An invitation to learn a technique to create space around challenging emotions. (Or my personal recipe for relieving creative constipation)
When I was a kid and again when I was a single mum I lacked the financial means to pay for counselling support and I really needed it or something like it. I was like a toilet overflowing with emotional poos and I didn't have money for a plumber. Lets just say it got messy. I wish I had had this system then. Once I figured it out (sometime in my mid 40's) I used it to shift from feeling out of control with my emotions to feeling understood, compassionate, and having space to process what needed to be processed. It required no one else to do it. No money changed hands. Just love. From me to me. It took time. But it worked.
When we are in balance as humans there are no blocks between our creative ideas and having them manifest around us. Our bodies become these magical channels for creativity. However trauma, stress, and oppression can serve to throw either a pebble or a freaking ginormous boulder right in the middle of our creative flow. This method is what I used to shift from being under a boulder to standing solidly in my creative flow.
I am an ex-nurse and an artist. I'm not a psychologist so please take this with a grain of salt. It is being offered to you with love and I can say that many of my students have found it to be a godsend of a method, especially those struggling to make sense of their emotions. It seems to be useful for seekers, those in transition, and for those who have had traumas and who want a titrated method of retelling and choosing their response in the future.
I teach it in Click Happy (for youth) and in Create Happy (for adults). The program that I developed to use photography as a tool to teach wellbeing. It is also what I used to get out of my own way and move from being a frightened single mum in a job that was sucking me dry to becoming a full-time artist, running a charitable trust that I adore, and winning NZ's Creative Photographer of the Year. I teach it in Click Happy because I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I had solid wellbeing skills as a tween instead of waiting until my 40s. I teach it in Creating Happy because I remember what it felt like to be an overwhelmed woman.
I like the Creating Happy method because t is about choosing your own ending to the story. For myself, I found it returned stolen power back where it belonged. In my hands. Enjoy and let me know if it is of use to you.
p.s. It isn't a one-hit wonder. It is a method that works best the more times you turn to it. You don't heal a broken bone with a pill. Healing takes time attention and care. The same is for "broken" parts of ourselves. Left neglected they become chronically disabled. Properly tended to they can sometimes heal stronger than before they were broken. So here is to choice and strength.
The Creating Happy Journaling method developed by Mandi Lynn
Step 1 - Gather Supplies
- Paper 3 loose leaf sheets - to write on and to burn
- Pen that is satisfying to write with
Step 2 - Free Writing - 3 pages minimum or you can continue until you are "done"
- Start by writing what is top of mind for you.
- This must be done by hand on paper. (because you can't burn your cellphone or laptop afterwards) and this is an active process of getting your body to chime in with its messages. Typing doesn't seem to do that as well and there is the temptation to slip out of the activity.
- Once you get past the surface stuff often there will be surprising things that come up in the writing.
- You can swear. You can name and shame and vent all of the things that you would probably never say aloud. Let your internal toddler throw her toys solidly out of the cot. That is the point. It allows you to vent without hurting anyone in the process. This is also why the papers need to be burnable so they don't sit like landmines waiting to blow up someones heart. Often if we write in a journal we are afraid it will be found so we edit before we write. This gives you the space to allow your true feelings to surface so that you can unpack them and decide if they are worth holding on to ( the emotions not the papers).
Step 3 - Emotional Fluency - Define your feelings
- Go to the grey page found here and see if any of these words match what you were feeling as you wrote.
- This page identifies emotions you feel when your needs were not met. (These words and the concept of emotions linked to unmet needs, comes from the genius that was Marshall Rosenberg who developed non Violent communication. Please note that I don't believe he ever used his word lists this way, it is just something that I have adapted into a way that has served my understanding of my own needs and has helped me develop emotional fluency where constipation existed before.)
- Write down all the words that apply.
Step 4 - Common Needs
- Crappy feelings are simply the emotional equivalent of physical pain. If you break your leg you feel pain to give you a clue that you need to take care of yourself. Crappy feelings are the same thing. They point to a basic need not being met.
- Your job here is to try and figure out what needs are not currently being met that are causing you pain.
- Go to this page to see common needs
Step 5 - Information is power
- Now you have words for your emotions.
- You also know which needs need to be addressed.
- So now...you have choice. See here is the magical thing. You have 100% control over only one thing in your life. What is it? The power to choose your response to the crap and the gifts that life throws at you (often very difficult to tell apart when enough distance exists between the event and the ultimate outcome). But if you just reflexively respond you will find that you either "bottle" or "blow"
- Bottling is known as either flight running as fast as you can to any form of diversion that will take you away from the pain (food, drugs, shopping alcohol, sex, gaming, cellphones). Sometimes your window of tolerance for the emotion is so closed down that you can just skip right to dissociation where you actively freeze or block things out. These are coping mechanisms that happen when we experience trauma. They serve us temporarily giving us space from the "big thing" but if we never go back and make some form of understanding or peace with what happened it will continue to have hooks into our finite energy that we have to run our life.
- Blowing runs the other direction and you come out fighting, pissing people off and alienating yourself. Feels satisfying in the moment possibly but the fallout really sucks and can ruin relationships.
- So this brings us to the final page. The golden one. This one contains emotions that you feel when you have your needs met. Most people when given a choice choose the golden page. So go on choose some words that you would like to replace your grey ones.
- Now you have a vision for where you want to go.
- Write these words in your journal.
Step 6 - Shred it! Burn it!
- Imagine these papers contain energy that has been taken from you. When you shred them you release the energy back to yourself.
- And by safely burning them you are free from the chance that anyone could piece them together and reclaim your energy.
- If you can' t burn them then drop them in several different rubbish bins and tear them extra tiny.
Step 7 - Calling in Help
- Imagine a wise soul that loves you deeply. It can be a real person, a historical figure, an imaginary one ,or you can simply imagine yourself 20 years from now.
- You ask this person for advice or suggestions on how you can get your needs met so you can feel the words you wrote above. See what that wise person has to say to you.
- Write these words in your actual journal. I find that when I am writing it is as if I open a portal of cleverness and stuff I would not have thought of myself without help seems to magically appear on the paper.
- So focus on this part take deep breaths.
- Sink into your body and feel yourself sitting and writing.
- Ask your body for some wisdom as well. Remember it was there when your spirit came down here and it will be the last one to wave goodbye with you leave. Your body knows your secrets and keeps them safe within you. If you have a fractured relationship with your body due to cultural trauma, or physical trauma...maybe just invite your body to sit at the table with your spirit and take notes. Hopefully you will eventually realize that your body is like the incredibly wise and intelligent secretary to the often overblown Egotic boss (the mind). The body knows...just ask and see what comes up. Just don't be "that boss" .
- For some people painting or drawing is more useful at this moment in time. What you want is to summarize the advice you have been given and honour it in your journal.
Do these seven steps as many times as you need to drain the swamp. Because once it is drained it is highly fertile and your creativity will fill the vacuum of processed pain.
Sent with all kinds of love and adoration. Remember I'm an ex nurse turned artist, not a psychologist. Really I'm just a creative woman who has learned to love herself and this was a big part of the process that got me there. If this has kicked up stuff for you that is pushing your window of tolerance more closed than open then feel free to back down. Reach out for help from experts if you need it. If you are in NZ here are some links that might be helpful to you.
Other wise consider the time spent on this act of self care one of the best investments in your mental health available and all it costs are time and a few bits of paper.
Big huge hugs and love,