No matter the environment we find ourselves in - people who are privileged and those who are not feel the same emotions. It's all just the same.
We've had the opportunity and privilege to witness dramatic and personal changes when using Shape of Emotion. These changes cover a wide range of feelings and emotions: relief from the distress of death and divorce, ease from young adult angst and exam anxiety, freedom from deep seated childhood traumas and respite from the common, daily stresses and strains that our modern lifestyle imposes on us. In all these cases Shape of Emotion has shown its versatility as an effective, easy to use tool and process for emotion regulation.
The environment that has given us the most joy to work in has been the school space. One of the original tenets (there are three) that guided our research was that whatever process we developed had to work with children. We're still pursuing the elusive grail of having the work rolled out in a school space with actual students but we have worked with many teachers and, most recently, early childhood development (ECD) practitioners.
When we started out, the work took us to the stark yet neat spaces at under-resourced schools in Soweto. Facilities were few - no music classes, science labs or sports fields. Spindly trees looked on as children thronged in shrill groups playing inventive games on dusty and compacted surfaces. The teachers consistently agreed: "Yes, Shape of Emotion can help us with our stress, frustration and anxiety", to name a few of the difficult emotions experienced daily. The space is fraught with emotional challenges and trauma. It is not uncommon for teachers to be a surrogate parent or share food with an unemployed caregiver. Subsistence takes on a whole new meaning. We shared Shape of Emotion willingly, openly, excited that part of our vision was becoming a reality. Or was it?
Matthew believes the phrase "overworked and underpaid" was invented for teachers. He's done a stint at teaching. Chantal is a qualified teacher so we have both paid some dues in this space. For all the excitement and recognition that Shape of Emotion can and does help in the under-resourced school space, there's no capacity for the teachers to take on yet another task. The plate is already piled too high.
Fast forward to the end of 2019 and the work found us at the oldest school in Johannesburg. Tall, airy brick buildings peer over curated gardens and manicured lawns. Hushed and formal greetings meet us at regular intervals. A cello practices somewhere, stuttering and staggering soulfully through its notes.
We introduce Shape of Emotion to a group of teachers. It's a good turnout and this time we are joined by a couple of psychologists. After the usual pleasantries and explanations about the importance of attending to one's emotional wellbeing (last year we also learnt just how important this is to staying physically healthy, but that's for another time) we dive into the process.
Towards the end of the session we begin to register a sense of déjà vu. It dawns on us that no matter what the environment, the emotional challenges are the same. Collectively we hear this group of teachers echo those from the under-resourced environments: "Yes, Shape of Emotion can help us with our stress, frustration and anxiety", to name a few of the difficult emotions experienced daily. "Yes, our students are stressed out" and "yes, anxieties abound". The causes are different, very different -- social media anxiety versus hunger. Helicopter parenting and its associated pressures versus too little parenting, as examples. The symptoms are very much the same - worry, frustration, stress, anger, overwhelm and so on.
We came to realise no matter how rich or how poor we all experience the challenges of emotions together. It's a common thread that binds us. Emotions transcend gender, race, size, age and shape. Emotions are what make us fundamentally human. Shape of Emotion attends to the human in each of us. It supports all types of us to attend to and heal our emotional state: rich and poor, big and small, old and young. When we support each other to attend to our inner emotional and mental state we get better, build community and make the world a better place.
Join us again, next time, as we share more insights and learning from the use of Shape of Emotion in 2019.