When there are No Words

Counselling and Psychotherapy have often been labelled as the “talking therapies”  but what happens when our emotions are so strong, that they simply “take over” and we have no words to express how we are feeling inside?  And if we have no words to explain ourselves, how can therapy work?

Sometimes, our anger can be expressed as a colour, or we might find an object or image that symbolises exactly how we feel.  Red or black can often be associated with anger, for instance.  Or if we feel on a never ending cycle going
nowhere, we might see an image of a hamster in a wheel.  When a task seems impossible, we might feel that it’s like trying to push a huge boulder uphill.

Or we may find that our feelings may be expressed through aches and pains in specific parts of our body.  Feeling constant back ache may illustrate just how weighed down we are feeling.  Headaches may indicate that our mind and thoughts are overwhelmed in some way.  (Though remember to check out any medical problem too).

Think of some of the phrases we use in everyday conversation – “having butterflies in our stomach”, “being sick to the teeth of something”,  “it’s like bashing my head against a brick wall”, “running to catch up with myself”, “he’s a pain in the neck” etc

All these phrases, and others that we use so often conjure up pictures in our minds.  Perhaps we see a picture or photo in a magazine or newspaper and something inside us just goes, ”that’s exactly what I feel like!” 

  • If you are  “lost for words”, try creating a collage picture of images from magazines or leaflets and then see what those feelings are inside you.
  • If you have a feeling in a particular part of your body, see if you can see an image  in your mind, or find a picture again that expresses that ache or pain.
  • Or you might be able to identify a particular noise, smell or taste that describes how you feel – if you are feeling really hammered into the ground with too much work for instance and things are just coming at you in all directions, the image and noise of a pneumatic drill digging up the road may express exactly what your mind, body and thoughts are feeling like inside! 

All of these things can help us to get started in trying to express and explain our feelings.  And they are also good examples of how our body, mind and thoughts are all inextricably linked.

Identifying and expressing our feelings are one thing - understanding them of course, and releasing them or managing them in a more productive way is often another task altogether!

  • The first step might be to make a list of other times when you felt the same feelings, and see if there are any common factors – the same people, a similar event, the same room/building etc
  • If your are experiencing grief, have you ever given yourself permission to find a quiet space and allow the tears to flow?  You might want to check that there is someone you can contact or nearby afterwards for support.
  • Or if it’s anger that you are dealing with, try beating up some old cushions, or writing a “dead”letter – that is one you don’t post – you might want to tear it up after a while when you feel you’ve discharged those feelings more.  It’s a safer release than lashing out at someone!
  • Look through some art gallery brochures, or magazines and build up your own collage or folder with pictures and cuttings.

Or if we continue to think along the lines of not using words, try the following exercise with a trusted friend.  This is an exercise without words and should be done in silence with no verbal communication:

  • take a long sheet of paper, or smaller ones that you can stick together
  • draw out something of how you feel – you might choose colours or shapes, simply allow whatever comes to mind to flow out on to the paper – or it might be a scene
  • remember this is not something that is going to hang in the Tate gallery – this is simply representing how you feel
  • don't talk while you are doing this - and the other person should not make any verbal comments at all on what you draw out
  • when you have finished, turn your piece of paper round to face the other person and ask them to respond in the same way, drawing on the next part of the paper
  • they then draw out a response to your drawing - in silence
  • this can go backwards and forwards as long as you like – it stops when you feel you have expressed all you need to and feel you have received enough response back.

So when we are lost for words, don’t forget that there’s more to us than our minds and thoughts and you can use your whole being to express yourself.

Try it and see……

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