Scribbling Your Heart Out!—It REALLY WORKS


Dump your stress with crayons and markers: scribble and graffiti those stuffed emotions.

Anger, frustration and confusion cause stress and pain when they build up inside. Ever wish you could just dump these emotions out and be done with them for awhile? Well, you can. All it takes is a box of crayons, some felt markers and paper. The bigger the paper the better.  Blow off some steam by scribbling and doodling your stress out. Vent your pent-up emotions by scrawling out some private graffiti. This is not about making Art with a capital A. It's about de-stressing. As an Art Therapist I have seen amazing transformations when clients and workshop participants have found their Inner Teenage Tagger. 

Why is scribbling therapeutic? What's the value of graffiti? After you've tried it, you'll know. Until you do, let me tell you about a young woman who was having problems at work. She called me from work in a loud whisper: I'm ready to strangle my boss or quit. I am so mad at him. So is the whole staff. He's making impossible demands and we are all going nuts here. I'm at the boiling point. She paused. I can't quit, though, not until I graduate college and get a full time position. I NEED this job for another few months. Lucia, what should I do?

I knew this young woman was keeping a journal and had been working through the prompts in my book, The Creative Journal. I inquired, Have you got your journal and drawing materials with you? She answered quickly. Yes, they're in the car. I urged her to get them as soon as possible. Go to the restroom. Shut yourself in one of the stalls and scribble all those feelings out. Then yell at the boss in writing. You know, like graffiti. Call him names, swear, let it all hang out. Use your nondominant hand the way I showed you to do.

She laughed, You mean, like taking a good sh&t? she whispered, not wanting anyone to hear. Exactly! I chuckled. OK, OK. I'll do it on my next break, she mumbled into the phone and hung up. She called me back that evening. Wow, that worked, she exclaimed. She had scribbled so hard on several pages with black and red crayons that she almost punched a hole in the paper. Then she did several pages of graffiti, calling her boss "every name in the book" with big, bold, awkward printing. I felt like a little kid, she reported. Remember, she was using her nondominant hand (the one she didn't usually write with). And I REALLY got my feelings out. Afterward, I felt so calm

After that she returned to her desk and resumed working. When the boss started getting cranky and making impossible demands again, it seemed funny to her. She giggled as she recounted her new frame of mind.  I didn't get rattled or anything. I had to laughed to myself. It dawned on me that HE was having a temper tantrum, just like I had in my journal. Only he was taking it out on me and the rest of the staff.  It just didn't upset me anymore.

We can take our difficult feelings out on others (like this boss was doing) or we can stuff them inside, the way this young woman was used to doing. Or we can dump them out on paper. Whether at home or at work, scribbling and graffiti can work wonders.

Scribble and Graffiti Your Stress Away

1) Next time you feel angry, frustrated, stressed or confused get out the crayons, felt markers and some paper. The bigger the paper the better, but 8 1/2 X 11 inches will do. Old newspapers are great for this.

2) Scribble the feelings out using whichever colors express the emotion you are dumping on the page. (Your nondominant hand accesses the emotional areas of the brain more directly.) Forget about making art or pretty pictures. You don't need talent or artistic ability to do this. Just get into your Inner Kid and your Inner Teenager and blow off some steam. Let the feelings flow through your hand onto paper. (Obviously you cannot do this kind of venting on a tablet or handheld device. That's just too limiting. You can't press hard or get messy on hi tech devices. And, let's face it. Emotions ARE messy. )

3) Using your nondominant hand, write graffiti that expresses the feelings you scribbled out. This will probably feel awkward and slow, but hang in there. It will be worth the time you spend to get the words out. Feel free to use four letter words, to misspell words or use "bad" grammar. This is private. You won't be showing this to anyone. You are not getting graded here. This is just for your eyes.

4) Afterward, you can shred or tear the pages and throw them in the trash or you can keep them in a private place where no one can find them.

Note: If you keep a journal, that's a great place to do this kind of cathARTic art. For more journal prompts along these lines, see my book, The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself (Ohio University/Swallow Press) www.



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