Going backwards to go forwards

An auspicious week commemorating two important events that took place on the same date. Presenting our work in a space that inspired us to develop it, then driving a different way home for a new perspective.

It was a special week. On the 3rd of February a year ago we were sweltering in the north Gauteng heat watching Chantal’s daughter and son-in-law tie the knot. It was a day of laughter, joy and celebration. In spite of some minor family tensions, (aren’t there always at these events?), the event went off with all the light and love sprinkled down by angels


Love, love me do…

A 5th birthday

On the 3rd of February 2018, five years ago, we piloted Shape of Emotion, the mindfulness and bodyfulness based process we developed. Like a couple of excited kids at a birthday party, we unveiled and introduced what we had come up with to a group of diverse individuals in a workshop.

We held our breath as each person practised the process. Would it work? Did they get it? What would they think? It did work, they did get it and they thought what we had was good:

“ I just want to say that I really enjoyed it, I found it extremely valuable, everybody should be doing it. It’s really important work.”

“For me it has been a really helpful way to handle the waves of emotion that were coming up.”

“I really liked the tool. I think it is very practical. I think it is incredibly cleverly put together.”

“I did notice that feelings are something that we push away. Especially difficult feelings, we try to keep them away from us and not engage with them. We don’t know how to deal with them and this was such an amazing way of actually not having to think about what is this feeling, all the stuff, the story around it, but just coming back to how it's actually affecting me. “


The pioneering participants from our Shape of Emotion pilot workshop

They just had to show up

A meeting at a primary school in Alex in 2017, a story about the rape of a matric pupil and the loss that principals and teachers felt in the face of the ever increasing trauma in the under resourced school environment inspired us to develop this process.

As we rushed out to introduce our new “baby” to the world, the world got sick. Covid19 and lockdown crushed our course as it opened up a massive pothole in our plans. Most of our work was presented face to face to schools, students and those in the helping professions. All of this was swallowed up by the void of lock down.

We crawled out of that hole and set to do our work in an environment full of fear and confusion. Completely ill-equipped to deal with what was, people pulled and grabbed at anything and everything that may help relieve the pain. But nobody wanted to or expected to pay. Providers, like us, didn’t expect payment. Offering support was a way of regaining a sense of agency at a time when so many of us were feeling disempowered.

Why pay?

With the proliferation of online offerings in the form of mobile apps, YouTube videos, and webinars wherever you looked, the question was: Why pay? People were tasting and trying at a large smorgasbord. The sampling eventually stuffed them full. Enough! We’ve had enough.

It is only now, in the surfacing from the forever online to more in person that there has been a reviewing of the value of things. Especially approaches that can support the threadbare mental and emotional state of society.


Lights, action and more of our beautiful, life altering work

Come full circle

This past Saturday, the day after our 5th birthday, we presented to 200 high school learners who are beneficiaries of St Mary's Foundation. Many are from Alex. Five years down the pothole, and up again, we have come back to where we started.

Our work has evolved and matured and it remains as impactful as ever. Possibly more so because now people finally understand the need for it. Young people from both resourced and under resourced environments are suffering increasing and severe stress, anxiety and depression. We make a difference. At scale.


Curious and engaged students assessing how they feel

No going forward

It was with light hearts that we drove home on Saturday afternoon when on the hill of 3rd Ave Linden, our dear car decided that changing gears was so last week. We cajoled and pleaded. Tried one more time but no go. Matthew managed to manoeuvre us off the busy road. The reverse gear worked but there was just no going forward.

So close to home and yet so far. Matthew put the car into reverse and drove the last three odd kilometres home, backwards. We must have been a sight to behold. We drove in reverse until a car approached. Matthew would pull to the side to let it by and then continue on. Backwards. Chantal crouched and watched through the side mirror giving unnecessary instructions. Matthew’s torso twisted, one hand on the steering wheel, the other draped across the back of the seat so he could look back.

The ladies gathered on the pavements having their afternoon gossip looked at us perplexed and mirthful. We have no doubt the vehicles stopped at the red traffic light at the intersection of 5th and 2nd must have got quite a fright at the sight of a little SUV crossing the junction in reverse. Now they have definitely seen it all.


Our little SUV gearing up for new adventures

What is the lesson?

What is the lesson? Maybe we have to go backwards to go forwards. Maybe, as a dear friend remarked, it’s new gearing for the way forward. It certainly offered a new perspective, was an example of tenacity and innovative problem solving, patience and acceptance.

We arrived home safe, the car was in one piece. We have capable and trusted mechanics to attend to it and roadside assistance to tow it to them. We spent the balance of the weekend collating data, returning to our dream of making a real difference.

After all, our mission is: Making the World a Better Place by Enabling the How.

Until next time,

Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew

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About the author

5th Place

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.

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