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Ladder Of Emotions Technique

Objective: development of emotional intelligence: consciousness, self-control, empathy, ability of understanding, discrimination, expression and conscious regulation of emotions.


·   to realize what of adverse emotional states is typical for you

·   to realize that emotions are controllable

·   to want to learn to regulate own emotional states

·   to realize the number of intermediate emotions between undesirable and desirable emotional states

·   to learn to pass quickly on the “ladder of emotions” from lower to top step.

Equipment: decks of metaphoric associative (projective) cards “Facebook” and/or “Family Album”.

Duration: 60 minutes.

Age range of application: development of emotional self-control is especially relevant for 12-16 year-olds, but this technique also yields good results at adults.

Work algorithm.

Introduction. Cards from portrait decks “Facebook” and “Family album” are displayed on a table. It is possible to manage with one of these decks, but it is better to have both. Psychologist should consider whether the client was tested for personality traits accentuation. If an accentuation is known, at initial stage, psychologist should have a talk with client, to softly draw attention to the adverse emotional states most characteristic for carriers of this accentuation of personality and connected with risk of unsuccessful personal development.


1.  The leader speaks to client: “Think of what emotional state arises rather often and causes you trouble, badly influences you; the state disturbing you in everyday life, which influence you would like to reduce. Choose a card of person enduring this emotional state. How have you learned that this person feels the same feeling?”

2.  The leader reports that this technique is not aimed for client to cease to experience this emotion at all, but instead, when situational triggers habitually start negative emotion, to immediately realize it and to quickly thread through the steps of emotional ladder from negative to desirable emotion.

3.  Now ask to select one more card: representing a person experiencing that emotion that client would like to experience instead of the chosen undesirable emotion. The leader watches that choice of replacement emotion was realistic e.g. “Berserker rage” can not be replaced with “serene happiness”, or “painful jealousy” can’t be substituted with “generous readiness to share”: in both cases more appropriate feelings will be tranquility, acceptance, or confidence. Then ask to comment on the second card: “How have you learned about the feelings this person has?” Pay attention to the mimic manifestations of emotion of interest.

4.  Ecology – a recognition stage. To suggest the client to look at a picture with face of human experiencing negative emotion, and to find positive traits in this emotion. To speak about something good for us in every state, how it protects us somehow, and that in a certain life situation that you don’t know yet can happen it can be appropriate and constructive. Therefore, our purpose is not to forget about this feeling forever but just not to get stuck in it when it does not do well to us and our relations with others.

5.  Ask client to choose intuitively from three to six cards forming “an emotional ladder” from the lower step (an undesirable emotional state we are working with), to the top (desirable emotional state). After the cards intuitively chosen and spread out one after another, we ask the client to try to answer what intermediate emotions are. For example, a chain from an undesirable state “rage” to a desirable “interest” can appear as: rage – indignation – disturbance – surprise – interest.

6.  Ask client to pass each step of an emotional ladder, feeling state after state. In case if, during the previous stage, client did not realize emotional content of faces on ladder steps, they will feel these emotions now and will be able to call them. Welcome the client to top step of ladder, a desirable emotional state. We repeat this stage two more times. “Ladder” is mastered, now the way how emotions quickly replace each other is familiar and already almost habitual to client, with a desirable state as an outcome. Each next passage of the steps of the ladder of emotions turns out quicker.

7.  Photograph the resulting cards on client’s mobile phone. Task the client to return to photo of emotional ladder once a day for three weeks.

Conclusions. Emotional states are, to a large extent, under control of a person. To learn to influence in due time own emotions, to stop destructive trends and to encourage constructive ones is an important task. It is necessary to study it since teen age. This technique visualizes the complex process of understanding and management of emotions as a number of simple steps manageable both by adult and teenager. Regular practice of this technique helps person to overcome habitual stereotypes of emergence of negative reactions in response to certain external factors.

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