The Art of Emotional Healing

The Big Ideas!

  • Emotions, as a form of energy, never just disappear—they have to go somewhere! Our unwanted feelings either find a release on their own (in the form of anxiety, outbursts of anger, or depression) or settle into our bodies as pain or illness.
  • Expressing your emotions can be difficult at first. The learning process can be made easier through experiences in the expressive arts, such as drawing, making music, or dance—different ways of transforming energy.
  • Storytelling can be a powerful healer of past emotional wounds. We can re-imagine our painful stories with a different outcome.

In a Nutshell

Feelings: we all have them, but beyond early childhood, we rarely show them. We’ve been trained to believe that strong feelings are inappropriate at work, in many social situations, and perhaps even with our loved ones. There’s no acceptable place for unwanted emotions to go, so they go underground—while we continue to suffer. We get sick or depressed. We have panic attacks or episodes of rage. We experience chronic muscle tension, headaches, or even chronic pain.

Letting your true emotions rise up and then pass through can liberate you from emotional or physical suffering. This book offers an overview of emotions—what they are, how to identify them, and what to do when they arise—based on the use of expressive arts as a vehicle of self-expression. Expressive arts can include drawing, sculpting, music, and dance.

How can the expressive arts assist you in exploring emotions? Here’s an overview:

  • Drawing elements—color, shape, line, and texture—offer a nonverbal language for describing emotional experiences.
  • Sculpting with clay is a physically engaging process that transforms our inward emotions into an external object, literally bringing our feelings into the room.
  • Making music, or even listening to music, can evoke emotions by energizing or soothing us.
  • Dance or any spontaneous movement allows us to experience our own “body language” in a nonverbal way.
  • Writing allows us to express emotions through stories whether you’re starting point is a favorite movie, a visual image, or your own here-and-now feelings.
  • Mask-making offers a chance to give voice to distinct parts of yourself—perhaps a darker “shadow” side or a lighthearted playful side.

Beyond any specific expressive technique, the author describes self-acceptance as the key to a healthy emotional life. We all have an Inner Critic (perhaps the voice of a parent or teacher) that guides our behavior through the fear of being shamed or punished. Journaling, mask-making, and movement can be effective ways to acknowledge and minimize the inner critical voice on the way to self-acceptance. In turn, this can lead to breaking free from old behavioral patterns. A humorous example: after confronting her own Inner Critic, the author took up skateboarding at the age of 39!


“Emotions are energy. They are part of the human condition and part of our physical self. When they are in motion—e(nergy) + motion—feelings move in and through us. They ebb and flow like the tides.”

IMEO (In My Eudaimonian Opinion)

This book offers a variety of hands-on techniques for getting to know your feelings. If unresolved feelings are indeed stored in the body, then it makes sense to express those feelings with physical experiences like drawing, drumming, or dancing. The author gives detailed instructions for several types of expressive activities as well as a variety of emotion-related resources (such as a chart of feelings words). Adults, children, and adolescents of any age could benefit from this book because the sooner a person can get in touch with their emotional selves and learn how to express it productively will be a happier and healthier person, and can influence people around them positively.

Take action, humanoid!

Below are two ways to get in touch with your emotions through creative experiences. (If intense feelings come up during this process, you may want to fully explore them with the support of a trained therapist or counselor.)

  • Emotion to paper. Set up a large sheet of paper and any kind of drawing material, such as crayons, colored pencils, or markers. Think back to a time when you felt an intense emotion. Using your non-dominant hand (the one that you don’t use for writing), make a scribble drawing that shows this emotion. Then take a moment to reflect on this experience of transferring emotion to paper.
  • Move it! Put on meditative music and move your body. This works best if you’re alone and in a room without mirrors to avoid feeling self-conscious. Tune in to a sense of body awareness, of what movements you want to happen, and physically feeling expressing any emotions you feel from listening to music. Don’t worry about how it looks—just notice how it feels—to let go. If you like, journal about this experience afterward.

The Deets

The Art of Emotional Healing
Author: Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D.
Publication date: 2001 (252 pages)

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