THE MAKESPACE BLOG

The true stories of lives and communities are loaded with a complex spectrum of emotions

Making Space For Emotions

It’s natural to put a positive spin on the effects social distancing measures are having on our lives and communities. Humans cope with storm clouds by finding silver linings.

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It’s natural to put a positive spin on the effects social distancing measures are having on our lives and communities. Humans cope with storm clouds by finding silver linings. This helps us persevere. But the true stories of lives and communities are loaded with a complex spectrum of emotions that are also worthy of our attention.

Teachers are transformers: of stressors into supports, and resistance into receptivity. When there isn’t an outlet for us to ‘help’ our students, it’s hard. And it hurts. 

This is a story that I’m witnessing right now, as almost everyone is experiencing some form of isolation, loss, or disappointment. I see young people experiencing canceled events, isolation from friends, lost time. I hear teachers grieving separation from beloved and vulnerable students, feeling helpless. 

I feel it too. Peering through a screen at a beloved colleague whose face has fallen in sadness feels like being in a straitjacket. I’m a hugger! My nervous system is wired to reach out–containing that impulse is tiring and demoralizing. 

While the ‘distance learning’ dynamic presents tangible barriers to shared vulnerability and emotional risk-taking, there are still ways to invite those fundamental conditions for creative engagement into your virtual classroom.

This begins with each of us making space for ourselves to feel a full spectrum of emotions, even just privately. How are you feeling right now? What color is the feeling? What texture? How would you express it through a posture, or gesture?

What if you move through your home space feeling a new emotion each time you pass through a doorway? What if you take this practice into your neighborhood, changing emotions according to landmarks? How does containing a feeling feel different than expressing it?

We can also invite emotions into our shared spaces, with colleagues and with students.  

MakeSPACE routines such as Mindful Mark-Making, Selfies, and Metaphor Card Reflections use imagery to make feeling visible. Expressing and reflecting through imagery can free up the mind-body to truly feel without having to use words. Then, try naming the emotions that come through the images using a list of feeling vocabulary

As with any vulnerable creative process, take care with expectations around sharing. And if the conditions do support sharing, remember that witnessing and listening are probably the most transformative parts of the process.

If you try any of the processes shared here, please let us know how it goes.  What adaptations did you make?

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Meet the author

Jessica Land

GREEN-THUMBED GARDEN ENTHUSIAST, MANY-MEDIA ARTIST AND SKIING EXTRAORDINAIRE!

Jessica is a facilitator of learning experiences that bridge the arts, the natural world, schools, self, and community. Her commitment to engaging learners in authentic creative expression is rooted in her own explorations with visual arts, dance, the natural world and world cultures.

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We want young people and their teachers to be fulfilled, to feel agency, and to shape their own lives and the world around them. We want them to thrive within the possible - as the world offers them moment after moment of uncertainty.