Interpreting Therapeutic Creative Expression

Collage journal page by Theresa

“I have been contemplating the woman falling backwards. The side borders are open. The water may be my escape, my way out. I think the fireworks behind my head are things that stress me out. Pink and blue background colors may represent kids. I need to take time for myself.” 

It’s said that about 80% of our decisions and actions is dictated by the unconscious.  Therapeutic Creative Expression can be a powerful tool to uncover unconscious meaning and information.  When unconscious information is brought to a conscious level you can then act and react in your life situations with conscious intent.

On this page you will see examples of how various creative expressions has been processed.  I have included questions I might pose to help you interpret or “process” the picture.

You can use Wendy’s picture below to practice on.  Even though it’s not your own creative expression it will  give you information about yourself and your life.  Might surprise you!

Look at the picture and answer the questions below as spontaneously as possible.

Face by Wendy, Create to Heal

  1. There are 5 bands of color – red, blue, green neutral and yellow – what might each represent literally, symbolically or metaphorically in your life?
  2. The red eye is lower than the brown eye.  What in your life is it that you can’t see straight? and/or How is your vision skewed?
  3. The “white”  tip of the nose and the “white band around the eyes – if they were related, what might that be?
  4. The “Chinese” characters are written in red, yellow and blue.  Green is missing.  What might be missing that you can’t see?
  5. What surrounds you that is “foreign” (unknown, unexplainable, not understood etc)?
  6. Whatever the blue band represents for you is “right under your nose” and you might not be able to see or hear it.  What might that be?
  7. What does the “hair” represent?


Here’s how Wendy processed another picture.  Take a look.

Wendy Holcomb, CreatetoHeal

Computer generated:  Expressing feelings with color –  MadSad, Glad(glad), Fear, Disgust.

“This could not have come at a better time for me.
I feel like my emotions are all a jumble.
I noticed that Anger (or Mad) resembles a person, and seems to be holding on to Sad.  But Glad is trying hard to over come it.  Fear, feels much bigger in me…but he is hiding in the corner.  Afraid.
I was surprised to find Disgust leaking into everything.

I’ve been in this bed for so long, I haven’t even been out side for 12 days, and the day I went outside, it was to go to the hospital and come home.

I’m sure if I looked back in my journal (other blog) I could figure out the last time I had a really good day, and was able to spend some time away from the house.

I remember the day before Thanksgiving, we braved the grocery store, we needed 2 things.  I almost broke down in tears and had a complete panic attack.  I wasn’t feeling bad, not with the vertigo and such like I so very often do…no this was because of my hearing.  I couldn’t tell which way sounds were coming from, I kept getting in people’s way and didn’t know it, people kept coming up behind me and scaring me.   I was in a huge grocery store, with Stuart close by, and I felt so isolated, and overwhelmed by stimuli at the same time.
I may never go in a grocery store again.  (I know that’s a bit overly dramatic, but I usually shop at the Farmer’s Market or our local Co-Op, both are much smaller, and more manageable.  Even if I did cry the last time I was at the Co-Op.)

Right now, life is a bit overwhelming.  I want to be mad at someone.  I feel I’m taking it out on Stuart, and he’s really trying his best.  But I need to be mad at someone..I need to get some of this anger out.
I will…but I don’t think I need to let it all out at once.  If I did, well, they might describe our house as another Chernobyl. Complete Melt Down.

Here’s what Judith suggested for me to further interpret my feelings, computer painting.

  • Mad looks like it’s throwing something over Sad or the contact with Sad is distorting Mad’s arm or . . .
  • Sad appears amoeba like – how are your transparent areas of sad different from the opaque sad?
  • Sad is the most organic form? Each has a distinct quality, energy how do you experience that in reality?
  • Glad touches everything except Mad.
  • What does the negative space represent?

Wendy Holcomb

Let’s see how I can do?

Wendy: “Well, I’ve been mad a lot lately, and I think Mad was kind of over taking Sad at the moment, trying to force Sad to the background and let him take over.

of course, this did not sit well with Disgust. Disgust is just all over the place, trying to stifle every other emotion…perhaps part of what I was feeling as mad, was really just me being disgusting by this whole dang situation! eh!

Sad is a bit organic…more like water, a river of tears. Where Sad is more transparent not as many tears have fallen.
I think each of my emotions have a distinct quality, and energy…sometimes they play well together, and create a whole separate energy…but normally, I am very in tuned to the different emotions. (of course, I say that after saying I may be mixing some Mad and Disgust up…but I think they are pretty close sometimes, they play well together….and often that’s not a good thing.)

Actually I think Glad touches everything but Sad. I didn’t realize that while “painting”, but I try to put some part of Glad in all of my life. Even when I’m at my darkest, I try to pull Glad out of the shadows and let him shine a little light on the subject.
While being chronically ill, it’s easy to let the negative emotions wear you down. I think it’s important to have the positive emotions make a special effort to come to the front, and smooth things out. (I may have been a bit sadder that night, so Sad and Glad wasn’t playing well together.

Ummm, the negative space. I think I just liked the aesthetics of it. The drippy feel of Sad, needed some negative space to define that it wasn’t just a puddle…I think it gives it more of the organic feel, the flood of emotion I often feel when I’m very sad.

I was surprised that Mad turned out to be humanoid…and he seems much tamer than I thought he would. I really thought he was getting out of control, but I realized he’s not. Yes, he ruffles things up sometimes, but he’s not in control. However, I do think he creates part of SAD, and that’s why they are so entwined.”

 * * *

House Collages

House of single woman in her 20’s

Single, dating, in 20's

Single Woman, in her 20’s

Single Woman in 20’s Pictures are all grouped on the first two floors of her life, The attic has very dim flowers and growing vines of things to come but not clear.  Vehicles for movement:  First floor – something else more powerful than she is (car, boat) taking her where she wants to go.  Second floor is a bicycle which moves her to where she wants to go by her own power.  The house doesn’t have a lot of accumulations, everything that is needed is there.  At the very bottom is green grass – several different kinds of grass – different people, experiences that have seeded and helped her grow. There is a lot of space in the collage to breath.

House of married woman, in her 50’s

#2  Married Woman in 50’s Page is overflowing, as are her life’s experiences. In the 50′s  we begin to move out of boundaries that are constructed by others and define our own space.  At very top of attic “V” and lower right corner (can’t distinguish in photo) are windows open to a view of what’s “out there” – a glowing light/sun in the far upper left – looking at spirituality, or purpose or greater sense of self.  There are resting places at each level with a sense of repose centered with the 6 pillows.  The creator is still working on what each pillow might mean.

House of married woman, pregnant, in her 30’s

#3  Married Woman, pregnant, 30’s Creating Hearth and home, fireplace, life is blossoming. Arrows indicate she is moving in two directions (pregnant but no children and a mother with a child.  The upper arrow is the stronger and longer moving in the direction of the woman looking outside the house – releasing a balloon (releasing her old life)  Palm tree beach scene on second level: Child was conceived in Hawaii!  The two finger people could be her and her “son” (she has a premonition it is a boy) or she and her husband.  She is larger because the physical pregnancy is happening to her.

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