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Exploring Emotions through Art

I didn't hear the term "limbic system impairment" until 2018. I didn't receive a C-PTSD diagnosis until just a few months prior to that, but these issues seemed to be a part of me for longer than I could remember otherwise. And finally, the endless list of mystery conditions and symptoms that appeared on my medical chart had an underlying root. In addressing that root, I finally got to the bottom of everything going on.

The journey was not linear. The layers of healing don't have a defined pattern. Healing unfolds exactly as its meant to and I don't regret any of my past, because it was what I needed to walk to get to where I am today.

I realized as my series on "Rewiring for Creativity" nears its end, that I sort of bypassed a large part of my journey and dove in at the point that I personally learned about brain retraining. But I see now that my development of resilience and effective coping strategies began in my connection to art, and I think it's important to discuss that before I end this discussion on the healing available with creativity. I was an artist from the very start of my life. Creativity gave me a sense of joy, but it also served as an outlet to explore emotions that felt too big to process and to explore more of my inner world when I didn't want to engage with the world around me.

Art can be amazingly therapeutic and healing, providing a tactility and tangibility to the mysteries of the psych and the depth of experiences that we don't always have the words to capture. As a child and into my life as a young adult, I used art to explore the things inside me that felt too heavy to carry. Now, it wasn't a total relief of these experiences, but it was a way to begin to transform them and lighten some of that heaviness.

The following works were created before I had the words or knowledge I've gained since brain retraining to help convey and process what I was feeling during some of the perfect storms.

Stress, 2009

Left Brain, Right Brain, 2005

The Pursuit of Happiness, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and the In-Between
Nothing is Permanent, 2005
Self Portrait of the Soul, 2005

They were my attempts to explore deeper feelings and experiences in a way that felt safe and controlled, but also liberating and validating. I released anger, frustration, and heartache in ways that got it out of my body and into a form that didn't burden me with continuing to carry it. Working through these layers, I believe, was helpful to sift through some of the rubble and get deeper into what I explored once I found brain retraining.

That last artwork is particularly interesting to me to look back on now, as this was way before Brain Gardening came about. I hope to be reunited with this collage someday to get a closer look. Right now my only record of these works are these old photos I had saved so I can't pick up the details of what all I had included, but the collage was a reflection of my self—a portrait of the soul or who I still was underneath all the rubble. If you haven't explored such an exercise yourself, I invite you to use the following prompt and corresponding PDF as guidance. Feel free to make this practice entirely your own and step outside this framework if something else resonates with you instead.



Write your name in the middle of a piece of paper or on a digital app if you prefer.

In the areas around your name, add words, phrases, images, or symbols that represent your true self. Include core beliefs or affirmations that align with this identity.

For any limiting beliefs that may arise in this process, write them down in list form on a separate piece of paper (see next page of PDF for optional letting go of limiting beliefs ceremony).

Download the PDF here:

Download PDF • 86KB

I'd love to know what you think of this activity if you give it a try. Please leave your feedback in the comments and let me know if you would be interested in more prompts for the exploration of emotions through art activities/creative projects.

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