July 16, 2024
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All That Glitters Could Be Feelings

My 4-year-old daughter and I have been making glitter jars recently. Sometimes we call them “hope jars” and other times “worry jars,” but generally we give them as gifts to individuals in our lives who might benefit. The first time we made one was for a dear friend currently undergoing some treatments; we each chose a color, representing our wishes for recovery as well as a reminder of our love. The final intention of the jar was to provide a sense of grounding, for the receiver to be able to swirl around the glitter and watch it fall, when needing a moment of mindfulness.

I brought up these jars with a client recently, as it seems the practical use of a jar, water and glitter, can go beyond the intentions mentioned above. In the context of anxiety, both the figurative and literal jar can hold a fair amount of meaning. I was discussing with this individual, the way that vision can sometimes be clouded by worry. At times it is as if all we can see is our cognitive distortions—catastrophizing, dwelling on the past or future, generalizing—much like a downpour of sparkles. We cannot see beyond the moment to a space of clear thought.

We become so stuck in the mindset that when others try to show us reason, it feels nearly impossible, or this reason is discounted. In those moments what can be most helpful is not to use our logical mind but instead to bring our brains back to a space where we can see that the glitter is not, in fact, flying everywhere. We can try to recognize the feeling that we are inside a twister of glitter but that we actually can step out, even if this only feels temporary. It is not about willpower; it is about communication between our minds and bodies.

For some people this includes grounding exercises such as deep breathing, noticing the five senses, recognizing colors in the room. For others it may be about turning back on our logical center, which can be done by recalling an old memorized passage, saying song lyrics aloud or doing simple math equations. Once we can communicate between our mind and body, we can recognize that the glitter is there, as opposed to thinking our vision is just one that always includes twinkling, sparkling, messy confetti

This may look like being able to remind oneself, “I am obsessing over this issue when in reality there is nothing I can do at this moment. So what do I need?” or “I cannot escape the loop my head is in, so I need a distraction,” or even simply, “I think I need to reach out for help.” This is very difficult to do when glitter is flying.

The other helpful component is for those around us to understand this experience. If others know that while they are seeing a serene, sparkle-free world, their loved ones may be existing in a glittery swirl, then support can look more patient and less judgmental. There can be the space to help loved ones clear the air and to empathize with a feeling of being trapped, and unable to see what is in front of them.

I recommended that my client take agency over the situation by buying a jar and some glitter, and when a big emotion is experienced, put it in the jar. Contain it. Don’t ignore or banish or minimize. Rather, hold it in front of you, shake it up, watch it fall. Emotions can be overwhelming and scary, and anxiety can feel like it takes up every part of ourselves. But just like we can watch the contents of a snow globe slowly fall and settle, that anxiety does have the potential to settle. To do so likely will require tools and exploration,but there is hope.

Glitter gets everywhere;my dogs are not thrilled with our newfound hobby. And it also does a wonderful job to both physically and metaphorically help us process and cope and vent our emotions. It can provide wonder or grounding or act as a representation of what is needed. Whether you buy yourself a glitter jar or use the metaphors in this piece, please know that when your vision feels completely clouded, there is space for more.


Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works in New York and New Jersey with individuals ages 18 and older who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness, and a Metro-New York consultant at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, visit www.temimah.com.

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