3 steps to learn from your feelings

When your feelings feel out of control, swamping you with emotion, particularly when it’s a feeling that keeps coming back over and over, it’s natural to feel completely overwhelmed with zero motivation. But there’s hope. When you allow yourself to learn what your less positive feelings are trying to teach you, you can get your motivation back.

Here are my three suggested steps to learn from your feelings.

This image of “Screen Door” looks like chaos, similar to what it feels like to be overwhelmed by your feelings.

Let go to break free…

When you’re buried under the weight of an overwhelming and recurring feeling like depression*, anger, resentment, or shame, there’s always a part of you that’s worrying about how to break free so you can just stop feeling shitty all the time. You get bogged down in thoughts of what you could do differently, which creates a cycle with the feeling, putting you on a merry-go-round that never stops.

This sensation you’ve got to control how you feel in order to make it stop is why you’re staying stuck.

Let go. Let yourself feel what you feel in all its pain and darkness. Give yourself permission to express your feelings and then express them. As you do, set some parameters so you don’t wallow forever. Give yourself an hour, a day, or a week – you’ll know how much time you need – and when the time is up, move on to the next suggestion.

Step back and observe…

After you’ve given yourself the gift of feeling what you feel, the next step is to step back and observe. This is where you get to pretend to be outside yourself, looking in.

The key here is to question your feelings. You want to inquire why you feel what you feel.

What triggered the emotion?
Why was that the feeling that rose up?
When have you felt that feeling in the past?
What caused those occurrences?
Is there a common link between what you feel now and what you’ve felt in the past? What is it?

Continue to question your feelings until there’s a sensation of release, a moment when it becomes clear why you keep feeling this particular feeling.

You can do this in a number of ways. You can journal, take voice notes, film yourself talking it out, spend time in contemplation via meditation, create the feeling as a tangible object (like I do when I create feelings out of fiber), or work with a coach like me who can help you dig deeper than you may be able to go on your own.

Find the lesson…

As you allow yourself the grace of observation, you’ll find yourself writing, speaking, or creating a record of the feeling and its root.

The “why” will appear and it will reveal the reason you default to depression*, anger, resentment, shame, or some other feeling that isn’t serving you. It will point to a moment from your past when an event happened or words were said that attached to your heart.

This moment may be major or it may be something that seemed inconsequential at the time. This moment is the key. Once you understand the moment that serves as the root, you have found the lesson and can begin the work to learn what it has to teach you.

Short is dumpy…

I have a moment that has served to make me feel motivated and encouraged AND defeated and depressed. A single moment can work to make you feel positive emotion at one point and negative at another. Each time a feeling arises, there may be a new lesson to learn. I used the steps I’ve outlined above to learn what this particular moment needed to teach me.

When I was a pre-teen, my grandmother said something that etched itself into my heart. She was short and had grown rounder with age, post-menopause. I too was short and it was clear I wasn’t going to be a tall adult. So she said to me, “Short is dumpy.” I took it as a warning to watch out as I grew older, delivered with love in the hopes she could prevent me from sharing her fate.

For years, that statement, that moment, worked as motivation and encouragement for staying slender, a short person with a slim frame. Whenever I was tempted to overeat or to make crappy food choices, I would say “short is dumpy” to myself and it worked as weight control.

And then I became post menopausal. Suddenly, no matter what I ate, how much, how little, the type of food, didn’t seem to matter. I’d become dumpy. Every time my pants felt a bit too tight, I felt more defeated and depressed. This spilled over into my work and into my art.

I was ready to change my feelings around my body. I decided to feel the defeat, observe the feeling, and find the lesson. When I did, I found that moment when my grandma warned me of the changes that occur as we age.

And the lesson I needed to learn was to re-frame the statement.

Now I tell myself “short is beautiful” and I am.

Exit through the gift shop…

When you can follow the steps I’ve shared here, you can learn what your feelings are trying to teach you. Start by letting go to break free. Next, step back and observe by questioning the feeling to understand its purpose in being there. Finally, find the lesson the feeling carries so you can begin to learn from it.

If you need support around navigating these steps, drop me a note at hilaryclarkstudios@gmail.com and we’ll set up time to chat.

*Depression is tricky. For some of us, we can manage it on our own and it never grows so severe we’re at risk of self-harm. However, for many others, help is needed to manage depression. If this is you, please do get the professional help you need. The world is better with you in it.


If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

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News from the Studio & a poetry reading

Welcome to the monthly update from the Studio! May was a busy month and there’s loads of activity to share with you. So keep reading to learn what I’ve been up to.

(Feeling) Isolated – My Latest Textured Fiber Painting

(Feeling) Isolated is complete!  This piece was made in response to the sense of isolation felt on a global scale brought on by sheltering in place during COVID 19 coupled with a personal cross country move to a new home.  It’s available to hang on your wall for $2,500.00.  Get in touch if you’d like to buy it.

(Feeling) Isolated (link to poem):

Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Next up: (Feeling) Connected – to recognize the universal connection between all of humanity, even in the midst of a pandemic.

