posted: Jun. 16, 2020.
written by Elizabeth Burgess
Sometimes, it can be hard to understand what we are feeling - we just know we feel some kind of way about a thing. This is difficult to manage and even harder to explain to others. It can help to pinpoint places within our bodies where we experience different emotions so we can recognize triggers before they manifest into unhelpful behaviors.
A Body Map is an excellent tool to help explore how the body experiences and processes emotions.
Choose a body-shaped outline – this can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like.
Choose an emotion and think about what color comes to mind when you imagine it.
Draw or color in on a body-shape where and how you experience that emotion.
Think about the emotion and how all of your senses process it: does it have a temperature? Is it smooth or rough? What does it taste like? Does it have a smell? Is there a sound you associate with it? Does the emotion have a shape? Is there a reason for any of these connections?
The next step is to think about what you do when you are experiencing these emotions and don’t want to feel them anymore. How do you cope with the bad stuff and increase the good stuff?
Anger is a common emotion and is shown in the following example.
This person describes anger as “a hot, tight, red, dull pain like a crown on my head. It’s a crown because it makes me feel powerful and brave and right – like everyone else is wrong. It tastes hot like cinnamon and smells like ashes. Yelling, throwing things, and hitting help in the moment, but it makes things worse, too. Breathing and talking it through helps, but I can’t when I’m in it. I need to take a break and just be mad.”
This person has shared that when they have a headache coming on that feels like a crown sitting on their head, that means they are starting to get angry. They know they need to take a step back and practice calming and grounding exercises.
Body mapping can be an incredibly helpful tool in exploring, understanding, and processing emotions. You can use your own words for emotions and can find new ways to cope with the unhelpful ones. You can explore what smells and flavors are associated with positive feelings and use those to create a sensory self-care kit: If “Happy” tastes like citrus, try smelling or eating something that tastes like lemons or oranges to boost your mood when you’re feeling down.
You don’t have to be an artist, just grab your crayons and start coloring! If you don’t have colored pencils, markers, crayons, highlighters, or anything colorful, you can still show different emotions by using different types of lines and shading, polka-dots, crosshatching, and thick or thin lines.