Audrey Hepburn, in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, referred to a painting that appeared to be her own work and said, “I’m having a red day, let’s go to Tiffany’s”. Tiffany’s, for those who don’t know is an upscale jewelry store in New York. The color red in her mind felt like fear, anxiety…for many it comes in shades and can transform into frustration and anger. How to cope? Retail therapy was her “go to” way to self soothe.
When I worked in a trauma unit in a psychiatric hospital, a regular part of the programming was to invite people to the gym where there was a bucket of clay blobs, a line, and a wall. The purpose of this exercise was to find a way to express strong feelings of anger by throwing the clay balls against the wall and making a, sometimes loud, statement of anger. When all the balls were gone, or there was nothing else to say, the person then would go to the wall, pick up the balls, go back to the line and make a statement of sadness or fear. We were encouraging full emotional expression and it was powerful! It offered freedom and healing like nothing else I’ve experienced.
Someone once told me there was such thing as “anger rooms” where you pay to destroy things in a room that is sound proofed, and you are supervised for safety. One client told me he went home and demolished his deck with a sledgehammer. We only had a few sessions after that, and he resolved the problem.
I’ve often wondered how I could replicate this exercise in outpatient therapy. Maybe we could go to the woods and throw rocks at trees, or maybe we could go to an old junkyard and throw eggs at old cars. None of this ever seemed very practical. Usually I just end up listening, offering validation for feelings, and exploring some ideas for expression.
Sometimes we brainstorm some ideas you could try at home like reading a book about anger and then ripping up the pages. Or watching sad movies and letting yourself cry. Some people really feel better when they use their words and write an angry letter that they destroy when the exercise is over. Others get overwhelmed by words and use colors or shapes to express feelings with paint or markers. The possibilities are as unique as the person experiencing the problem.
Whether you are experiencing red or blue, I promise it helps to find a way to express these feelings. The trick is to balance this with self care, support, and some new thinking about the problem. Need some help? Come on in and let’s see if we can come up with some ideas that will help you find a way to express those reds and blues that happen when you experience a depression.