Skip to main content

TURNING POINTS

by Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP

The scene: A psychodrama and group psychotherapy training workshop intensive, conducted by a highly-respected trainer.
The situation: We have been assigned the task of creating an on-the-spot warm-up exercise for a group. Be spontaneous, but use what we have learned.
My dilemma: I am standing in front of this group of twenty-odd colleagues, some of whom are
brilliant and a bit intimidating, and here's the thing: My mind is blank.


I am supposed to be speaking. People are staring at me, patient and trusting. But I have
nothing. Nadda. No ideas, not even a hint. Time seems to slow down. The anxiety is
overwhelming. So I take action.
I drop to the floor of the stage. I lie there with eyes closed. Still nothing. Now my heart is pounding, because I've started something here and it has to go somewhere or I risk total
humiliation. I begin to roll around on the floor of the stage, eyes still closed, mind still blank. I
pretend to be in a deep sleep, and having a nightmare.
Finally my mind clicks on. All in the same moment, I make a decision to sit up and open my eyes. I tell the group that I just fell asleep and while sleeping, had a dream. I say that they were all in the dream, in which I was standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium all by myself and they were all hiding in various places in the stadium. With that I tell them to - right now - find their hiding place. Everyone scatters and creates their spot. I "find" one person, and together we "find" another, until everyone is out of hiding. Then we discuss:


! How did you like your hiding place?


! What were you hiding from?


! What was it like to be found?


     This experience was over 30 years ago but I remember it with intensity still today because it was for me a turning point. In this encounter with anxiety and public exposure of my self-doubt,
I made a shift. It was perhaps the first time I consciously, knowingly allowed my emotions
and inner struggle to guide me rather than shut them down or cover them up. The success of
that experience was confirmation that my efforts to challenge old ways of thinking - which often
seemed to be plodding along going nowhere - were paying off. I could feel I was on a new road.
   As a psychotherapist and a trainer of both healers and teachers, it is my privilege to help people navigate some of the most significant - also the scariest and most high-stakes - changes in their thinking and their lives. Most of us begin a process of change when the roads we have been going down no longer lead to happiness nor health but we are held back by an understandable fear that we will not achieve the life we envision nor realize our desires.
     For many of us, this is because our built-in psychological GPS is obsolete and needs an
upgrade. The good news is that a creative process of change equips us to navigate new paths of action and expanded directions in life. If a therapeutic or learning process is successful, it is because the therapist helped a person navigate their own consciousness deeply enough to install an internal, emotional GPS that turns what had been unmanageable or hidden feelings into cues and messages by which we are able to make the proper turns on our journey through life.
     Change is a creative process, and we simply will not know at what moment the new roads we take will begin to feel like our own. Its like what E.L. Doctorow said about the process of art: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 


Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff


   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

IMPROV RULES: Social-Emotional Development From The Classroom To The Consulting Room Using AI

"I think improv helps people become better humans. It makes people listen better. Improv rules are life rules. And so, if a lot more people are taking improv, a lot more people are being thoughtful in their daily life about how they interact with each other....We could say that saying 'yes' is the foundational thing, but really its listening and hearing what the other person is saying. Then building off of that rather than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your thing. That's the hardest thing to learn as an improviser-its to listen. And I think that's one of the hardest things to do as a person." 
Learning To Listen, With The Help of Improv, on Atlantic.com
Improvisation can be a seemingly magical experience from the perspective of both improviser and observer. People with little or no actual knowledge about one another, in an empty space, create a world, a relationship, a story with neither script nor director nor defined outcome. It can appea…