One of the classes that I lead at HD is called “Boom Team.” It’s meant to be an arts and crafts time, but I’m a counselor, so I turned it into art therapy.
Project: Emotion Portrait
Assign colors to eight basic emotions
– Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Joy, Trust, Anticipation, and Surprise –
Then draw a self-portrait using those colors to reveal your emotional state
I assigned pretty typical colors to the eight emotions – bright colors for the happy emotions, solid stark colors for the bad. The real fun came in creating my self-portrait, which I’ll describe by emotion.
- Fear – Black
I started with fear, since I feel like it is at the core of me. It is centered in both my head and my stomach. I associate fear with headaches and stomachaches, but also because my fear is both logical and a gut-reaction. After further work, I added black lines through my legs, since I feel that fear sometimes paralyzes me.
- Anger – Red
I wanted to surround my fear with anger (in the head) but I gave it a separate place in my stomach. My anger is more centered in gut-instincts, but I also had it flow into my right hand (and out of my hand into the world). This was reflective of some things I’ve been learning about anger, how this emotion can be incredibly positive as a passion that motivates us to change the way things are.
- Disgust – Gross Green
You can barely see it, but I wound up coloring green on top of the anger in my stomach, since it is usually disgust (at myself, at the world) that fuel the anger that fuels my desire to change.
- Trust – Light Blue
Next I did trust, and I wrapped it around the fear and the anger. This was a very positive step, reflecting how much I’m learning to trust even the negative emotions in my life. I know that I’m on a path of loving my messy inner state, accepting the healthy fear and anger and slowly whittling away at the unhealthy versions. I also wanted some trust to flow out of my left hand to symbolize reaching out to the world and to other people. Later I really liked the dichotomy between my Angry Hand and my Trusting Hand, that these two sides of myself are equally represented and valued.
- Sadness – Dark Blue
I realized I’d forgotten sadness. I wanted it in my chest, because that’s the location for the gasping sensation of sadness and lost. I made it a big hole underneath the other emotions, and later I realized it felt right that if you stripped away all the other emotions, what’s left underneath is sadness. I didn’t really like that realization, because it brought up my fear that there is another period of depression waiting ahead of me, and I just want that to be over. But maybe I can learn to accept that as well.
- Joy – Yellow
I started by surrounding trust with joy, because the only way I can open up to be people is when I’m experiencing deep-seated joy. Then I wrapped the joy around all the other emotions, partly because I have a lot of joy, and partly because the emotion I feel most comfortable presenting to the outside world is “joy.” I didn’t let joy wrap around all the emotions, though, because there is a part of my anger and my sadness that isn’t joyful at all. And fear was safely wrapped inside other emotions, so joy barely touched it at all, which feels accurate.
- Anticipation – Pink
It felt very obvious to make my legs pink, with outside lines of anticipation flowing into me. But when I tried to describe WHY anticipation lives in my legs, all I could say was, “It just does.” Maybe it’s the itchiness I get to change and move, the feeling of being ready to pick up and go. I think there’s also something about the solidness there, that anticipation is what provides me a foundation for what I do – I can live NOW because of what I’m looking forward to in the FUTURE.
- Surprise – Orange
I didn’t do much with surprise. I put it as sparks around my head (then added some yellow joyful sparks as well) because surprise feels like something that is outside of me, something ethereal and sparkly. Then I added some to my Angry Hand, because my anger still often surprises me.
I had the other women make two emotion portraits – one of them now and one as how they wish to be. It was very interesting to see that one woman’s future portrait was of her pushing away all four negative emotions, while the other woman decided to keep just a little bit of anger, fear, disgust, and sadness in her head and heart. “Why?” I asked, incredibly happy. “Because I know that even bad emotions have a purpose.”
They asked why I didn’t do a second portrait. I didn’t because there isn’t much I want to change. I’d like fear to shrink a little, but mostly I feel really at peace with my emotional makeup. For the first time, I think! I’m really settling into who I am, loving myself and valuing the way I am made. I didn’t expect that.