Positive connections with others adds more pleasure, purpose, and fulfillment to our lives. Your connections with people may include bonds related to friendships, family, partnerships, community, work, etc.
For this article, I am going to specifically focus on family relationships. Positive family relationships are beneficial for feeling supported and safe, receiving encouragement and empathy, experiencing guidance and assistance, coping with stress, and overall making life more enjoyable.
It is important to be aware of your own role in your family and learn how to develop healthy and positive relationships with family members. However, sometimes we may experience difficulties and conflicts within our families leading to negative or toxic relationships, anger, resentment, disconnect, etc.
The activity below is specifically beneficial for individuals who are currently not experiencing positive relationships with family members and would like for things to be better. The drawing activity (developed from 250 Brief, Creative, and Practical Art Therapy Techniques by Susan I. Buchalter) will help you with digging deeper into your family dynamics and interactions, while increasing your awareness regarding how you and your family members communicate, think, and feel.
*Start by gathering together drawing supplies.
*Draw yourself and your family engaged in an activity together. Include all family members that you think are important to represent. This can be a real or imagined scene.
*Create a speech bubble for each person. Inside the bubble write what each would be saying.
*Create a thinking bubble for each person. Inside write what each person would be thinking (but not saying).
*Create a heart on each individual and write in it what each person would be feeling.
Questions for processing what you created:
What are you and your family doing?
Which family members did you include, not include? Why?
What is each person saying, thinking, and feeling? Notice similarities/differences between family members. Is anyone saying something that conflicts with what they are thinking or feeling? What might this mean about this person? How does this represent communication within your family? What are you saying, thinking, and feeling? How does this represent how you communicate with family members?
Who seems to be dominant in the image you created? Who seems to be the least dominant?
Notice the proximity of family members to one another? Are certain people closer or farther away from one another? How could this relate to communication and relationships within the family? Is anyone withdrawn from other family members? Why?
What role do you play within your family? Others play? Are you satisfied with your role?
Do you feel safe and supported by your family? Why or why not?
Is anyone providing encouragement or feeling empathetic?
Is anyone providing guidance or assistance to family members?
If you represented the family in a stressful situation, how are family members coping?
When looking at your picture, is there anything you want to erase or add? What might this represent?
*Reflect back over your picture and your answers to the questions. Think about what needs to be different for your family to have a more positive overall relationship. Now create a new picture representing your family in this new way and create it exactly how you would like for it to be, keeping in mind what needs to be different for the positive relationship to be represented between family members. Again draw family members engaged in an activity, add speech and thought bubbles, as well as hearts with feelings inside. This time choose what you would like for each person to be saying, thinking, and feeling.
*Notice the differences and similarities in the two pictures you created.
*What can you do to start experiencing the positive family interactions that you created in your second drawing?
We are not able to control other people, but we can control what we say, how we act, and what we believe. Gaining awareness regarding your individual role within your family and how you communicate, act, and believe about your family can help with discovering what you can do to establish positive family relationships. I encourage you to reflect back over your drawings to discover the ways you can play a role in increasing positive communication, interactions, and connections between yourself and your family members.