It’s amazing how things have changed in my life since I have started doing things for me — said Chantal’s daughter, Cailyn, dipping her rusk in her coffee. We had just sat down to a breakfast delayed by the interruptions of life. Cailyn had arrived to collect Chantal to go for a walk in the park with her cat. Yes, her cat. And had to wait out the breakfast eating first.
It is profound when you stop doing things for, or because of, others and start focusing on your own needs. Things do change.
In February a new friend, a doctor working in mental health, forwarded us an invitation to submit an abstract to speak at the inaugural SA Mental Health Conference. We duly drew up an abstract and submitted it. Several weeks later we were notified that our abstract had been accepted, all we had to do was register by a specific date in order to be included in the line up. Conferences are not inexpensive events. We looked at the price, considered it against the 10 minutes we were allotted to speak and decided it was a big investment, one we weren’t prepared to make this time. We made a difficult decision and chose us, in this instance.
If they want us, they can come and get us, thought Chantal, letting go of the idea of presenting a paper on Shape of Emotion on the breeze that blew in the window.
The first mental health conference in South Africa, and we were a part of it!
An unexpected call
It was late Friday morning in the middle of April. We were putting the finishing touches to our manual pages and framework for our training course the next day. Chantal glanced down at the phone charging on the desk.
“Someone’s phoning you,” she said, noting that it was an unknown number, “Do you want to answer it?”
Matthew usually doesn’t answer unfamiliar incoming calls but this time he did. And just as well. It was the conference organiser asking if we were going to present. Matthew explained our decision.
“If we were able to organise you a scholarship, would you be prepared to present?” asked the patient and polite woman on the other end.
Of course we would. They had come to get us, so it came to be that we were at the conference on Monday. In the late afternoon we presented our work to a roomful of people interested in innovation in mental health.
We’re just about to demonstrate how emotion regulation at scale works
Big on experience
Unlike many of the other presentations, ours was not a string of slides with research data. Ours was short on slides but big on experience. Nobody could go to sleep in our slot.
Matthew started the presentation saying:
“The biggest mental health challenges that we have consistently heard about today are the scale of the problem, the cost of addressing the problem and that there are not enough qualified professionals to intervene.”
He recounted how we were motivated to solve a problem that we witnessed while working in the under-resourced education space.
“Education, widely accepted as crucial to escape the poverty cycle, is negated if learners are in a perpetual state of fight/flight/freeze. The problem of education as we viewed it was not so much a resource one as a mental health one,” he said.
Without repeating the entire presentation, which included taking the audience through one wing of Shape of Emotion (a human technology, is what Chantal called it), the message was that we have an answer for those three problems. Using Shape of Emotion we can attend to the scale of the problem, the cost of addressing the problem and the lack of qualified professionals. People were intrigued, some enthused, others more sceptical.
“Unlike many of you here, we are not academics, we are not psychologists, we had a problem that we wanted to solve, " remarked Matthew, “And we did.”
Sometimes choosing you leads to beautiful experiences such as this
performance of Antonín Dvořák’s “Dumky trio”.
We chose us
Attending events such as these, reminds us that we know a great deal about emotions and the importance of emotion regulation. We have a broad and deep knowledge of this world of mental health and wellbeing. Most of it came after the fact, in finding the research that backed our belief and our discoveries.
We are still finding the connections. Developing emotion regulation skills helps prevent and manage mental health disorders. The ability to regulate emotions effectively is a critical aspect of mental health as it shapes our ability to manage stress, build healthy relationships, develop resilience, cultivate self awareness and foster psychological flexibility.
Who knows what presenting at this conference will bring us. Maybe all it did was expose our work to a few more individuals. Whatever happens or does not, we chose us, and got given a valuable opportunity to share and connect.
We hope you will choose you and see the way it changes your life.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.
Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.