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Creativity for Negative Feelings

Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris

How can creative expression help us deal with difficult emotions?

The photo is Sally Field in the 2015 film “Hello, My Name is Doris.” She has talked about being a teenager and acting in her TV show “The Flying Nun” as being “a hugely important time in my life” but also said the work became very depressing.

“I hated it every day. I hated the garbage. I felt it was just trivia that I had to say.”

She recalls that “Madeleine Sherwood, who played Mother Superior, recognized my depression and how difficult this was for me and she recognized why, and she took me to The Actor’s Studio.

“I didn’t know that’s where I needed to be, and it came a huge turning point in my life.” (From her imdb profile.)

In an interview for Variety, she said training at the Studio “really began to form who I was not only as an actor, but helped me be who I became as a person.

“Because it gave me…acting tools, that I can go into myself and if I can call on those pieces of myself as an actor, then I can call on them as a human, and I couldn’t do that before.”

From article Sally Field Opens Up to Hailee Steinfeld About Fighting Depression as a Teen.


Channel negative feelings into creative work

Harvard professor and creativity author Shelley Carson writes about using creative activities to reduce anxiety and stress, and notes “they even have the power to aid in the healing process if you’ve experienced trauma or injury.

Shelley Carson“That’s why art therapy, music therapy, and even drama therapy are often added to standard forms of treatment for depression and anxiety.”

But she warns, “if negative moods persist for extremely long periods or are severe, you should seek the help of a healthcare professional rather than trying to ‘self-medicate’ with creative work.”

Carson continues,

“You don’t have to be a trained writer, musician, or artist to receive the benefits of creative activity.

“Personal expression of emotion is powerful, even from the untrained creator.

“There are a number of ways you can channel your negative feelings into creative work.

“Standard outlets include through music (singing/playing an instrument or composing a melody), writing (poetry, short stories, or journaling) art (drawing and sculpture), and drama.”

She points out other forms of creative expression:

“Florists can express moods through flower arrangements, and chefs use spices and herbs to suggest different moods; you can also creatively express yourself through photography, gardening, quilting, or woodworking.

“There are virtually endless ways you can creatively express anxiety, sadness, loneliness, or anger and transform that emotion into something original and useful.”

She notes, “You don’t have to be talented, and you don’t have to share what you produce with anyone else.

“Don’t judge your creative work – just get involved in it! The point is to turn a potentially destructive emotion into a constructive activity.”

From her article Use Creativity to Combat Negative Emotions.

Shelley Carson earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University, where she continues to teach and conduct research on creativity, psychopathology, and resilience.

She is author of the book Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.

Dr. Carson gave a presentation on “Stress, Depression and the Creative Brain” at the Global Stress Summit.

Free replays are still available today, plus recording packages.


“Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics. It brings healing.”

Julia Cameron, from her book The Artist’s Way.


Over the years, I have written a number of articles on this topic – here are a few:

Healing and Creativity: SARK and Others.

Cultivating Creativity and Healing in Our Shadow.

Creative Expression and Healing.


Creativity for Negative Feelings

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Creativity for Negative Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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