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A Three-Step Process for Exploring Big Emotions, “Shoulds,” and Limiting Beliefs

Processing Big Emotions with Drawing  


While brainstorming strategies to use when facing big emotions during school, one of my teenage clients, considered writing and drawing.

heart mapWe talked about when he is at school or out in the community, there is not much privacy or time to process or take a break. Thus, we were searching for strategies that are low-key, easy to use anywhere, and won’t draw extra attention to him.

After throwing lots of ideas around, while shooting hoops, he decided he’d like to draw when he feels stuck, frustrated, or angry during school. He said he’d draw things that he loves— things and people from his heart map.

Later in the week, while talking with an entrepreneur friend and artist about facing our “blocks,” or limiting thoughts, and moving through them with gentle intention, Louise Hay’s words came to mind. This is an ongoing process: identifying emotions, the ones that flow freely and the ones we hide or stuff somewhere in our bodies, and looking at them with compassion so that we can keep growing into our highest Selves.

I’m excited to share a three-step process for exploring big emotions, “shoulds,” and limiting beliefs and invite you to use writing and drawing to work through this practice. This work of personal development and self-expression is a necessary form of self-care for you as a parent or caregiver (and for your rapidly developing teens).



Exploring The Ways We “Should” Ourselves

In You Can Heal Your Life, Hay offers us the practice of exploring our “shoulds.” In other words, these are the ways we pressure ourselves to be or become something more, something different. This drives many of the big emotions we face, like the frustration or anger my 13-year-old client has been facing lately. These are ways we convince ourselves that we are not enough. I invite you to title a page in your journal “I should _____” and underneath it, list everything that comes up.


You Can Heal Your Live


My list has items like, “I should have better boundaries with social media. I should have started writing my book already. I should call my faraway family and friends more. I should take more walks.”

As I type these things, I feel tension in my chest. I notice that my breath is short and chopping. It’s a good time to Stop. Breathe. Feel. What’s on your list? What feelings have come up for you?


Getting Curious About What Drives Our “Shoulds”

From here, Hay invites us to look at the “whys,” as in “Why should I _____?” If you are ready to move on, write whatever comes to mind as you consider why you “should” do or become the things in your first list.

I came up with phrases such as, “Because I teach boundaries, and I should be a better role model. Because I’m not going to have the credibility and visibility I want until I do. (a.k.a. self-worth!!!). Because I need to be a better friend and family member. Because I’m not moving enough, and I’ll get chubby.”

You Can Heal Your Life affirmations for big emotionsWhew. Tears well up as I name these limiting beliefs and stories I tell myself. I say and think these things on automatic all the time, but to write them so plainly here helps me recognize the ways these words are truly self-abuse and cause me harm. Notice your own stories of limitation, your own untrue stories that play on repeat in your mind

Together, let’s take 3-5 comforting breaths– whatever breaths feel soothing and calming to you. And let us remind ourselves that we are perfect as we are. This is a good time to use a mantra that grounds you or to find a new one to use.




Naming the Blocks


Next, Hay invites us to consider more deeply why we haven’t done or become the things from our list of “shoulds.” She gives us the following sentence starter: “If I really wanted to, I could _________.” Here, you insert an item from your “shoulds” list. Then, explore this question: “Why haven’t I?” Consider writing these statements in your journal or even stating them aloud to yourself.

My journal entry includes the following: “Because I am seeking validation. Because I’m scared to commit. Because I tell myself that I am too ‘busy.’ Because I am overwhelmed by my commitments, yet fear not being connected enough.”

What’s coming up for you? If it’s feeling heavy, pause, breathe, and shake it out.

Throughout this practice, we have unearthed some of the larger, deeper mental blocks we face each day. We’ve brought these stories into our consciousness.


What to do in the Midst of Emotions, “Shoulds”, and Limiting Beliefs

I invite you to play with drawing, just as my client is, as a way to express your feelings. You have started to dig in to your limiting beliefs and blocks as a parent or caregiver, and creating freely through drawing or art can be a healing way to move this energy and grow your Connected Heart. You have the power to take actions and use practices that bring you into deeper self-awareness.


writing and drawing big emotions supplies


Furthermore, this practice is a tool that you can share with your teenager. The ways that we “should” ourselves likely started to develop when we were children or teens ourselves; thus, it’s never too early for our children and teens to begin to explore their limiting beliefs as they grow their identity and develop their independent sense of self.

As you and your family begin this practice, you may want support and partnership; let’s chat! As a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, I work with clients to co-create strategies and practices that bring their family into deeper connection, and I would be honored to support you on the journey. a three-step process for exploring emotions, “shoulds,” and limiting beliefs. Additionally, if you enjoy daily meditations, thoughtful questions, and reflections like today’s blog, follow me on Instagram!

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