Navigating the Maelstrom – a process

Swirling energy and emotion.

Over the past couple of years I have experienced, and attempted to express in my making, various forms of swirling energy.

The storm of grief
The swirl of steps and energy of tai chi
The ringing circle, cycle of method, energy gathered and released as the bells swing
Spiralling energy of new growth

My current and ongoing investigation is “maelstrom mind” – the overwhelming, destructive, swirling force of thoughts and emotions that can overtake us. It’s a response to lived experience, and a conscious use of the whole of life model of creative practice taught by Ruth Hadlow.

The vortex of maelstrom?

Some of the actions so far:

  • Formulated a research plan, with a range of different forms of activities and investigations
  • Instituted a weekly field report – for myself plus using the creative research group as an external touch point.
  • Developed a series of strategies that can be deployed as a preventative or response to maelstrom mind.
  • Researched the etymology of maelstrom
  • Developed an emotion recording tool based on Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, and trialled used. (Thanks to Riki, and also noting the impact of Richard Powers’ Bewilderment)
  • Based on those results and further research of many wheels of emotion/feeling, I’m in the process of developing a personalised wheel. The emphasis is on my own language, habitual emotional states, and aspirations, plus producing input suitable for creative exploration in data analysis and in making.
work in progress

The next step planned is a detail vocabulary of mild, moderate and intense variants within each segment (Tom Drummond has inspired here), which should also help confirm overall segment names (and yes, I need to be careful about adjectives, nouns, …). I’ve deliberately stepped away from any optical or light based colour wheel. Also there’s no sense of polar opposites, or a continuum of positive and negative across the wheel. For example an intense “invigorated” could be recorded as part the sensation of being thrilled and of being agitated. I see both as high energy, one replenishing the other draining. (OK, writing this clearly there’s a labelling issue). This suggests clusters or constellations of feeling (nautical, mapping and navigational analogies abound in this project). Perhaps:

high energy + different levels of (confused + angry + invisible/lonely + exhausted) = one form of agitation

I really want to get some trial data and fine-tune the tool. I can see myself weaving an emotion constellation, and perhaps a woven diary – full of the colours, texture and form of emotion.

6 Responses to “Navigating the Maelstrom – a process”

  1. 1 Meg October 1, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    How were colors assigned to various emotions? Just whatever you liked, or following a text by someone?

  2. 2 Meg October 1, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    Also, the various emotion’s position on the wheel – it’s unrelated to the normal color wheel – is that what you meant?

    • 3 fibresofbeing October 1, 2022 at 6:18 pm

      Placement was challenging. I didn’t consider colour at all. I wanted a kind of flow, and “positive” emotions tend to be in the top half with “negative” below. And it would be nice if things across the wheel were kind of opposite. But emotions aren’t really as simple as positive and negative. Especially since I was boiling it all down to just 18 groups.

  3. 4 fibresofbeing October 1, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    Hi Meg. Words, colours and positions are all as chosen by me. The underlying idea is common, and there are lots of versions around (Plutchik’s is where I started). I spent time building my own vocabulary, deciding what grouped together. I ended with 18 groupings. For example Delighted is my main heading for a language group that includes Ecstatic, Elated, Overjoyed, Optimistic, Joyful, Awestruck, Thrilled, Buoyant, Gleeful, Happy, Lighthearted, Sunny, Cheerful, Glad, Gratified, Pleased. I chose yellow, from pale to rich, for that group – which I think makes sense. There was some adjustment when it came to weaving, to fit with yarns in my stash and trying to make each segment different. For example I found I wanted more purples in Grief, so Rage turned into a warning florescent yellow combined with a harsh, oily black.

  1. 1 Weaving emotions – work in progress | Fibres of Being Trackback on August 29, 2022 at 2:09 pm

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