Self Awareness


By Suzanne E. Harrill

One way to explain the human experience is through the metaphor of color. Imagine each of us is given at birth an artist’s palette of rainbow colors with which to paint our individual lives. Each one of us starts out using the color preferences of the family and society we are born into, repeating the conditioning. Some learn early to move beyond this limited palette and use unfamiliar colors to explore the rainbow of color possibilities. Those who prefer to paint with the same colors over and over, or a limited palette, eventually find that life has a corrective measure. The void resulting from not using certain colors draws people, situations, and lessons into your life to build awareness of our blind spots. This balances us over time on the journey to becoming a master artist. When we awaken the artist within and use the metaphor of color, it helps us understand ourselves and our lives better. Let us look at some basic color theory and look at qualities associated with each color; then I will illustrate how to use color as a helpful tool.

There are three primary colors ¾ red, yellow, and blue ¾ from which all other colors are mixed. You might recall playing with a set of watercolors or tempera paints as a child, as I do, blending red and yellow to make orange, yellow and blue to make green, and blue and red to make purple or violet. Imagine yourself as an artist placing your colors of paint in a circle on your palette in the same order that we find in the colors of the rainbow ¾ red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Notice half the circle is warm (red, orange, yellow) and the other cool (blues, green, violet).

Do you have color preferences? Do you like warm colors or cool colors? Which color, or colors, do you feel describes your personality? You can use the colors mentioned so far or others like rose, pink, turquoise, or apricot. Ponder a moment and ask yourself why you chose that color? Maybe you chose blue because you have a calm, patient, soothing personality; or red because you are enthusiastic and emotional; or yellow because you are joyful and lighthearted. Maybe you see several colors as part of your makeup. Allow this inner knowing to guide you as you apply this information. You probably have memories that you associate with some colors. When I free-associate with the color yellow, I first think of the sun and remember enjoying playing alone for hours as a child in our sunroom, spending lots of time in my imagination. Yellow makes me feel light and happy even today. Allow feelings and memories to surface in the next couple of days to see some of your associations with color, both positive and negative.

Complimentary Colors

To go a little further with color theory, let us look at complimentary colors. We will use the color analogy in dealing with real life situations. The colors opposite each other on the color wheel (the name for the circle of colors on our palette) are called complimentary colors. The opposites can be antagonistic, causing lots of drama, or complimentary, balancing or toning down extremes. Let us look at one pair of opposite colors, red and green. If an artist wishes to tone down bright red, s/he can add a little green. To apply this theory to life situations, you, as the artist of your life, might sit in nature or near green foliage to ease your anger or slow down your pace when you need to relax.

How do you figure out complimentary or opposite colors? Draw a circle on a piece of paper and write the three primary colors red, yellow, and blue equidistant from each other on the circle. Then between the red and yellow write orange, between yellow and blue write green, and between the blue and red write violet or purple. It might even be fun to get some markers or paints out and mix these colors. If each of these six colors is in a circle, you will find colors opposite each other are called complimentary colors. For example:

  • Red and green are complimentary colors

  • Blue and orange are complimentary colors

  • Yellow and purple-violet are complimentary colors

Again, complimentary colors tone down and balance extremes. The next time you are feeling burned out from working too much or being overly busy do an experiment. As previously mentioned, the antidote for overdoing (too much red) is to experience green. Spend time healing in nature with greenery, repot some of your plants, and eat lots of green foods (lettuce, green beans, broccoli, or spinach). Use your imagination to understand more about green. Green lessons might be related to growth and expansion beyond current boundaries and ways of thinking and doing things. Green may help you get in touch with health issues and illness, growth and stagnation, or abundance and poverty.

When you find yourself sluggish, passive, or depressed (too much blue), consider adding some orange to your life. You might find orange by watching the sunset, gathering some warmth to get things moving again. Eat some orange foods (oranges, carrots, or squash). Or you could journal write (orange), which is taking action (red) to understand yourself and mental activity (yellow). In the activity of journal writing you allow frustrations and inner conflicts to surface so you can process them for deeper healing. When you probe with your mind, you can get to some of the causes for your depression, allowing you to understand and grieve, integrate past traumas or disappointments, feel your feelings, and listen to your inner guidance.

Color Qualities

I was first exposed to the idea of using color qualities many years ago from one of my teachers, William David. He gave me permission to use the qualities found in his book, The Harmonies of Sound, Color and Vibration, and I have added some of my own. He explains that the qualities of each color can be in balance while in an acceptance range or can be out of balance when pushed to extremes. Some colors feel harmonious to us, while with others we feel resistance. For example, anger is one of the qualities of red. Using red within the balanced range, one feels her/his anger allowing it to surface when there is an injustice and the need to take action. Pushed to an extreme, anger that is ignored can turn into rage where it can do harm to oneself (accident-proneness, illness) or to another (attacking with hurtful words or using physical force). Some of us may avoid painting with red because of early encounters with red personalities, while others enjoy the intensity and energy of red personalities.

Now it is time to view some qualities, both positive and negative, to associate with each color. Add some of your own.

