Stuffing It In

This is a great tangible example of what happens when we ignore our negative emotions as a means of coping. I use this with kids who have angry outbursts or who have difficulty engaging in treatment and talking about their negative emotions, but love using art materials.

Engage client in writing down experience and/or depicting all of the emotions through visual aids. If you have a young one, have them draw what happened and how it made them feel. You can have them do a cartoon with captions, use sentences or just phrases and words. Have client tear up what they wrote/drew on  the paper in small pieces and shove into small container (toy cup, jar, small box, etc). I use a think construction paper so the tearing requires some effort and it cannot be smashed very easily. When they have ripped and stuffed, bring out another sheet of paper and have them draw a negative emotion on it. These drawings can really be scribbles... have them rip and stuff. Repeat until the container is too full to stuff anymore and/or Client's thumbs are hurting.

Discuss with your client how eventually we run out of space to stuff the negative feelings and either the container breaks or the paper just comes spilling out as soon as we take the pressure off. (And our thumbs cramp up from all the pressure!). This is like when we have negative emotions inside of us and we either can't focus, explode with anger (hitting, pushing, yelling, crying), or just feel ill on the inside from all of the pressure.

Provide psycho education on the need to express feelings. A visual of expressing the feelings would be to take out the pieces of paper from the container and throw pieces away or burn them if you can. You have to talk about it and express it before you can let it go.

It can be telling to do an assessment of how strongly the Client felt about the negative emotion on a scale of 1-10 before the activity and then after the activity.