Drawing and writing chats with your body can help relieve pain and stress.
No one wants to be sick or in pain if they can help it. The body wants health. We want to feel good. Most of us think of illness as something to get rid of. Our first reflex is to make it go away - take a pill, get a shot, do whatever it takes. But what if pain and illness are also teachers? What if they have something important to tell us? Something that will help improve our health and our lives.
One of my journal students, Pamela, discovered that a chronic physical condition could be cleared up by literally letting her body talk to her. She also discovered a poet and artist within that enriched her life beyond her wildest dreams.
Pamela did a class journal prompt for homework: drawing an outline of the body and coloring in any body part that was in pain or discomfort. This was followed by a written conversation with that particular body part. The revelations that emerged in Pamela’s journal were mind-boggling.
Pamela, age thirty-five, had suffered with chronic sinus congestion all her life. She had sought medical treatment, seen many specialists, and taken dozens of medications, but nothing had given her lasting relief. In doing the journal assignment at home, Pamela focused on this sinus congestion. As her sinus started talking to her on the page, it sounded like a little child. It even said, “I want my mommy.” Tears came to her eyes. All of a sudden she flashed back to herself as a five year old (when the sinus congestion started) and heard her Grandmother’s voice saying, “Be a brave little girl, Pamela. Don’t cry." Pamela’s parents had recently divorced and left her to live with her Grandparents.
Those early memories opened up a flood of tears. Emotions that had been forgotten for thirty-five years suddenly hit her. She’d been storing unexpressed grief and loss in the “closet” of her sinuses all those years. Now the feelings came pouring out in a torrent. She sobbed for a long time and when she was through, Pamela was surprised to see that her sinus congestion had completely cleared.
In journal class the next week, Pamela shared what it was like to “give the body a voice”. She had allowed her grieving Child Within to speak to her, to tell its story and eventually to heal her chronic condition. Her thirty-five year sinus problems disappeared, never to return. I stayed in touch with Pamela for years and she always thanks me for that journal prompt. Letting pain or discomfort speak its truth through her drawing and writing, Pamela’s body had become a storyteller. Drawing and writing in her journal also uncovered buried talent for poetry and art. She went on to become a writer and artist and to teach drawing and writing classes.
- You’ll need some drawing and writing materials. If you keep a journal, by all means use it. If not, you'll need the following as well.
- Unlined white bond paper
- A set of felt pens in twelve colors or more.
- Talent in art is not required. No one is going to see this but you. Give your Inner Art Critic a coffee break while you follow this prompt.
Map Your Body
The first step is to find a quiet place so you can set aside all distractions. Close your eyes and tune into your body. Start at the top and travel down each body part, head to toe. Become sensitive to your bodily sensations in general and to any particular areas of physical pain or discomfort.
Next, draw an outline of your body using your nondominant hand (the one you don’t normally writ with). The body outline usually looks like a Gumby figure. That’s fine. We’re not making Art here with a capital A. This is just a diagram.
Color Your Own X-Ray
Filling in your body outline or map, color in the areas where there is pain or discomfort. This allows you to create your own X-Ray of sorts. Your physical sensations are being translated into colors and shapes. An inflamed area might be colored red or orange. A cold body part might appear as blue. Numb areas might show up as gray or even black. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Color choices are strictly personal and individual. Follow your instincts. Find the healer within.
The drawings often look child-like. That is the whole idea: to feel our bodies the way we did as kids. We are expressing what we feel both physically and emotionally using the language young children use: drawing and coloring. We are drawing the pain and discomfort out into the body map
Chat with Your Body
Next we have a written chat with each body part that was colored into the body map. There are five healing questions that can reveal the truth buried inside pain and illness. The questions are asked with the dominant hand. The answers are given with the non-dominant. This opens up the right brain emotional centers and seems to help access physical sensations as well. It is a whole brain approach that yields amazing answers.
Note: This dialog must be done on paper, writing with both hands alternately, in order to get the results I have been seeing with clients for forty years. It cannot be done on a computer or in your head.
The Five Healing Questions (ask with dominant hand, answer with nondominant hand)
- What (body part) are you?
- How do you feel ?(Feelings can be physical and/or emotional.)
- Why do you feel this way? (This gets to the cause.)
- What can I do to help you? (This is where you get guidance on how to take better care of yourself. Follow through on what it says it needs.)
- What are you here to teach me? (You’ll get insights on how to improve your life.)
I invite you to embrace the Inner Teacher that lives inside pain, illness and discomfort. Your body has so many stories to tell, so many feelings to share, so much wisdom to impart. It has so many answers waiting inside. Listen carefully and put its wisdom into action. (Caution: This is not a substitute for professional medical care if you need it.)