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How I Use Art to Heal Shame and Trauma | Making art reduces stress, cultivates imagination and lets us focus deeply. Discover how making art can help us heal shame and trauma.

When I was little, I wanted to be an artist.

I had a book that illustrated different jobs: A fox dressed in a firefighter’s suit. An owl pointing at a classroom blackboard.

Then, a cat splashing paint across the canvas. I circled her with my pencil.

I loved mushing paint together, drawing googly eyes and collaging magazine scraps for hours at a time.

But somewhere along the way, making art became another way to seek approval. If I could replicate a portrait by hand, my parents oohed and ahhed. 

My classmates admired me. No one would notice my lack of confidence.

Years later, I tried to reignite that innocent spark to create, without adhering to the academic rules I had learned about “good” art.

It was much more difficult than I thought.

My inner critic attacked every paint stroke and asymmetric face. The entire process was so painful that I nearly stopped.

Making art to heal trauma & shame

So, I decided to turn things around: 

What if I observed those critical remarks? Where do they come from? What can I learn about myself?

When I let myself jab the paper with a brush, leaving a black chaotic smear, I can feel my anger releasing. Thin squiggly lines twist outwards from that core—perhaps representing layers of hurt and shame.

The harsh inner voice slowly recedes. I still hear its bickering, but it doesn’t keep me from exploring.

When you first let yourself spontaneously make art, you might find it extremely uncomfortable. Because you’ll reject yourself in similar ways that others have rejected you in the past. 

It might be difficult to simply show up as you are, without adjusting the raw portrayal of your inner world.

That’s why expressive art activities are so effective for shadow work. For those of us who often get stuck in our head (me!), making art helps us connect to repressed feelings and cultivate self-compassion.

What’s more, research shows that making art can heal trauma, lowers stress, activates the reward center of the brain (so we feel good) and helps us flex our decision-making skills.

I encourage you to make art to welcome your whole self.  

Making ugly collages freed me

One of my most favorite art activities as a child was making collages.

Tearing colored paper and arranging them to make something completely new fascinated me.  

Other materials include magazine clippings, tissue paper, postcards, museum brochures and stickers. But you can use anything that inspires you: buttons, twigs, leaves, feathers, recycled glass, foreign coins, etc. 

My partner and I decorated these standard French envelopes below with stickers leftover from my days as an English teacher. 

At first, we enjoyed the freedom in picking whatever sticker pleased us and placing it somewhere without much thought.

How I Use Art to Heal Trauma and Shame | Making art reduces stress, cultivates imagination and lets us focus deeply. Discover how making art can help us heal trauma and shame.

But we both quickly observed our need to create a harmonious palette and composition. I cringed at my atrocious line of overlapping star stickers. My art professors would gawk in horror.

I took a deep breath. My partner kept adding stickers anyway. He didn’t care and seemed to have much more fun.  

That inspired me to keep going too. I tried to let go and invited my inner child to lead.

I struggled a bit to sink into delightful play—something that contrasted starkly with my old perfectionistic tendencies—and eventually, I felt a warm joy animating my hands.

Transforming our wounds

Any creative activity can help us highlight parts of ourselves that we’ve shunned: painting, writing, movement, singing, cooking and even rearranging the furniture!

The key is to accept yourself unconditionally, no matter what arises during the process.

When we embrace our shadows, we create space for more love and connection in a world that aches for togetherness. 

So tap into your creativity today and stay open:

What parts of you want to be seen?

Want some free support?

I’m offering free EFT Tapping sessions in exchange for a short interview via Zoom.

I enjoy connecting with other women and learning about their challenges related to confidence, boundaries and relationships.

In the first 15 minutes, I’ll ask questions like “How did you discover me?” for new content ideas. In the last 15 minutes, you’ll get an EFT session to feel calm and clear. (Yes, things can shift that quickly.)

This offer isn’t a discovery call, where we discuss my paid services. It’s a fun opportunity to connect and support each other!

If you feel inspired to work with me, we can book a free call to make sure we’re a good fit.

I look forward to connecting with you!

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