A few years back, I was on an improv course in London. It was run by the world famous improv theatre group PGraph, from Texas.
They led exercise after exercise where we’d get on stage, and do scenes where everything was okay.
In drama there’s often conflict. But here, they wanted us to play characters who found everything fine.
When I browse through old posts in this blog, I often have a light bulb moment.
“Oh yeah!” I’ll say, as I remember an old strategy that I used to find useful.
I have forgotten my own advice. And when I read it again I recall that it’s super helpful.
There’s a town in Belgium called Geel. For centuries, its residents have opened their homes to people with severe mental health problems.
Over 200 people with mental health difficulties live there. They are in “foster relationships” with local families.
These boarders have good outcomes. Better than at the hospital they would otherwise be in. For instance, they take less medication.
I want to let you in on something. There’s a lot of score draws in therapy.
This approach works, but only as much as that approach.
This philosophy works, but only as much as that one.
This technique works, but only as much as that technique.
Forty years of research says so.
When we get anxious or panicky, our breath changes.
Instead of regular breaths in, and regular breaths out, the rhythm changes.
We take a loooooong breath in, and a tiny breath out. Then we repeat.
Look at someone in real distress. That’s what their breath is doing. Long breath in, tiny breath out. Over and over again. It looks like they may hyperventilate.
You’re at a party. You’ve been here for three hours. Bob was there when you arrived. So he’s been here the whole time too.
Yet he’s not spoken a word to you.
You’ve watched him mingle around the others, and he seems to have spoken to everyone else.
But not to you.
Imagine someone you care about was about to walk into traffic.
You are not close enough to grab them back.
And if they carry on walking, they’d get hit.
What kind of voice would you use to alert them to the danger?
Would you be timid and polite?
As a writer, I know that telling a story isn’t about saying everything.
Telling a story is about picking tiny aspects from the mass of everything. Then linking them together in a way that kind of matches up.
Telling the story of ourself works the same way. We pick out some things, but we leave out almost everything.
When people come for counselling or therapy, they will naturally want different things. But always at the heart of it is the desire for some kind of change.
It may be a desire to change aspects of their life. It may be a desire to change aspects of themselves.
So they want the therapy to be some kind of “Change Machine.”
Photo: Elise Schnaars
Imagine if you woke tomorrow to find that your best hopes had been realised.
How would you know?
This is a question I often ask my clients.
People tell me a range of things they’d notice that would be different tomorrow.
It’s exciting. Unpredictable too. Everyone has such different ideas about what their preferred tomorrow looks like.