Making Meaning From Scribbles

Lee–To Be or Not To Be

We often talk about how important meaning-making is to happiness. At its simplest this is to say that what we believe about what is happening to and around us dramatically affects our happiness.

Key to this is the phrase “what we believe”. Although that may seem self-evident, our beliefs are often so implicit that we may not even be aware of them. That isn’t always a problem except when those beliefs get in our way or make us unhappy.   This is especially important because, on a related note, we know that people who are happier tend to find positive meaning–otherwise know as benefit-finding–out of their experiences.

Understandably, that may be easier said than done, partly because some of us may not be naturally that buoyant and also because we may have suffered a loss or tragedy that is so painful that finding something positive in it may seem impossible. Let us first just say that actively trying to find benefit in our difficulties should only be engaged in when we have had a chance to grieve, a process that may take not just days, weeks, or months, but possibly years.

On the other hand, if we are conflicted about something we are undergoing and want to understand it better, we may want to explore the meaning that we are extracting from that experience and the beliefs that underlie that meaning.   We suggest that long before we attempt to engage in benefit-finding, we might practice simple awareness–otherwise known as mindfulness–of our implicit assumptions and beliefs. But how to do that?  How do we become more aware of these things that are often so unconscious?

Not surprisingly, we like to use art to do so because we know that artwork gives us access to parts of ourselves that we can’t get to through speaking. One of the most evocative techniques for engaging in this kind of discovery is the Scribble technique. This involves making a scribble and then developing an image that you find in it.

Both the image above and this one here are responses to the same scribble by two different people.

The scribble technique gives us a chance to let our minds “speak” in a new and different way. We get a glimpse of our inner workings that we did not have before. This can be particularly helpful if we direct the exercise toward something we are struggling with because it will reveal more of our assumptions and beliefs about that situation.  From there we can not only observe how we are interpreting the situation but also determine if there are different meanings that might be revealed.  This gives us more awareness of our minds, the meaning-making process, and ultimately, our happiness.

Warmly, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Download the blank scribble we’ve made (from which the image above came) or make your own by randomly scribbling lines on a piece of drawing paper so there are enough lines to create some options but not too many that the page is completely covered. Hold the paper at different angles until you see some form(s) and shape(s) that you might develop. If you have a situation that you are struggling with, you can focus on “asking” the scribble for more information. When you’ve finished, reflect on what your mind presented to you. Without any need to change them, what meanings, positive or negative, are revealed?  Feel free to share your image or insights here on our FB page.  We’d love to see them!