How does Shape of Emotion work?

Shape of Emotion works directly with the somatic felt sense (the feeling) rather than the label of the emotion. It works with both difficult (negative) and supportive (positive) emotions.

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It's all about the feeling

Shape of Emotion works directly with the somatic felt sense (the feeling) rather than the label or name of the emotion. It works with both difficult (negative) and supportive (positive) emotions.

Shape of Emotion does not concern itself with the reason for the feeling, nor it’s label. It is for this reason that it is referred to as being content-free. There is no need to share anything about the feeling. The important element is being able to feel the feeling.

A four step process

Shape of Emotion is a four-step process that is used both to down-regulate a negative difficult emotion and / or to up-regulate a positive supportive emotion that one wants more of.

The process is the same for both kinds of emotions, differing only when it comes to what is said when certain of the touch points are used (see step four).

The mindfulness component of the process asks for one’s awareness to be directed inwards and attention focussed on what is being felt and where it is being felt. Through curious and present moment observation the shape or form of the feeling is allowed to appear.

In brief, the Shape of Emotion process follows these four steps:

  1. Feel the feeling of the emotion.
  2. Find where the feeling is being felt in the body.
  3. Observe what the feeling looks like it.
  4. Touch to release and let go or to open and embrace.

The first two steps of Shape of Emotion - "Feel" and "Find"

In this video we explore the first and second steps (there are four) of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The first step is to feel the emotion, the second step is to find the emotion.

Feel

Feel the emotion you wish to release and let go of (down-regulate) or feel the emotion that you wish to open and embrace (up-regulate).

Feeling an emotion is a critical element of Shape of Emotion. Although there is evidence that being able to label your emotions is useful for emotional regulation, for this model it is not necessary. In fact we sometimes mislabel our emotions and getting stuck in our heads around what the emotion really is can get in the way of the work we are doing here, where you need to be focussed on  what is going on in your body and not in your head.

It can be helpful to access a memory or imagine a scenario in order to feel the emotion.

Find

Find the feeling in or around the body.

We feel our emotions in our bodies, that is why they are called feelings. When we are stressed we may feel that stress across our shoulders, like a heavy cloak, or the anxiety may show us as a knot in our stomach, that is why we talk about the feelings being in or around our bodies.

The third step of Shape of Emotion - "Observe"

In this video we explore the third step (there are four) of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The third step is to observe the emotion.

Observe

Observe and describe to yourself what the feeling looks like.

Here we go inwards, with eyes closed or cast down, to observe the feeling and watch the shape or form of the feeling show itself without judgment or analysis. There is no visualising, rather a mindful approach and tuning in to what is appearing in, on or around the body.

This shape can be 2D or 3D, organic, geometric, an object, gas or liquid in form.

There are no rules or requirements. It just shows up as it does. And usually different every time.

The fourth step of Shape of Emotion - "Touch"

In this video we explore the fourth step (there are four) of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The fourth step is to touch to release and let go or to open and embrace.

Touch

Use touch points to release and let go (down-regulate) or open and embrace (up-regulate) via the stimulation of the various touch points.

The goal of the Shape of Emotion process is freedom from difficult feelings, rather than engaging with thinking and the brain. Using the touch points accesses the parasympathetic nervous system which in and of itself allows for a calming effect to take place. 

The touch points are located all over the body. Shape of Emotion uses 14 of them located on the face, upper body arms and hand.

Shape of Emotion playlist

In this video we explore the first and second steps of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The first step is to feel the emotion, the second step is to find the emotion.

In this video we explore the third step of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The third step is to observe what the emotion looks like.

In this video we explore the fourth step of Shape of Emotion as a process and tool. The fourth step is to "touch" to release and let go or to open and embrace.

Additional terminology

Wing

Using the touch points from the eyebrow to clasping hands at the end and taking a deep breath in and out is called a wing.

When doing a dial-down, as many wings as are needed are done for the shape to disappear.

When doing a dial-up, only two wings are done.

Kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope is the term for the entire process from step one, feeling the emotion, through step four, using the touch points. This is coupled with observing how the shape changes together with checking in on the original feeling when the process is complete.

A kaleidoscope is also the collective noun for butterflies. For us it symbolises the dramatic and yet beautiful transformation that can occur when using Shape of Emotion.

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When you complete the journey towards your own heart, you complete the journey to everyone else’s

—Thomas Keating