Break through emotional blocks
Try this simple, powerful technique to release stuck emotions and find freedom
Difficult or painful experiences we are unable to process when they happen can lodge themselves in our bodies...energy and emotion in storage, ready for us to deal with at a safer time.
But the thing is that we often let it sit there, getting stiffer, more dug in. This happened to me, some deeply repressed stuff came out in something called frozen shoulder. My right shoulder, which had been injured several years ago, a minor rotator cuff issue, suddenly began to lose mobility. It became stiffer and stiffer. I went to a physical therapist. The exercises did not seem to have any effect and at times seemed to make it worse. The shoulder issue persisted for over a year. I gave up on fixing it.
When a crisis of the soul propelled me on a vision quest a year+ later, I discovered the book Art as a way of Knowing by Pat B. Allen. At the time, I was feeling some energy blocking my throat chakra area, literally my throat felt tight and restricted. So I bought myself a huge canvas and some paints, and dove into one of her exercises, having no idea that the energy that would be released was in my shoulder!
A painting exercise for breaking emotional blocks
WHAT I DID
I put on my favorite instrumental music. I put red paint on my palette. Red represents passion, love, the root chakra, security, safety, home. I began with some tentative brush strokes. But a few songs in (some tribal drumming tunes) the rhythms worked their magic and I found freedom in my movements. I was able to make sweeping strokes, stretching my right side and shoulder. It felt amazing to move and stretch that area while making marks on the canvas. As the movement and energy freed up more, I felt a release of tension and a myriad of emotions, represented through almost violent attacks on the canvas. I then took to splattering the canvas with paint a la Jackson Pollock, and ended my red session with some watered down red blotches that ran red rivers from the top of the canvas to the bottom.
Next, I worked with magenta, adding more of the drippy blotches, and washes of color.
My third color was orange, which created some nice bright areas between the rivers of red.
Then I chose aquamarine. After dumping a copious amount on the palette I was concerned it might be too dark. And I had chosen it because it was cool and was not sure if it was a choice that came more from my left or my right brain. But I had it on the palette and decided to give it a shot. What a surprise it was. I loved how the color, when thinned, created a beautiful cool tone around the warmth of the red and orange. I was surprised more, though, by the emotions that arose as I worked with the blue. I felt pain, melancholy, deep hurt. When I made the blue blotches and those almost black rivers began flowing, something deep moved in me. I feel it even now. Something about connections, about the imperfections, the hidden painful bits. This part of the painting was slower and more introspective.
Throughout this process I encountered my big block, the one with the choke hold around my throat. It said this painting was not going to impress anyone. It asked why I wasn’t making something beautiful, something to show, something to impress, a masterpiece. This voice tells me that EVERYTHING I make has to be a masterpiece. It is a real drag.
But I listened, and then I reassured it that this canvas is for another purpose. This canvas is a conversation. This canvas is a place for me to hear my emotions, a place to hear the voice that is choking my creativity, and the voice that is gently tugging me, guiding me, calling me to walk my soul path.
Try this technique to paint through your emotional blocks
I suggest trying this technique to release stuck emotion and connect with your inner wisdom.
– A jar for water
– A long-handled paintbrush
– 2-4 colors of acrylic paint that you like
– A canvas. I suggest at least 24 x 36, but go with what feels good. Larger is kind of easier, actually. And allows you to really move your body as you paint. Mine was 36" x 48".
– Something to protect surfaces you don't want paint getting onto. I use newspapers or old paper grocery bags. A thick canvas drop cloth is great, too.
– An easel or place to lean your canvas
- Set up your canvas, ideally so you can stand at in front of it, like perched on an old chair, on an easel, or even hanging on a wall. But remember, this will get messy so cover all the surfaces you want to protect.
- Get your music going. I liked listening to a few favorite tunes I use to inspire me. Then try some tribal drumming music or flute music. Something that has rhythm and is perhaps unpredictable.
- Start with one color. Put that on your palette, and make a mark on your canvas. Notice how you feel. Are you scared? What is your inner critic saying. Continue to add more of this color to the canvas. Experiment with how much later is on your brush. Let the paint get really watery and run down the canvas. Then, turn your canvas 90°, paint more.
- When you are ready, switch to your second color. If your second color is complimentary to your first, know that when they mix you will get a brown tone. If you do not want this effect, wait for your first layer to dry. If you are using primary colors (red, yellow, blue) your second color will harmonize with your first, no need to wait for it to dry. For example, if you start with red and change to yellow, you will get some really nice oranges where the two overlap.
- Allow your mind to release the need to make something recognizable and enjoy the abstractness of what your soul is creating. You may find that dripping paint completely captivates you. You may feel a rise of deep emotion and make a violent mark on the canvas.
- Finally, add a third color. Remember this process is about moving the energy (emotion, feeling, thought) that is in your mind and body out into physical form. This is an experience, not a job. This is an expressive art form, not a finished product.
- When you are at a resting place, step away from your canvas. Let is sit. When you look at it, notice what thoughts and feelings arise.
Allow your body to move as you paint. Step back so your arm has to reach to get the paint on the surface. Breathe! If you have an area of your body that is tight or painful, move gently to stretch that area while breathing into it. Move only as much as you feel you are able, and see what feelings arise.
If negative or self-critical feelings and thoughts surface, use your journal to note them down. Getting them out of your head, out of your mind and onto paper will free space for you to connect with your soul more deeply.
Let your painting work its magic
You may be done with this canvas, or you may feel called to paint more on it later. If it is creating strong responses in you, make sure you keep it around. It is working magic on you. No, seriously, check out the book Power VS Force by David R. Hawkins. Handmade art emits energy... it is alive! All that energy you just moved out onto the canvas...it is there, vibrating and shaking and radiating out at you!
You might also look at this as a meditation canvas, a place you return to and paint on each day. I recommend taking time each day to make some marks on a canvas. It does not have to be a canvas that is destined to become anything...just a place for you to settle down, quiet the critic and the chatter, and communicate with your inner self.
I would love to know if you try this, and how it went! Join my facebook group and share your experience, or leave a comment below.