Tag Archives: universal patterns

The Power of Doodling

ImageDoodling is a form of automatic writing.  It is a way of dreaming.  When people sit at the phone with pen in hand and they scribble away as others talk to them they are allowing their thoughts and emotions to take form on the page.  (Active Listening Doodling Lesson)

Doodling can be a gentle gateway to the unconscious.  That part of the mind that is free to roam and to imagine.  When we doodle we are less inclined to have the critic talking to us and judging our work.  Rather the hand just wanders over the page and simple shapes, lines and forms appear to create patterns.  Artists usually are not planning but allowing the forms to appear on the page.  For most people doodling is a relaxing activity.

The reason doodling is so stress free is that it is a kind of visual free association.  And through the non-verbal process people are able to tap into a reservoir of self-knowledge contained not in words but in images.

When a story is read to a class and the students are encouraged to doodle as they listen a process of self-reflexion is begun.  If the listener can let go of other distractions and focus on the story allowing the drawings to emerge a wealth of interesting material can emerge.

Dr Burns suggests that there are universal patterns of doodle symbolism. “Even at their simplest, the idle jottings we repeat in the margins of our notebooks can evoke childhood memories and associations that provide clues even to our obsessions.”

“As designed by nature, human individuals always feel the need to be engaged in a productive action. Every time we have to stand still and stiff, we long for moving. Isn’t it that what Mother Nature gave us hands for? Working?! Even if we just fiddle, fidget or do pen spinning, we need to divert our hands.”Image

Dr Robert Burns, former director of the Institute for Human Development in Seattle studied doodles to use them to diagnose emotional problems of clinical parents, doodles reveal ideas locked in our head“(Blog or Die Trying)

In the text Global Citizen we talked of the work of Fiona Foley and how looking at the past can bring up unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings.  We talked about the way that Foley provided writing booths where people could sit just to think things over.    So for the purposes of the text we have adopted Foley’s didactic style and by asking the students to doodle while Morrissey’s touching story telling of the escape ordeal experienced by Leila is read we are encouraging students to “stay with” the material and to let the uncomfortable feelings flow through their pen as they listen and work with the material.

It is anticipated that by the end of the sessions the students will have some interesting visually inspiring material captured in their journals.  This material might be private so they may wish to decline talking about their work during critique and this is perfectly acceptable.

The material the students will work with is Kimberley Sun Kindle Location.   I suggest that this exercise would be a great introduction to Morrissey’s work in any educational or therapeutic setting.

Reading Kimberley Sun   (Morrissey 2009 Kindle Location  4973  –  5202)

While you listen to this story you are asked to doodle

 In your journal place a border on the page, 30 mm wide.  This will help you be conscious of space as you draw.  Listen to the story and try to pay attention but at the same time, allow your hand with the illustrator pen or pencil to doodle and meander.


  • Morrissey,D.  (2009) Kimberley Sun   (Kindle Location  4973  –  5202)