As always, most of my textured fiber paintings are for sale. You can visit the Gallery page on my website for a closer look of every piece I’ve ever made or go straight to my online portfolio to purchase an item from my Feelings series. Eventually, my online portfolio and my Gallery will be combined into a single resource – until then, I hope you’ll bear with it as a work in progress.

I’ve started sharing progress on my textured fiber paintings online via Facebook Live a couple times a week. During these “Window Into My Studio” events, I demonstrate my process and sometimes share productivity and creativity tips, tricks, and ideas as food for thought. Think of me as the stitching version of Bob Ross. 🙂 I’d love for you to join me as often as you can.

The videos are saved and uploaded to my YouTube channel so you can go back and watch anytime you want (none are longer than 30 minutes).

It All Started With a Haiku

I wrote a book!!! I published my book of poetry on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. Titled “It All Started With a Haiku”, it’s a small collection of my favorite poems I’ve written over a span of 40 years. I’ve always wanted to write and publish a book and now I can say I have! If you’re interested in supporting me with this dream come true, you can purchase the book by clicking here.

Book Cover: It All Started With a Haiku

A Poetry Reading: Future Gwen

In this week’s video, I read one of the poems in my book and offer the back story behind it. I hope you enjoy.

Daily Drawings

I’ve told myself for years I have no ability to draw. Recently, I decided to put that belief to the test by adding a daily drawing practice to my schedule – because you can’t improve at something if you never do it.

I’ve had a small sketchbook for the last year and only occasionally drew anything in it. Most of what I’d drawn up until this last month was a representational image of something in my house. None of those are very good, although a bit better than I expected them to be. This wasn’t particularly surprising because…I wasn’t practicing regularly.

Then one day just a few weeks ago, no more than 4 or 5 days since I’d started drawing something every day, I was struck with the urge to draw geometric shapes in abstract composition. Mind blown! I love abstract work, so it felt like no wonder my drawings of real, tangible items were barely above young child level in terms of appearance. As soon as I began to draw triangles, circles, squares, and arrows, arranged in abstract ways, I felt like I’d found my drawing voice. I’m posting them on Instagram and Facebook in the evenings, asking people to tell me what they see in the drawing. It’s become one of the favorite parts of my day.

Pen & gel ink drawing

I firmly believe finding my voice so quickly with these drawings is the result of the regular creative practice I’ve followed for the past 6 years with my textured fiber paintings. Putting systems and structure in place to ensure there’s time to create consistently opens you up to greater creativity and easier connection to your inner child so you can let him or her out to play.

Once I can safely and comfortably visit an art store like Blick’s, I plan to buy a large canvas or two and some paint and convert these drawings (sketches, really) into acrylic paintings, which will be available for purchase. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Inspirational Message Signs

For over a year, I’ve been posting inspirational messages with corresponding captions on Instagram (you can find them at @harmonylifebalance for everything through May 22, 2020 and @hilaryclark13 for the more recent posts now that I’ve merged businesses). These messages were all downloaded during my morning meditations, where I was directed to share them with my audience. Just recently, I received an intuitive hit to turn these messages into inspirational message signs printed on an 8 x 8 canvas. I’m in the process of creating these signs using the messages that most resonated with people. If you’d like to purchase one (or more) for yourself, hop on over to my Instagram feeds (links above), select the one you’d like, and then drop me a message. Here’s a sample:

Steer with Joy 8x8
I’m Writing a Novel!

It’s shaping up to be an intrigue novel with a bit of romance thrown in for spice. I’m a huge Nora Roberts / JD Robb fan, so there are shades of her preferred writing genres in my work. I’m about 10,000 words in to what I intend to be a 60,000 word book and I’m loving every minute of it. In the past, when I’ve attempted to write a novel, I’ve hit a wall at about 3,500 words. This time, the story is pouring out of me every day when I sit at my computer to write.

The book features a female police detective, Helen Rich, on the hunt for an escaped murderer. The murderer kidnaps her own child and then taunts Helen with her freedom. With the help of Sam Wright, a journalist, she must rescue the child and put the criminal back in prison where she belongs, while battling her own demons and her secret crush on Sam. I’ll need beta readers at some point, so if you’re interested in reading the draft of my novel when it’s ready, let me know!

In closing…

My life is richer for being an Artist. The opportunity to share what I create with the wider world inspires me every day.  Making art connects me to the imaginative, intuitive, playful part of myself and life’s so much more fun when we play.

Before you go…

Want to catch up on “Window Into My Studio”? Watch past episodes here.
Interested in buying my art? See and purchase it here.
Feel like reading some poetry? Buy my book, “It All Started With a Haiku”!
Looking for inspiration to set on your desk or hang on your wall? Select a message for your inspirational message sign, then get in touch to place your order.
Would you like to be on the list to be a beta reader for my novel? Send me an email.

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Don’t forget to stop by my Gallery before you go!  Once you’ve selected the piece that will look perfect on your wall, get in touch and we’ll schedule a private virtual showing.