Expressing anger and rage through art

I get moody from time to time.  Sometimes very moody.  Just ask my husband.

I wish it were easy to blame my gender for the anger and rage I express sometimes.  You know, hormones and everything.

I know it’s more than that.

I’m trying to integrate some experiences that still haunt me sometimes.  Some from a long time ago, some from recent years.  I thought maybe I was unable to. I am beginning to realize it’s more that I won’t let myself integrate these experiences.

What’s more, the wounds keep getting re-opened.  Yes, most times by me.

The other day, my therapist (a lovely former opera singer I might add) asked me if I feel I deserve punishment.  At the time, I said I wasn’t sure. It took me a while to realize that even if I didn’t acknowledge it, I was behaving in just that way.

I’ve tried to analyze a certain circumstance from all angles and tried to make some sense of something I can’t.  It’s left me hurt and angry and confused.  I’m confused mostly about the compulsion to figure this out rather than let it rest (for good).  I know it’s been detrimental in more ways than one, and to more than just me, but I hadn’t been able to stop.

A little OCD?


This has left me exhausted, depressed and angry that I couldn’t stop the obsessive hyperanalysis.

So I’ve been art journaling.  For me, art journaling helps to quiet the internal chatter while I focus on experimentation with color, medium, technique and just let whatever words (if any) come out rise out of the murky depths of my mind.

Sometimes I hear positive words come up.  The inner child tells the adult me it’s okay to be comforted.

Sometimes negative feelings bubble up.  The inner child wants to throw a tantrum.  Most people would be surprised to know I throw tantrums sometimes.  But it’s true.  I used break things, because it helped a little.  An awful habit.

I used to have a hand-written journal and attempted put ‘my rage on the page’ by writing out my negative thoughts, but I found that writing about what makes me upset only keeps me upset.  Especially if I re-read what I wrote.  Obsessive type that I am, I’ll re-read things a few times more than really advisable.

Needless to say, staying in the cesspool of upset only makes me angry.  Sometimes I’ll turn it outward, sometimes I’ll turn it inward.  Either way, it gets me into trouble.

But the art journaling helps.  It helps for two reasons:  one) I’m not fixating on a specific upset, but expressing a feeling and two) it’s fun to see what spills out.

Not too long ago, it was this:

Photobucket  Photobucket

Pretty ugly, ain’t it?

When I first made the background, I was just experimenting with colors.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with it.  At first, it looked just awful and I didn’t think I was going to do anything but throw it out.  But I added some gesso to mute parts of it.

And then I realized, it still looked quite chaotic.  And still ugly, but not quite so awful.  I left the background alone for a few weeks…still pretty uncertain what purpose it was good for.  I mean, it’s pretty garish, you know?

Some time passed, and then I realized, during a particularly negative mood I was in, that this page reminded me of how chaotic and upset I felt.  So I used the pages to house every negative word that popped up into my awareness.

And I wrote some of them in black, some in copper, and some in gold.

Photobucket Photobucket

Then I found this great quote from Hermann Hesse that fits just so.


I hesitated posting this picture on the blog, because I thought it would make me look a little…well…crazy.

But then I read this article by Douglas Eby at Talent Development Resources:

The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons

Eby interviews clinical and forensic psychologist Stephen A. Diamond about his book, “Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity”

In his brief foreword to Diamond’s book, psychologist Rollo May introduces and defines the classic Greek conception of the “daimonic” or darker side of our being, noting that “the daimonic (unlike the demonic, which is merely destructive) is as much concerned with creativity as with negative  reactions.

A special characteristic of the daimonic model is that it considers both creativity on one side, and anger and rage on the other side, as coming from the same source. That is, constructiveness and destructiveness have the same source in human personality. The source is simply human potential.”

As he explains in his book, “Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity,” our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict. “It can also be one of the most dynamic methods of meeting and redeeming one’s devils and demons.

He goes on to say,

Diamond holds that creativity may be a powerful and often dark endeavor: “The more conflict, the more rage, the more anxiety there is, the more the inner necessity to create. We must also bear in mind that gifted individuals, those with a genius (incidentally, genius was the Latin word for daimon, the basis of the daimonic concept) for certain things, feel this inner necessity even more intensely, and in some respects experience and give voice not only to their own demons but the collective daimonic as well.

