Feeling Cards

The first card in the box of Feeling Cards gave you some ideas about how to use them.  Here are some more ideas on how you might use them with different clients and different situations. I also explore how they help with Step 3 (Fixing the Shark Cage Alarm) and can assist in broader Shark Cage work drawing on all 5 Steps in the Shark Cage Framework.


This can be used in group or individual settings.  Ask one of the following questions:

  • Pick a card that best describes how you feel about being here today. You can choose up to 2 cards.  Say a few words about the card(s) you have chosen.

  • Pick a card that describes how you felt about something challenging that happened this week. Pick another card that describes how you felt about something good that happened this week.

Relationship Insights

This can be a useful application when helping a client to deepen their understanding of healthy and unhealthy relationships and safe and unsafe people.  All types of relationships can be explored.  Friendships, family, dating, intimate partner, work and school relationships are some examples.  You could ask the following question about different people in your client’s life:

  • Can you pick out any cards that jump out at you when you think of how you feel around this person? Spread them out on the floor.

You may want to comment on or ask the person to expand on the cards they have chosen.  You could read aloud the definitions of some of the cards and ask if this fits with how they feel around the person. Perhaps ask for an example of when they last felt like that with the person.  What was the situation and the person’s behaviour or words? This can provide conversational opportunities for psycho-education around boundaries and what respectful, supportive, controlling, coercive or abusive behaviours may look like and how they might make a person feel.  In the case of negative feelings this can be framed as a possible Shark Cage alarm.   Is the feeling a warning that the person is violating a boundary or human right with their behaviour?

If the behaviour is frequently repeated, the client can be prompted to consider what this might mean.  This exploration of the Shark Cage Alarm (Step 3) can then be combined with Step 5 (Shark & Dolphin behaviours) as the person is asked to consider that a person who repeatedly uses abusive behaviours that violate the rights of another to intimidate or control them is a Shark and unsafe. Step 2 (Renovating the Shark Cage) which explores a person’s understanding of their rights is also implicit in these types of conversations.  If Step 1 (Understanding the Shark Cage metaphor) has not yet been explored, this may be a good time to present the metaphor verbally or by showing the client the Shark Cage animation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDfNhN9IvR0.

This exercise may also provide an opportunity to explore how it is possible for positive and negative feelings about a person to exist side by side.  Some of their behaviours may make a person feel good but others may elicit negative feelings.  This can provide a stepping- stone for conversations about how to approach repairing ruptures in relationships with people who are generally safe that the person would like to keep in their life.  This may involve practicing assertive communication which is covered in Step 4 (Defending the Shark Cage) in the Five Step Shark Cage Framework. 

It can also provide an opening for conversations about patterns of behaviour that some abusive people may occasionally behave in charming or seemingly caring ways to ensure the person does not leave the relationship.

Use with those who can’t read or do not read English

This could be due to age, being from a different culture, reading difficulties or a range of cognitive disabilities.  You can still use the Feeling Cards but in adapted ways.  For example, as the person is displaying a possible feeling, either verbally or non-verbally, you could express curiosity about what they might be feeling and ask if you could read out some feelings and definitions and they could nod or shake their head if the feeling described how they felt right now, at a particular time or with a particular person. You can adapt any of the ways to use that have already been explored in this way. 

The ways the Feeling Cards can be used is limited only by the imagination of you and your client.  There is no wrong way to use them.  Generally speaking, it is always helpful to allow enough time at the end of your time with the client for packing strong feelings away and helping them to ground themselves in the here and now and regulate their emotions so they are not leaving your consultation in a distressed state.  This will help your client to feel more confident and comfortable with exploring feelings when you next meet.

If you haven’t completed the online Foundational Shark Cage training yet and want to know more about using the Shark Cage Framework as a helping professional, register for the next training here https://www.thesharkcage.com/shark-cage-foundational-training/.

I hope you and your clients find the Feeling Cards a useful resource.  We would love to hear from you about different ways that you have found to use them so we can share this with the rest of our Shark cage community so that their clients might also benefit from your creativity.  Please feel free to contact us info@thesharkcage.com

Ursula & Simon