I’ve kept a journal my whole life, but sometimes the words fell short. I was too angry, too tired, too confused to ‘explain’ myself, and unconsciously, I’d edit my entries—grammar, logic, the stuff they teach you in third grade composition. Sometimes I’d toss my journal away in frustration. How could I say what words couldn’t say?
That’s when a discovered art journaling. Art journaling lets you release thoughts, emotions, or just the general swamp of confusion in your head, through colors and pictures. It’s incredibly therapeutic and very healing—and it can give you that breakthrough insight that you’re craving for.
Journals are a powerful tool for self-discovery. While I enjoy talking to my friends and family, there’s a lot to be said about having that inner conversation with yourself: what happened to me today? What did I like or not like about it? What do I want to remember? What do I wish I could forget…and why? What are my dreams? What are my fears? Who am I, really?
But words are the tool of the left brain: the part of us that analyzes, organizes, and reflects. It often ignores what doesn’t ‘fit’ in a picture. ‘That doesn’t make sense!’ or ‘That sounds stupid!’
The key to self-discovery is to tap the right brain, too: the side that embraces experimentation, chaos, uncertainty, emotions, intuition. Through art journaling you give your right brain a chance to ‘speak up.’ You use paints, magazine pictures, symbols, random squiggles, and just go with the flow. The pictures don’t have to make sense. ‘I feel like using yellow! Lots of yellow!’ And something prompts you to add a torn picture of a cat. IT doesn’t have to make sense. You just do it. Slather on another layer of orange. And white polka dots. Just do what makes you happy! There are absolutely no rules!
Or maybe you want to write something. You’re mad, absolutely furious, and you let it all out on the page: swear words, nasty thoughts, stuff you’d never dare say aloud and feel a bit ashamed saying even on paper. But you don’t edit. No, you put it down, because you know you can hide it with a bright blue coat of paint or a crazy drawing. No one else can see it, not even you, but you got it out and it’s a secret between you and your art journal. It’s liberating (and can even be healthy, too, considering the link between moods and health).
It seems so random, so meaningless, to just throw paint and drawings on paper, but it’s intensely healing. You let go of emotions, and you give your subconscious a chance to emerge, image by image. Maybe, when you’re ready, you go back to the picture of the cat you pasted on a page. Your left brain takes this tool that your right brain supplied, and starts reflecting: ‘What does this cat mean to me? Why does it speak to me, right now, about my life or my problem?’ You can paste words or phrases on the page: ‘nine lives’ or ‘always falls on feet’ and little by little, your inner self speaks to you: ‘this is about resilience, endurance, surviving a tough time.’ Or the cat reminds you of the pet you had when you were a child, and you write: ‘I miss cuddling up in my bed with my cat. I felt so safe. I miss feeling safe.’
This is just one of the many discoveries you can make through an art journal. Try making one today— after all, what have you got to lose?
Photo from greenpaper.typepad.com