Emotional tools

This article is originally in the format of a talk at Art and Science salon series.

Tools are often associated with fulfillment of practical needs, like how a hammer also represents the action of hammering and a purpose of installment. They tend to be universal and handy.

When it comes to emotional needs, however, all of a sudden the category or definition of tool is much broadened — it can take any forms — and can be extremely personal.

What does it mean for tools to be ‘emotional’?

At Matter-Mind Studio, we believe that designed things around us play an important role in our lives — both in how we behave and how we feel — and we’re fascinated about the emotional values that objects could offer.

In an attempt at deciphering the various emotional functions of objects, I created a survey inviting people to join the conversation and share their emotional tools. Here’s a few insights extracted from the 23 response:

The first thing comes to people’s mind when talking about ‘emotional tools’ are objects that represent therapy, meditation, expression, memories, reflection, etc.

(The size of the color block indicates the proportion of answers related to each category)

When it comes to people’s special objects, the emotional values of those objects generally fall into these three categories:

  • As a reminder of one’s identity and personal values;
  • As a vehicle to arrive at a different mental state through an experience;
  • As a capsule of certain memories, which are often of family members.
“I selected it from a ceremony I participated in and continue to use it daily and it special ceremonies to remind me of my place in the world”
“opens the door to mindfulness and play; most other objects are replaceable”
“it reminds me of my grandmother, her sophistication and obsession with accessories”
“because it brings a time / place of the past into my every day.”

Functional things are extensions of our bodies enhancing our capacities; emotional objects can be extensions of our feelings and crucial for our emotional well-being.

If we pay close attention, we’ll see that the objects that we hold close to take great care of us and plays a crucial part in our emotional well-being.

In fact, our lives are filled with emotional tools. They take various forms and carry personal meanings in our inner experiences.

A collective poem made of emotional tools of the audience at my talk as a closing ritual:

coffee pot
the light in the morning
a hot shower
‘Rage Against the Machine’
a rock
a ring my brother made me
good smells
jokes and laughter
children socks
my bed
my cat, Juno
a note for my son
saying my frustrations out loud
touching a vinyl record
coming home

Dear readers, what are your emotional tools? Write to us at hello@mattermindstudio.com or in the comments. Or participant in the conversation by answering four questions here. Thank you for your attention!