Anger Sort Of

Lorraine - Lone WolfSometimes I set up an art activity and everything goes as planned. Other times? Not so much. That happened last Friday at the weekly therapeutic art workshop at the Lighthouse, a twelve-month, faith-based, residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse. The group of women currently in the program is largely new to the Lighthouse. So it’s a good time to revisit some of the tried and true art projects. Anger – Past, Present & Future was on deck.

The women began by tossing out, popcorn fashion, feelings or emotions that are most common to them. Rage topped the list. A few more negative emotions then a long string of more positive words like hope, transformation, peace, etc. With past groups it’s been more common to have a long string of negative emotions listed before someone says, “Gee, we need to be more positive.”

As I invited the ladies to create three pictures of their anger – what it looked like in the past, what it looks like now that they’re at the Lighthouse, and what they hope their anger will look like in the future, I also observed how unusual it was that they had named so many positive words early in the popcorn process, and that was generally not the case when other groups had done this exercise. Unwittingly, those few positive comments seemed to reshape the whole art activity. In an unexpected positive direction.

Anger - Past, Present & FutureIn the trio of drawings, nearly all the women had leaped from a dark, chaotic image of anger to an extremely positive present image where anger didn’t seem to be part of their emotional palates! We know from past experience that anger is typically not reshaped quite so dramatically, nor quite so fast for those newly entering the recovery program. Yet notable was Tammy’s trio of hearts. The first “Past Heartache” depicted her anger turned inward the result of repeatedly being brokenhearted by those who betrayed her. The second heart “Present Healing” has yellow shading next to the red similar to the yellow of a healing bruise. The title of her third heart “Future Peace” says it all.

But the images and story that captured the art activity were Lorraine’s “Never Alone.” While she knew God was always near, and that his eye was on her, she had learned to be a “lone wolf” interacting with others but never letting them close to avoid getting hurt. She had turned her anger and fear inward learning to cope by using drugs. But the bottom has fallen out of her life; she has lost custody of her children. ¬†The central third of her image is an eye because as she said, “I’m here (at the Lighthouse) to learn who I am.” She looks to the future, encouraged to not let the sun go down on her anger, yet with a determination to regain custody of her children, to be as the image suggests a loving mother wolf protective of her cubs, AND no longer a lone wolf but “a member of the pack.”

If you were to draw three pictures of your anger Рpast, present and future, what would they look like? What might an image of inward anger look like? How about an image of outwardly directed anger? Might you be tempted to create an image more positive than the present warrants? Is there a bit of anger that the sun needs not to set on?

Looking forward to your comments.

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