This next exercise is the one that I used to finally eradicate this old belief that was continuously causing me intense suffering. In an art therapy class taught by fellow artist, Stacey Cohen, we explored our negative childhood messages and this one emerged: “you are stupid.” A class member pointed out, though, that what she had actually said was, “you should know.” On close inspection, I realized that this was a lie. There was no reason that I “should” know. I had internalize a completely different message from what was actually spoken to me. It is common for children to do this and as adults, it is helpful to inspect these messages in order to find the truth.
Step 1: Dig up the Lies.
Fold a sheet of paper in half and on the left hand side make a list of all of the negative messages that you received as a child. Start by quoting the person the best that you can. Then, take a moment to think about whether or not you internalized a different, more broad personal message about who you are.
Write that message in parenthesis beneath the quoted message.
“You should know”
(internalized as: “You are Stupid”)
Step 2: Find the truths.
After completing this list, open your sheet of paper and along the right side, I’d like you to reframe the message into a positive statement that is the real truth of who you are. Try to look for a positive statement that really truly feels like the truth. If that feels impossible, write a statement that feels close, as close to the truth as you can get. And if that still remains difficult, ask a close friend that feels safe for help.
“You are scatterbrained” can be turned into “I am passionate about many things”.
“You look like crap” (internalized as “You are ugly”) can be turned into “I look tired when I don’t get enough sleep”.
“This is boring” (internalized as “You are boring”) can be turned into “I am intelligent and in the past some people, who didn’tunderstand what I was saying, projected their insecurities onto me by callingme ‘boring’ or calling what I was saying, ‘boring’.”
Step 3: Support your new beliefs with reminders.
After you’ve completed this exercise, I’d like you to take a few minutes to rewrite these positive statements onto notebook cards or into the computer to be printed and cut out. If you’d like to celebrate and further engrain these ideas into your mind, you can decorate your cards in a style that you feel expresses who you are and the statement that you’ve written. If it’s a concept that you have struggled with extensively, then I’d like to encourageyou to spend time with your new belief. As they say, what you payattention to will thrive.
Write your new beliefs on notebook cards, little canvases, pieces of wood or fabric.
Hang them on a clothes line of string.
Write them in print, cursive, bold or subtle. Experiment with typefaces.
Cut out letters from magazines and collage the statements.
Paint them with watercolor or acrylic.
Cross stitch them onto handkerchiefs.
Write them in calligraphy.
Step 4: In Sight, In Mind:
Place these statements in appropriate places (the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, on the computer, or in a book as a book mark) as reminders of your new beliefs about yourself.
I’d love to hear how this exercise has affected your life. Let me know in the comments!
If you’d like to try out some of the other exercises that I’ve written, go here!
Categories: Art Therapy