Month: March 2012

Write a Letter With Real Paper

Are you feeling overwhelmed by technology and underwhelmed by sincere communication these days? Today we will explore this growing predicament. Please find some real paper and a real writing utensil. Think of someone important in your life and carve out a chunk of time to write this person a real letter.  As you write, maybe even take a risk and share personal feelings in the letter to this person, or just recount your day, current activities etc. How does it feel to communicate this way? Can you find a stamp, the person’s address and mailbox and follow through these tedious steps to communicate? Before you mail it, hang on to the letter for a day. You might want to add more or just admire this form of communication before you send it away. Be aware of your feelings as you do this exercise… How does it feel to use your time to acknowledge someone else? How does it feel to reveal your handwriting to a loved one? Are you anticipating how the recipient will feel to find this letter in their mailbox? Good Luck. Maybe you will receive a hand written letter in return!

Yesterday’s project: How is your attitude these days? What type of inclement weather did you place yourself in and how did it feel? Did you draw yourself with things for protection against the elements such as an umbrella if it was raining or gloves if it was snowing? This art exercise can reflect our attitude of how we drew ourselves in the situation. If you created yourself unprepared and then complained about it, is there something you can do about it to alter this by adding some protection and thus improving your attitude? Can you take responsibility of the person in the image or do you blame someone or something else for the predicament of being outside in inclement weather. Does this image reflect your attitude in your life?  Art making is often quite revealing because we have no experience of putting up our “defenses” in what we create, so the truth is usually right in front of us when feelings and attitudes are drawn rather than spoken. If this exercise revealed a part of yourself that needs further exploration, please find a loved one to share your feelings with whom you trust.

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Attitude Check

How is your attitude these days? Really, attitude is everything, and according to people like Viktor Frankl who have spent their career thinking about this topic (author of Man’s Search for Meaning). Attitude is the one thing we have full control over in our lives. Today’s art exercise will explore this element of ourselves and if done honestly, might provide insight into our current satisfaction with things around us. Please find paper and writing or drawing material. Draw an image of yourself outside in some type of inclement weather. Add some word balloons describing what you might be saying or thinking. Don’t worry about creating a masterpiece. The goal of this exercise is to get the information on paper.

Yesterday’s project: So, can you make a mistake? This exercise of blind contour drawing is a challenging one, especially because it forces us to give up the control we seem to have over many elements of our lives. For people who hate making mistakes, this is a very healthy exercise to get out of one’s comfort zone. Conducting an art therapy group on this topic in an in-patient psychiatric setting has proven to be the most powerful and painful activity, forcing participants to come face to face with an honest assessment of themselves and dealing with the very common and real fear of making mistakes.

When you look at your contour drawing of yourself, can you make any honest observations of emotions, mood, attitude? Can you identify how you were feeling as you made it? Art making like this can be quite revealing, and the best way to initiate change in oneself is to make an honest assessment of our current situation. Blind contour drawing is often a very sobering exercise in which we come face to face with a very honest/current assessment of ourselves. The word “current” is quite important here, meaning that this assessment is really temporary, and can change quickly if one puts the work into it.

Can you identify how it feels to have made something less than perfect? We are our own worst enemy and often the barrier preventing us from succeeding. Fear of failure or making a mistake is the fuel for remaining sedentary. If this is a topic in need of exploration in your life, please spend time journaling or sharing your feelings with a loved one.

Can You Make A Mistake?

Can you make a mistake? Today’s art therapy exercise might be challenging on many levels as we explore our emotions connected to making mistakes. Please find some paper and a pen (not a pencil-no erasing for this art project). Now find a mirror and station yourself close to this mirror. Please look only at your reflection and not at the paper, and attempt to create a self-portrait. This technique is known as “contour drawing.” Finding a starting point on the paper and work your pen across the page as you imagine where things should go. Try as hard as you can not to look down as you draw.

The results will be surprising, and nowhere close to perfect. Please be aware of your reaction or feelings as you draw, and take note of these feelings. Any voices in your head telling you that you can’t make mistakes or that your image isn’t up to par? Can you identify the voices (maybe a parent or teacher from your past)? Can you write down some emotions you observe in the drawn image? Contour drawing can be a powerful and cathartic art form to allow one to confront hidden emotions, especially when doing a self-portrait. Walking away and coming back several hours later also might be a helpful technique to make observations about the emotional state of the image.

Yesterday’s project: Did you find a huge difference between the inside and outside of your mask? This mask making exercise can be a great tool to explore these hidden feelings. People often claim they feel more at peace when their inner and outer masks are aligned. if you found a divide between the two sides, is there someone you can share this information with whom you trust? Revealing these secrets and discovering that our loved ones still love us with all of our flaws can be a powerful experience.

Can You Remove Your Mask?

We all wear masks. In some ways this is a necessity for functioning in our multifaceted world. Occasionally our masks present a very different persona than what might be lurking underneath. Today we will explore these masks and investigate our interior and exterior self. Please find some paper, scissors and drawing materials. Draw a simple outline of a face and cut it out. Start with the outside of your mask and draw or write how you present yourself to the world, maybe including emotions/adjectives or any descriptive words. Now turn your mask over and do the same thing but identifying parts of yourself you don’t often reveal or that you choose to  “mask.” Be aware of any emotions which surface as you make your mask. Sometimes walking away, then returning to an art piece a few hours later can be an enlightening activity. Art making can be very powerful because we have less defenses built up through this form of communication.

Yesterday’s Project: Did you reveal a secret through your artwork? Was it a cathartic feeling to let go of this information? Sharing your secret with a person you trust is usually a great outlet, but often your own artwork can serve as a vessel to contain feelings that might be too overwhelming to keep inside of yourself. The website http://www.postsecret.com is one of the most visited sites on the internet, due to the power of revealing a secret. On this particular site, people mail their secrets through a postcard to a person in the D.C area and he posts many of them on this site.

Revealing Secrets

Got a secret? Sometimes carrying one around for too long can be stressful, painful or even debilitating to your physical and emotional health. Art making can be a powerful vehicle to let secrets out without the viewer of the art even realizing that they are looking at your deepest darkest secret. Please find some paper or something more elaborate if you are feeling crafty. Please write or draw your secret now. You might actually write out the real secret or you might reveal it in a more cryptic fashion such as in a code or symbol. Can you share this secret with someone you trust? Chances are high that you might not feel comfortable doing this yet. Now rip up your paper with this secret, but do not discard the scraps. What can you do with the scraps to aid in the cathartic activity of revealing your secret? “The truth will set you free” is an annoying cliché heard over and over for generations, but in connection with mental health, this is truly the case.

Yesterday’s Project: How did you honor your extra day this year which came in the form of a leap year? Do you carve out enough time for yourself? Do you feel guilty when you do something idle or frivolous with your time? This exercise was meant to think about your relationship to time.