I felt much relieved when I read this tonight.  I do struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos, ESPECIALLY since I’m not a real artist.  But we might actually be doing ourselves a favor by letting some of our negative feelings out in ways that are constructive, in whatever way we can find an outlet.

To me, this seems kind of like a slow, controlled burn instead of a raging wildfire.

Which I think would make my husband very happy.

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Art Journaling, Creating, Creativity. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Expressing anger and rage through art

  1. Mr. RSG says:

    Hmmmm… Yes. I would agree with “moody” from time to time.
    And you get an agreement nod on the controlled burn vs. raging wildfire.
    I also agree that you art does help get you out of your head and soothe the inner beast (though I might not see you for a few days…)

    I want to know, what makes you disclaim that you’re not a “real artist”? Because you don’t get paid? You’re not displayed at the Art Institute? If you were to ask my opinion (not that anyone is), I would say that if you are creating art, you are an artist. Period. Because you’re not published, does that make you any less of a writer? What you do is use color, words, paints, inks and photos to give some physical dimension to what’s swirling around your pretty little cranium – that’s what “real” artists do too.

    Don’t worry so much about form and function, and let your emotion land on the page however it does.

  2. Aw, thanks, babe.

    Sorry about hiding out in my ‘artist’ nook/cave/den…but of course you are more than welcome to do art WITH me. I’ll make room. Nobody says art journaling is just for girls.

    You can get some ‘manly’ ideas from the Journal Fodder Junkies. Check out the link on the sidebar.

    “What you do is use color, words, paints, inks and photos to give some physical dimension to what’s swirling around your pretty little cranium – that’s what “real” artists do too.”

    Wow, that’s the nicest compliment I think I’ve ever gotten from you. That’s precious!

  3. There is a martial arts/Zen-based approach to conflict that I’ve found is really great for internal conflict. I call it “dropping the rope”.

    It’s when you have an unproductive tug-of-war inside and you are determined to pull as hard as you can not to lose your ground. You are caught up in the struggle, but the forces against you just won’t let up (especially when you are fighting yourself, because you are equally matched!).

    Dropping the rope is that moment of revelation when you realize that sometimes dropping the rope isn’t giving up- it’s the way to win. Sometimes when you let it all go, the opposing forces land on their butts rather than pulling you over. More than that, you are free to move on to other things, no longer tethered to the struggle.

    • Mary,

      What a really simple concept…and yet, sometimes, so hard for me.

      The Buddhists are some awesomely wise people, but I’m not sure how easy it is to unlearn all the Western conditioning and just go with the flow. We tend to stir up the waters, sometimes for no good reason. Or, sometimes, we just don’t know how to protect our boundaries and we, in an effort to connect deeply, leave ourselves wide open to all of life’s joys and pain (which is something the Buddhists practice).

      I tend to take on other people’s sufferings. I have two internet friends I care for dearly. One in his 50s, one in his mid-twenties. The 50 year old has two divorces behind him, 6 children, no lover and leads a wandering life. The 25 year old was never married, has no lover and is a wanderer moving great distances every few months. Beautiful souls they are…yet feeling the depths of their loneliness. I feel their pain. I can’t alleviate it. The Buddhists say that sometimes when I mourn for me, I can mourn for all the suffering in the world…and there is courage in doing so.

      Sometimes Buddhism confuses me, depending on which teacher I read.

      I am in my 40s, married, with children, and tethered to a home, have much to be grateful for. My husband has been laid off for nearly 18 months. I haven’t worked in 8 years. Cobra insurance (that we are paying dearly for) is going to run out at the end of April.

      I could drop the rope…I think…yet I’m not exactly sure what rope I’m holding, you know? It’s everything and nothing in particular. And, for me, I think it’s more about finding something else to be obsessing about…something healthier…like creating something artful.

      I think, like right now, there is a physical manifestation to my struggle. I walk around with a headache, and a tightness in my chest nearly daily. I don’t know what the source is…but I know, it rarely leaves me be….UNLESS I am immersed in something creative and most especially when I’m doing artful creating. Then the feelings dissipate some.

      In some deeply profound ways, Art Saves.

      I need to get back to my little cave (the basement where all my art supplies are) and create again.

      By the way, I took a look at your about page on your blog. Wow! I think I find you a lovely soul and I’m eager to learn more about you and your work.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.


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