Forming a Narrative

[The transformation] of analysis essentially as a science of recovery of the past into a science of choice and of creation in the present and future.

This tool presents users with a simple, guided way to track their emotion experiences, resulting in a personal emotion database. Establishing an emotion history is an important method in the facilitation of therapy and psychoanalysis. In Narrative Truth and Historical Truth, Donald P. Spence writes that the goal of psychoanalysis is to “empower” the patient to “describe the indescribable,”63 the indescribable being their past experiences, which can never truly be realized by language alone. The analysis feature is where the emotion history shows its significance. Here the user is equipped with the capability to sift through their emotion data in a way that would never be possible with analog records. The rearrangement of events within time and space can lead to meaningful pattern finding. In the same vein, it is important for us to remember that not all associations are causally related, not all patterns are consequential.

Yet there is satisfaction in seeing a tangled life reduced to a relatively small number of organizing principles and seeing a previous explanation come to life in new circumstances. The linking of events and their parts together allows us to create mini-stories in our lives. The act of building emotion narratives helps us gain closure on negative episodes in our lives, instead of ruminating about them.64 With acute emotion awareness, we become able to identify the stimuli, including those from our pasts, that trigger emotions.

Wizard Approach

When filtering through the database, there are two user interface options: free filtering (Figure 37) or a mixture of free filtering and wizard approach (Figure 38). A wizard approach to user interface helps users go through a complicated task that might be new for them, like recording emotion experiences. Because there are many angles through which a user can view their data, some may find it extremely overwhelming to know where to start. The wizard approach guides a user through choosing how to order and filter their data. Once the a view is chosen, the user is always oriented by the list of filters at the top of the screen. The guided tour is structured to be helpful but also teach the user to eventually know how to navigate filtering without it.

Fig. 37 The free filtering user experience giving the user full control and little guidance in sifting through the data.
Fig. 38 The guided wizard user experience.

The user is able to look at their filtered data either as small multiples or in list form (Figure 39). Because scrolling through many small multiples is complex, some users might choose only to view the most important information clear from their visual representation.

Fig. 39 The user can choose to view their data selection as small multiple visualizations or as an ordered list.

Finding Identity

As we discussed in the section on the tool’s visualization feature, the visual language used still requires a little interpretation when it is shared with a third party. In these cases, the analysis feature helps eliminates a large part of the possibility that a listener does not fully understand what the patient is trying to express. Filtering through their emotion histories requires a user to think about what kind of past emotion experiences they want to see. For example, all of the times they felt really great as a result of some activity that they were doing (Figure 40).

Fig. 40 A decision tree representing how the user walks through the wizard experience.

From these results they could unearth the activities, like spending quality time with friends or going hiking, which stimulate pleasant emotions like content, happiness and joy. Again, to those who are already emotionally aware, what makes them feel good might be obvious. For them, using the tool to spot what triggers negative emotions might be more valuable. As we mentioned in the chapter on emotion, we humans are wired to avoid processing our negative experiences and because of that, we have a harder time developing the coping mechanisms to deal with them. The filtering is designed to be a practice of self-discovery. By using it, a user also able to verbalize the emotion experiences they would ideally like to have. Verbalizing our past, present and ideal future emotion experiences is a huge asset in the therapeutic setting.

Through continual use of the app a user learns to read and interpret their emotion experiences through the visualization. They receive support through a provided emotion vocabulary, metaphorical comparison, and an overall guided experience. All of which assist them in formulating their emotion narratives. These narratives help us to make contact again with our emotions and ultimately develop a deeper knowledge of our own identities.

An overview of this project and a link to the log book of my process can be found online here.

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