When dreams turn to reality

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 • 3 minute read

Our vision for dealing with negative emotions and improving mental health en-masse takes another step towards reality.

Improving mental health in South Africa and Africa

In early July 2018, a little more than one year ago we submitted our entry for the Google Impact Challenge South Africa. It encompassed a vision for Shape of Emotion and how we can attend to the massive mental health challenges facing South Africa and the rest of Africa. We didn't win, not even close, but on Saturday 20 July, our vision took another step towards reality.

As guests at the Faculty of Best Advisory's Professional Mentorship Programme launch we offered a taste of what's possible with Shape of Emotion and had more than 100 people attending to their negative emotions all at the same time.

The size of the problem

Much has been researched and written about the magnitude of the problem when it comes to mental health, both here in South Africa and across the continent. The United Nations has stated that mental health is critical to the achievement of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

More than half of South Africans live in poverty, with unemployment, violence, abuse, and neglect being daily realities for many. Individuals from these environments are impacted by high levels of anxiety and stress. They live in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight.

Stress has been dubbed the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization. It is estimated to cost South Africa over R40 billion per annum.

Out of a population of 56 million population more than 17 million people deal with anxiety disorders.

There are approximately 13,000 psychology professionals registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). This equates to about 23 professionals per 100,000 population. If all were practising in a full time capacity this is an unsustainable and inadequate intervention for the 17 million in need.

The health system is hopelessly under resourced and funded to cope.

Our vision - enabling the how

At 5th Place we often share our mission — make the world a better place by enabling the how... When we do it, we are often met with raised eyebrows or quizzical looks. The way we see it, it's not enough to research the problem (think) or postulate (more thinking) about what is needed. Ultimately the question becomes one of implementation. How can we... or How can I...

5th Place’s work in under resourced schools exposed us to the scale of trauma, where it is a way of life for both learners and educators. Trauma means living in a persistent state of fight & flight which disconnects the brain from the ability to think and the capacity to learn is greatly diminished. We were inspired to develop a creative, scalable intervention which would...

Be easy to learn 
And easy to teach

Be child friendly
Children process emotions differently to adults

Work in groups
The problem requires a scalable solution

Be proudly African
To tackle and solve our continent’s specific problems

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.
—Jessie Potter

Shape of Emotion. A tool for the times

At 5th Place we spent over two years researching, investigating and testing how we could answer the questions and issues raised above.

The net result of our efforts is the development of a way to gently and easily release stuck emotions allowing for a return to a centred and resourceful state. These are the very same emotions which can lead to depression, anxiety, increased stress and all sorts of other mental health challenges and issues.

This way that we developed is called Shape of Emotion. It's a model, process and tool of how we structure, store, represent and regulate our inner feeling states.

How high (big, wide, deep) can we go?

There are many beautiful facets to the process but perhaps most notable is it's scalability and content-free nature. We discovered that when human emotions are represented and expressed, no emotional instance is the same, not even in the same person. The anxiety that is felt today will show up differently tomorrow (or whenever it is next experienced or felt). This insight and discovery was key in the development of Shape of Emotion.

It means that when we have a group of people — whether they are learners in a classroom, displaced people in a relief camp, executives in a boardroom, bystanders on the sidewalk or family members in a lounge — each person can be supported to work with their specific instance of emotion at the same time. Each one dialling down their difficult emotion in the quiet and privacy of their own mind and body-space while sharing in the common community of the experience.

No talking, no sharing, no re-traumatising, just relief from difficult emotions. Gently and easily.

If you are curious about Shape of Emotion and would like to experience it, we invite you to join us for an Emotional Fitness Class every Thursday at 17:30 CAT using Zoom. Here are more details on what happens in an Emotional Fitness Class.

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