Mindful Artscapes: Getting Clear of Emotional Fog

Client's expression of what an emotional fog feels like.

Sometimes when we are very upset or stressed we feel as though we are taken over by an emotional fog. What is happening is that we are reliving or re-experiencing powerful thoughts and feelings from the past that have been triggered by the present. With unresolved trauma, painful memories and feelings remain in the brain/body and get relived when we face fear, rage or depression. When they are reactivated we often dissociate or react in ways that keep us stuck in a self-defeating cycle because we are not thinking clearly nor are we emotionally present. In Emotional Alchemy by Tara Bennett-Goleman she states five different common schemas that can overtake us.

Abandonment—The belief and fear here is, “ I will be alone.” This schema results from reactions to loss. You may have lost a parent early in life, felt abandoned by divorced parents, experienced constant moving, alcoholic parents, or had unreliable or emotionally distant parents. There is an ongoing fear that people will leave you all alone stirring up deep sadness and feelings of isolation. You are hypersensitive to any sign that someone is on the verge of abandoning you. To release this schema you need to learn that you can be there for yourself; that you are all right on your own.

Deprivation—The belief and fear here is, “My needs will not be met.” This schema can arise in a childhood where both parents were so self absorbed that they simply did not notice or seem to care much about your emotional needs. You are hypersensitive to signs that you are not being noticed particularly in your close relationships creating deep sadness and hopelessness stemming from the conviction that you will never be understood or cared for. To release this schema you need to learn how to communicate your own needs clearly and not distort the way you perceive how others treat you.

Subjugation—The belief and fear here is, “ I have no voice.” This schema revolves around the feeling in an intimate relationship that one’s own needs never take priority. The childhood roots are from being dominated by controlling parents who never gave you a voice. You end up with an underdeveloped sense of your own preferences, opinions, even your own identity. Your main focus is pleasing others while ignoring your own needs. To release this schema you need to learn how to assert your own needs and wants.

Mistrust—The belief and fear here is, “ People can’t be trusted.” This schema can result from being abused or maltreated as a child. The abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. You have a hard time getting close to or opening up to others. Paradoxically, some people with this schema may gravitate to relationships where their worst fears are confirmed, getting involved with people who do in fact, treat them badly. To release this schema you need to learn how to trust yourself and others.

 Unlovability—The belief and fear here is, “I am not lovable,” or  “ I am not good enough.” At the core of this schema is the feeling of being somehow flawed. There is a belief that if anyone gets to know you as you truly are, they will find you defective. It could result from having parents that are hypercritical, insulting, or demeaning resulting in feelings of unworthiness and lack self-confidence. To release this schema you need to feel confident that your loved ones know you and love you as you are.

So, how do we heal these schemas? First, by being aware that we are in one! Second, identify what triggers it and what body sensations accompany it. Is the sensation a throbbing, contradiction, tightness, etc.?  Schemas have distinctive emotional flavors: abandonment triggers anxiety, mistrust elicits rage, and deprivation can foster a deep sadness. What is the negative self-cognition? Look for core beliefs. Example; “I am worthless”, “ I am a bad person”, “ I am insignificant.” Finally, realize that this is a pattern, which can be changed with the help of a therapist. With my clients I do a combination of Art Therapy and EMDR which helps reframe the negative self-cognition or thoughts and releases the stuck feelings and body sensations. We don’t have to be stuck in habitual patterns that don’t serve us. Find the help you need to be free in your life.

  • Listen to your body. Rest when tired. Notice what makes you happy and tune into to your bodily sensations and understand what they are telling you.
  • Cultivate self-respect and accept yourself unconditionally.
  • Understand the law of attraction. What you believe about your health helps you create your state of health.
  • Get support. Join groups for creativity and fun, ask for help and find a good therapist.
  • Walk away from negativity. Be selective, surround yourself with supportive people. Regularly identify your strengths. Practice positive self-talk and appreciate what is working for you.
  • Appreciate where you are right now in your life. Be present.
  • Remember the mind/body connection. Our body is the outward manifestation of our mind.


Artfully, Karen


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