Shape of Emotion

Shape of Emotion is a model, process and tool of how we structure, store, represent and regulate our inner feeling states. What this means is you can take any difficult feeling and turn down the volume of it. Equally, you can take any positive feeling and turn the volume right up!

The need to feel more

In our modern, technology focused world, we are more connected than ever and yet more disconnected than ever. We think too much and feel too little. We behave as if there are no consequences to our actions and everyone else’s problems are of little or no concern to us. As long as it doesn’t come too close to us we are fine. We box our feelings, package our emotions and mostly act as if we are wholly rational. Feelings have little place in our lives unless they are positive. The common belief that feelings don't matter has lead us down a cul-de-sac and into to a poorer world. A world where the stuff we have is more important than the people we are. We have become zombies, modern day automatons too afraid to feel, for fear of being engulfed by our emotions.

The world needs answers

The world is an uncertain place. The ice is melting and the seas are rising. There's a plastic island 3 times bigger than France in the Pacific.  Political and ideological differences cause tension at home and across the world. Data breaches like Facebook and Ashley Madison create worry. Terrorism. Refugees. Ineffective governments. Extreme weather events. Water crises. The list goes on. The world is clamouring for answers. Many solutions are postulated, offered and debated. Few of these solutions tackle the how. How do we actually get the world to change and the proposed solutions to stick? How do we get people to take them up and run with them? At 5th Place we believe that the how is enabled through feeling more.

Choosing between love and fear

All human feelings and emotions flow from either fear or love. Shape of Emotion reduces the incidence and impact of fear-based emotions. It facilitates the growth and increase of love-based emotions with the view to becoming the human beings we are designed to be. By engaging with one another from a place of love-based emotions, where we are connected to our inner feeling states, we are offered the opportunity to connect fully with other human beings. The more we feel connected to ourselves, the more we will connect with life, nature and the planet.

Where it all began

The development of Shape of Emotion as a tool, process and model grew out of a desire to help children deal with their difficult feelings. Matthew and Chantal experienced how pervasive trauma is in the school society, particularly in under resourced schools in impoverished neighbourhoods. Time and again they would hear stories of trauma and how the teaching body didn’t know how to deal with it. Trauma affects everyone, from the learners to the parents; the teachers to the admin staff and ripples out into the community of which the school is the centre.

These schools suffer the additional burden of not having access to enough social workers and counsellors to assist with the high levels of trauma that are evident. Poverty, unemployment, violence, abuse, and neglect are daily realities for many of these school going children. As a result, children are consumed with anxiety and stress by factors out of their control and come to school in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight. Being in a state of flight-or-flight disconnects the brain from the ability to think and the capacity to learn is greatly diminished.

Pooling resources, experience and knowledge

Both Matthew and Chantal were working primarily in one-on-one adult oriented space. They were both deeply affected by the stories of trauma and set about researching ways to take their adult work and transform it. There were 3 goals:

  1. Their work needed to assist children and not just adults;
  2. It had to work in groups (children are groups in classes) not just one-on-one;
  3. It had to be proudly South African, to tackle and solve our rainbow nation specific problems.

They combined resources, experience and knowledge and over a period of a year researched, developed, tested and refined what is now known as Shape of Emotion. Together they experimented, questioned, trialled, researched, debated and tested how the goals above could be met. They worked with many groups of people including teachers, university students, children, adults, individuals in high-stress jobs and even fire trauma victims in Knysna.

From one seed comes many fruit

Shape of Emotion was seeded from a desire to assist children with trauma. Since its inception and creation, the application and uses for it are varied. It's most frequent use pertains to the regulation of difficult feelings, where the volume of the feeling is dialled right down. All the way down, so it disappears. For good. At the other end of the scale, positive feelings can also be regulated, where the volume is dialled right up. It's the best substance-free high there is! The feelings can exist in the past, present or future. Other research has shown that Shape of Emotion is also effective at regulating physical somatic experiences such as headaches and injuries.

Stress and difficult emotions

Shape of Emotion is also about addressing the greatest problem of our age: stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress symptoms can affect the body, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Acute stress is part of daily living. It is often associated with a short lived problem and when the situation is resolved the stress diminishes. It can also be beneficial and motivating.  Chronic stress is stress that builds up over time and is not addressed. This can cause dis-ease and result in many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Stress has been dubbed the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization. It is estimated to cost businesses in the United States (US) up to $300 billion a year. The pressures of difficult emotions can take their toll, In South Africa alone, there are an average of 23 suicides per day.

If addressing stress isn’t enough, other experimental studies show that emotions can have a significant effect on the way we think, make decisions, and solve problems. Having the means to regulate our emotions is imperative. Shape of Emotion is the tool for the time.

Characteristics & foundations of Shape of Emotion

Based on the latest work in Neuroscience, Shape of Emotion draws from the best of Energy Psychology, Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Mindfulness and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is safe, gentle and can be used on it’s own or as a complementary process to any other therapeutic, coaching or care-giving offering.

Shape of Emotion has the following characteristics:

  • It's content free;
  • Works easily in groups (by virtue of it being content free);
  • Works as effectively with both children and adults;
  • Works across race and gender;
  • It's not faith based
  • You don't have to believe in it, to make it work.

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