sky. Then paint those colors and scenes, or use colored pencils to illustrate it. It’s not important what it looks like, it’s important that you are visualizing the place and the feelings associated with it.
- Create a scrapbook. Make a scrapbook of all the things you loved and miss about the person you have lost. Use old photos, Bible verses they liked, drawings and descriptions of things you did together.
Using art to understand your emotions offers you opportunities of healthy expression of emotions that become blocked in the body. Instead of fearing your emotions, you can begin understanding and validating them. Emotions often signal unmet needs or sinful habits that need addressed. Understanding your emotions simply means you clearly identify your own emotions without attributing too much importance to them. Both positive and negative emotions can teach us much about ourselves if we remain objective.
One day, the emotions so distorted by sin will be redeemed. The Bible reminds us in heaven we will rejoice, we’ll experience banquets, feasts, laughter and singing. Reunions with loved ones and most precious of all, united with our Savior, Jesus Christ. In all of these experiences we will intensely express the emotions God created us in His image to express for His glory.