collage cards showing a range of emotions like happiness, worry, curiosity

100 days of sensemaking emotions

I wholeheartedly recommend starting a regular creative practice – it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself to be artistic. Such a practice can play so many roles in our lives, including (but not limited to) self-care, learning/practicing skills, fun and play, personal growth, reflection, grounding. It can be as easy as jotting down three observations about your day every evening or cooking a new recipe every week. Every year, #the100dayproject kicks off on 2nd April, and this year I wanted to jump on board to explore the effect of doing the same small creative activity every day, so I chose to create 100 small collages illustrating emotions.

We experience emotions every single moment. They inform our perceptions, choices, actions. They ripple through our bodies. Naturally dealing with emotions shows up in a lot of my work and inspired me to play with three aspects in my #100daysofsensemakingemotions:

I want to capture the different messages emotions have for us. It’s easy to feel like a paper boat in the storm when emotions throw you around. It can feel chaotic, out of control, being in the grip of emotions. But each emotion has a very specific message for us, it starts in the emotional part of our brain and sends signals to our body to get us ready for the appropriate action. Fear for example prepares our body to fight or flight, it’s an important survival response. To fight or flight, we need our bodies to send energy to the right organs and areas in the body, and to suppress less important body processes while we deal with the threat.

I wanted to shine a light on the more obscure emotions, the ones we often haven’t got words for. For many people talking about emotional experiences isn’t something that had a place in their families. We have to keep building our emotional vocabulary because it feels so good to find a way of describing and expressing them more accurately. I find these expressions intriguing, so I started my project with an obscure emotion: Altschmerz, the weariness with the same old issues you’ve always had, the same boring flaws and anxieties. Such a familiar feeling!!

I’m setting out to create a full spectrum that doesn’t label emotions as positive or negative. I’m not a fan of that classification. All emotions are useful, they turn up to tell us something. Some might give us a pleasant feeling, others can feel difficult, or icky, or challenging. Altschmerz, for example, sounds painful and uncomfortable, but if it shows up it tells us about this thing we are again and still dealing with. It makes us consider whether it is time to accept what is, or to let go of what was. The label ‘negative’ suggests these emotions are something to avoid or reject. But: we need to be able to connect with all emotions, sit with the discomfort and let them inspire action. You might have experienced that the more we’re trying to avoid or deny an emotion the more it takes over. As human beings we are unable to selectively invite certain emotions into our lives and shut others out. If for example we try to shut out shame or anger, because they feel uncomfortable or weren’t welcome in our family, we will end up cutting off joy as well, and optimism, happiness, love, excitement. Brené Brown, renowned shame researcher captures this well: 

“When we numb the dark, we also numb the light.”

Brené Brown

I hope my #100daysofsensemakingemotions creates a useful resource for my work as Art Therapist. Art Therapy provides a place to safely explore all emotions and sit with the difficulty and vulnerability they can create. All our emotions are worthy of our attention!

You can find out more about #the100dayproject here.

Find out more about my work at Sensemaking Space

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *