When Butterflies And Rainbows Just Aren’t Enough

by | May 11, 2024 | Articles | 0 comments

There’s an interesting form of resistance that regularly shows up in my intuitive painting classes that people don’t actually recognize as resistance. And it looks like this.

What we encourage our students to practice as they are painting is their full range of aliveness. But a lot of folks define aliveness as something that is ONLY positive. Or pleasurable. Or upbeat. This common approach to creativity views art making as something that is supposed to make them feel good at all times. And what they call feeling good is often a form of avoidance.

They want to feel calm. They want to feel peaceful. They want to be in the flow. But not the class five rapids flow. They don’t want their creative process to shake them up. At all. And they are often trying to use their art as a mood altering experience like having a Margarita. They are desperately hoping that their art will keep them from what they are truly feeling if those feelings are uncomfortable.

Now I just want to say that this desire for joy or pleasure or a regulated nervous system is a longing we all share. This hope that your art making will bring you to a place of inner serenity is not a bad thing to want. It’s also something that is totally possible.

And, sadly it’s often a frustratingly difficult emotional state to achieve.

It’s difficult because of how we approach this desire to feel good and connected to ourselves. We lose our connection to that longed for state of being because we were taught the absolutely wrong way to get there.

We think we can MAKE ourselves happy and calm by only putting happy and calm things in our paintings. We think if we ignore our distress and discomfort, push all those more difficult feelings aside and just focus on love and light and seascapes and flowers that we will paint our way into Nirvana. Or at least into a tiny bit of tranquility.

But what often happens instead is that we get more and more frustrated as those feelings of ease and being centered become ever more elusive by using this paint happy technique. And then painting is no longer any fun.

I call this the Unicorn Syndrome. Often when my students are faced with expressing more difficult feelings as they paint they will look at me in great distress and say “ But all I really want to do is to paint unicorns and glitter”, in a loud and whiny tone of voice. As if that will magically transport them to a place where they are no longer feeling what they are trying to avoid.

Knowing full well that I will ALWAYS encourage them to go towards what is most real and alive for them in that moment. No matter how uncomfortable that realness may be.

So I wanted to share a little story and an example of how that unicorn approach can often be the exact opposite of what you need.

One of my students was painting her version of the unicorn syndrome with rainbows and butterflies because she wanted to feel good and happy and free. She’d been going through a rough patch in her life and was hoping that the painting could give her a reprieve from some of the hard stuff.

But the more she painted butterflies the more miserable she became. She was achey in her body. There was a pounding in her head. She was frustrated and cranky. And she kept looking at her watch and wondering when this nightmare of a class was going to be over.

She didn’t understand why her pretty painting wasn’t working. When I talked with her I suggested that instead of trying to get away from the bad feelings that she actually move towards the ickiness and allow it to come into her painting.

At first she looked at me like I was totally out of my mind and was just wanting to torture her. But she had enough trust in me and the process that she was somewhat willing to give this approach a try.


So she began painting black. And lightning bolts. And demons with teeth. The next time I came back to check in on her she was on FIRE! Bright eyed. Energized. Fully engaged and totally alive.


I asked her what happened and she said that when she allowed herself to go towards the yucky feelings she got in touch with some anger that she had been trying NOT to feel. She was trying to make herself feel happy. But the butterflies and rainbows just made things WORSE.


She was totally shocked that painting the “bad” and forbidden feelings made her feel so GOOD. And truly joyful.


But this is what happens when you tell the truth and allow your authentic energy to be expressed creatively. Sometimes the butterflies and rainbows just won’t CUT it!


Energy is energy. There’s no good energy. There’s no bad energy. There’s just energy that’s moving. And energy that’s stuck. And moving energy always feels good. Just like stuck energy always feels bad.


So this is the thing you need to try and remember the next time you find yourself feeling blah about your unicorns. Stop trying to force happy and just surrender to your truth… whatever that may be.


Trust that your intuition will lead you into the part of your being that is crying out to be expressed. That honest expression always leads to aliveness. And aliveness is its own sweet reward.

If you need a creative jumpstart and are hungry for a deep dive into the intuitive painting process come and join me and Tim and a bunch of wild hearted creative folks for our upcoming Wild Heart Painting retreat in October!

For more info about the workshop click on the image below.



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