Friday, September 14, 2012

Making Whole: Negative Emotion Monsters

by Diane Steinbach

Making Whole is a bi-monthly art therapy column focused on art to heal. 

Negative feelings and emotions, if allowed to run rampant, can take on a life of their own. If you allow yourself to perseverate on self-doubt, self-destructive thoughts or self-bashing you can create a monster that can haunt you and continue harming and hurting your life.

Acknowledging your own tendency to beat yourself up for your past mistakes is the first step to stopping the behavior and forgiving yourself.

Once self-forgiveness is achieved, we can begin to heal our lives and our relationships with ourselves and others.

This art process asks you, the artist, the imagine the beast of your mistakes, regrets and "sins." What kind of ugly little monster have you created with your own self-doubts and flagellation?

Use markers, paints or colored pencils to draw out your creature and make it as frightening and crazy looking as you want. Make it big or little, colorful or black and white. Think about all the things that you have used to create it and let it represent all the things that you have used to hurt yourself with, and that you now want to let go of.

If you'd like to create a more three dimensional model or "ugly doll," use felt and craft stuffing material to create a fabric doll representation of your monster. Draw out your monster on the felt first and then cut two matching pieces to sew into a pocket that you can stuff with the filler material. Enhance the creature with additional colored felt and embroidery thread.

When you are finished drawing or sewing together your creature take a good look at it. Does it represent all of the things you have been punishing yourself with?
Sit back and think about your monster. How can you control it. Can you tame it? Love it and make it sweet? or must you destroy it?

When you are ready, use your art materials to change the monster to make it non threatening. Rip up the paper, put it in a cage or make it into a less threatening creature. This may not happen right away and may be something you do weeks later after much consideration.

 Whatever you decide to do with your monster, let it remind you not to allow your past mistakes or decisions to become whips with which you continue to punish yourself with for the rest of your life. You must face each event and learn your lessons from them and then let them go so that they do not become a monster that needs to be tamed or destroyed.

Only by confronting our monsters and releasing ourselves from our own self-punishment can we heal.

Attribution Some rights reserved by lovefromhettyanddave

Diane Steinbach is an art therapist and the author of: Art As Therapy: Innovations, Inspiration and Ideas:, Art Activities for Groups: Providing Therapy, Fun and Function and A Practical Guide to Art Therapy Groups


  1. I am learning this myself-to confront the lies I grew up with and then imposed upon myself about who I not let my mistakes define me. That's why I'm writing my own story now. New follower.

    1. Sounds like an interesting story, and a difficult thing to do,redefine yourself. Thanks for commenting, and I will follow back.

  2. Nice post and definitely words to live by. However - speaking as your sister - that doll kind of reminds me of how you usually wake up in the morning. :) Good job. joining from Inspire me monday -

    1. grrrr. don't make me get out the old photos

  3. wow - did you write this just for me? Thank you so much for this. I am off to make my monster! So glad you visited my blog!

    1. Great! Glad you are inspired! Would love to see the finished doll!

  4. I think it's such a great idea to take that monster in your head and turn it into something 3d or on paper, to give it a face. It would make it so much easier to address. Mine hides away for long periods of time them viciously pops up when I least expect it and completely ruins my day. Evil little thing. I'll take your great advice.
    I am hosting a blog hop today over at my blog :-)


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