What is Guided Drawing?

Haptic Perception

When clients come into a session for Guided Drawing they will sit in front of a stack of several large A2 sheets of paper. Coloured chalk and oil pastels, also finger-paints are available nearby.

Once we have made contact and sufficient trust in the setting has been gained, I explain that it might be easier to imagine having a bodywork session rather than the idea of making art. If need be, I will take some time to explain that all emotions have a physiological expression. Fear might make your heart race, your palms sweaty and your stomach churn. Excitement wells up. Joy flows usually with ease. Anger is hot and intense and always rises. Grounding moves down, putting roots into the earth like a tree. Inspiration is closely linked to inhaling, taking in spirit. You might sense blocked motion such as a lump in the stomach or a stiff neck. Even a tumour is a movement.

Also, rather than translating the experience of, say, “fluttering in the stomach” into an image in the head, which will then be projected onto the paper, I will encourage you to use repetition to test and try out this inner sensation. So, you will directly translate an internal movement into a drawn movement on the paper. You can flutter with the crayons just as “it” flutters in your stomach.

Once you are ready to go, I will ask you to close your eyes or leave them in an unfocused gaze. In order to build sensory perception, I may begin with guiding your awareness through the body such as asking you to exhale and ‘sit down’ inside into your pelvis, feel the contact of your feet on the ground, to become aware of the up-rightness of your spine, and to listen to the rhythm of your breath. This little meditation is designed to make you notice inner movements, may be one that attracts your attention in particular. This might be physical pain or discomfort, but it might just as well be the movement of emotion.

I will explicitly encourage you to rely on your body perception at all times. It is the simplest and most direct way to come into contact with yourself.

Now you may start drawing, a crayon in each hand, preferably eyes still closed, in contact with these inner sensations. Drawing in this case can be the most simple, small, repeated movement. Repetition, especially rhythmic repetition, is used to test carefully, which drawn movement feels most like the sensation inside. The drawn shape can be arranged and rearranged according to these sensations, or be changed altogether until it feels ‘right’. This does not happen by thinking up shapes. Instead, you will need to find a rhythm and a shape that allows you to safely let go of cognitive control. Your head does not know the needed outcome. Rhythmic repetition gradually allows you to connect with implicit memory, your embodied biography rather than the conscious stories of your past. Similar to learning how to dance, you will not dance as long as you count steps. Once you can trust the rhythm to carry you, allow yourself to settle into any shape that emerges.

Guided Drawing differs from well-known scribble drawing exercises in so far as it encourages the alignment with body sensations and rhythmic repetition. Both, the emerging shapes and their rhythmic repetition have the purpose of building trust and inner structure. This is important especially for clients who are afraid of their inside. Many traumatised individuals are actually terrified of their body sensations and experience them as a threat.

Let’s say you settle into a circular shape. As you repeat the movement, however, your body might signal to you that the circles you have been drawing are too small, or too big, or that the rhythm is too fast, or too slow. Follow these ‘instructions’ from within until the drawing movement feels right and in line with your experience on the inside. Paper is changed whenever one impulse is sufficiently explored.

In a second phase you may move from the question of “How do I feel?” to inquiring into “What do I need?” What movement do you need in order to resolve this tension? What could help to ease the pain? Do you need soothing, circular, ‘massaging’ motions or straight, sharp, even forceful lines to release pressure? Do you need to push something or someone away? Or do you need containment to be held?

In this way clients gradually find their own shapes borne out of a deepening contact with themselves. Motion and emotion can be expressed, as well as blocked motion and the way it is hindered. This new form of body language makes increasing sense as related emotions and thought forms become apparent, along with the way they constitute the body posture. For example, the feeling that “the circle I’ve drawn is too small” starts to correlate to a mindset of self-limitation such as: “I need to be really small in order to be safe”, or “I can hardly breathe, I need to get out of this”; or the circling motions feels like running in a circle, or like a vicious cycle.

So what movement can make you possibly feel better? If you could have a massage now, what would you like your therapist to do? If you practised martial arts what defensive action would you need right now? And you will try out movements, again in rhythmic repetition on the paper, until you can sense a clear shift in your body. Is there less tension? Less Pain? Less numbness? Less fear? Is there more energy? More uprightness? More grounding? More hope? More courage? This is not a cognitive process; this is not thinking up shapes, but about finding that inner guidance that will bring release and transformation. A newly drawn and enlarged circle or other figure has a definite effect not only on your body awareness, but also on your mental and emotional attitude.

Bi-lateral Body Mapping

Bi-lateral Body Mapping

If you are interested in Guided Drawing as part of your professional development and would like to find out more about our Online Guided Drawing Courses, please click the link below.

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