RED – emotional, physical, active, movement, strength, quickness, fast-paced, empowerment, taking action, spontaneity, catalyst, directness, determination, pioneering, inspirational, will, power, anger, assertive, rage, authoritarianism, violence, lust, frustration, force, vengeance, destruction, rebellion, impulsive, impatience, oppressive, controlling, hostile, aggressive.

ORANGE – all the qualities of red and yellow, courage (taking action after thinking), creativity, victory, harvest, striving, risk-taking, innovative, daring, ignorance, pompous, superiority, brutality, indecisiveness, arrogance.

YELLOW – mental/thinking, joy, lightness, knowledge, illumination, learning, expression, verbal, logical, self-esteem, details, evaluation, discipline, sincerity, clarity, letter of the law, commitment, inspiration, communication, structure, organized, responsible, calculating, exclusive, critical, crystallization, stuck in a rut, lazy, constriction, contempt, selfish, cowardice, judgmental, procrastination, shunning, pride, conceit, resentment, intolerant, prejudice.

GREEN – all the qualities of blue and yellow, enthusiasm, hope, sharing, cornucopia, sustenance, expansion, growth, prosperity, fullness, abundance, pain, envy, regimentation, pessimism, disorder, miserly, stagnation, jealousy, greed.

BLUE – feeling, love, wisdom, nurturing, gentleness, meditative, peaceful, trust, mercy, kindness, patience, non-aggressive, contemplative, soft, inclusive, possessiveness, self-pity, self-rejection, isolation, depression, indifference, separateness, insecurity, cunning, passive, anxiety, coldness, rejecting, fear, worry, overindulgence, revenge, passive control.

PURPLE/VIOLET – all the qualities of red and blue, self-acceptance, service, harmony, devotion, loyalty, understanding of justice, royalty, idealism, group work, obsession, morose, impotence, vindictive, betrayal, martyrdom.

Let us take a moment to look at a hypothetical example of using red, then yellow, and then blue to illustrate how one might end a relationship (or change jobs or move). Red may get fed up with the partner after expressing once that s/he is not happy. Seeing little or no progress, being impatient with the power-struggles, and not wanting to take the time to learn new communication patterns, red says in the heat of the moment, "I quit, I want a divorce."

Try yellow now. Yellow sees the problems because the situation has been analyzed for a long time. Confidence is lacking when yellow projects into the future imagining the single life, so yellow creates affirmations for self-improvement, reads self-help books, and tries many times to make changes in the marriage. When all else fails, and yellow has a plan, then and only then, does yellow pull the plug.

Feel the difference now as blue experiences the ending of a relationship. Blue has been unhappy for a long time, does not like the way things are going, complains, but never does anything about it. Blue does not bring up issues or confront the partner unless the partner brings things up first. Blue is passive, not clear on what s/he wants, and prefers the status quo over the uncertainty of making a change. Blue allows the partner to call the shots. Therefore, blue feels powerless and victimized when the divorce papers arrive.

What does it mean when you do not like a certain color? It might mean you resist working with the lessons and qualities of that color. If someone does not like orange, it could mean metaphorically that s/he takes action quickly (red) without much thinking or it might mean that s/he thinks too much (yellow) without taking action. Orange is a good blend of both, red and yellow ¾ taking action after thinking things through first.

Take a Look at Yourself

For fun, take a look in your closet and see what colors you prefer to wear. Consider arranging your clothing in order of the colors of the rainbow. Notice the colors you have lots of and those lacking in your wardrobe. When there is a missing color, you might buy a tee shirt or scarf in that color, so you will have the full range of colors to experiment with and wear. Look at the colors you decorate with in your house and the color of your car. What might this say about you? Notice your tendencies for choosing colors in your home, office, and clothing and evaluate how they make you feel. Wear clothes, eat foods, or sleep on sheets with the colors you feel you need. Be more aware of how you already use color, what colors you need for nourishment and inner balance, and what colors are not needed. When you need a color boost nature is always there to nourish with the blue sky, white clouds, yellow sun, green trees, red and orange rocks, green water, and lavender and orange sunsets. Working with the colors in this way can be fun. It is not important to get it "right" but to recognize where your nourishment comes from in "painting" with color and which colors may give you a wider range of free-will choice.

Now take a look at your food preferences. What colors dominate? Are there any you tend to leave out? Try experimenting with new choices of colors of food to include all the colors of the rainbow, not only to balance your nutrition, but to broaden your choice of ways to bring more balance in your life. Be curious to see if this is true for you.

To return to our original premise, the journey of life is like learning to paint with a full palette of colors. Metaphorically you can do this by learning to work with and paint with all the colors of the rainbow. Here the artist within builds awareness with the qualities of each color. As you choose to squeeze a little of each of the colors of the rainbow onto your artist’s palette, you broaden your free-will choice in life. Having all the colors available balances your tendency to limit yourself. A full palette of colors empowers you to create life in a fuller, more aware way.


(Taken from an unpublished manuscript --
You Can Find Enlightenment Even in Suburbia)





Love Offerings and Tithes Appreciated
Send to

View Alphabetical Article List from InnerWords Messenger


View Back Issues

Tell A Friend

Innerworks Publishing         Site Credits

E-mail your articles, questions or humor to:

Copyright © 2003-2017 Innerworks Publishing -- All Rights Reserved