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Showing posts from 2013

Developing Emotional Intelligence: The Very Serious Need For Silliness and Play

A warm-up often used to generate spontaneity and bypass self-consciousness in an improvisation-based workshop is called "What Are You Doing?" The exercise goes like this: 
The first player steps into the circle and starts miming an activity. As soon as the activity is clear, player 2 asks `What are you doing?” The first player answers something that has nothing to do with what he`s actually doing. E.g. if player 1 is cutting someone`s hair, when asked what he`s doing he might say "I`m reading the newspaper".The second player starts miming the activity stated by the previous player. A third player comes up to player 2, asks what he is doing, and so on.Play until everyone has mimed something, and has answered the question.   In subsequent rounds the idea is to pick up the pace so there is very little lag time between question, answer and new behavior.       Simple, right? Silly too. It is harder than it sounds and smarter than you might think. Naming a physical behavior…

The Emotional Intelligence of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela famously forgave the people who imprisoned him, an extraordinary thing especially since they were willing actors in an abusive system, one that imposed decades of indescribable suffering and violence on millions of his people. He forgave Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for doing business with the apartheid regimeand would probably forgive members of the U.S. Congress and political pundits who labeled him a Communist and terrorist even upon the announcement of his death. 
     There were American diplomats who ignored the ignored the brutality and violence of the apartheid government and supported his imprisonment. Most of us would find that hard to take. Most of us struggle to accept being misjudged or unfairly labeled even when the consequences are simply emotional tensions. And in our sound bite culture, there is a rush to idolize a person with such a remarkable emotional capacity. We might miss the ways he was exactly like the rest of us and in doing that miss als…

Developing Emotional Agility And Other Acts of Creation

Its 9 am. A group of staff therapists gather in the nicely-appointed conference room at the central office of this large not-for-profit organization for a special training session. The clinical director arranged this following a traumatic incident at one of the satellite locations, in which a new client was ambushed and assaulted as she walked through the dark parking lot to the office. The perpetrator disappeared into the woods alongside the largely-abandoned strip mall where the office was located and where staff had never felt safe in the first place. The young woman had broken away and screamed "call 911" as she ran through the door, triggering a legitimate panic in everybody there. Both therapists and clients working in quiet rooms were jolted into full-blown fight-or-flight mode. Reports of the incident had a ripple effect throughout the organization, since many of the satellite offices were in similar spaces where staff felt like sitting ducks having to stay open unti…

Smoking, Attentional Blindness and The Tensions of Change

Part one in a series of articles about creativity and the process of change

The farm where I grew up outside a lovely, rural Wisconsin town could change your life in one poorly-timed, seemingly-minor decision. To wear loose-fitting gloves for feeding corn cobs into a crusher, for example, or close your eyes at the wrong second as pitchforks of hay are being thrown in your direction. Life on a working farm is peaceful, nature-centered, and rife with a hundred ways to die on any given day: Heavy equipment with fast-moving rotors and pistons and blade. Towering structures housing tons of grain and hay and free range rodents. Insecticides. Animals who know they are on death row. A person could be run over, buried, sliced, suffocated, burned, impaled, baled, poisoned, drowned, bitten, fall from a great height, at any moment on any given day. And nearly everybody smoked. In our tight-knit community, cigarettes were as much a part of the scene as bake sales, the county fair and Cate…

How Improvisation Promotes Emotional Competence

Every human interaction involves some degree of emotional risk. Buyer and seller, employee and employer, teacher and student, therapist and client and every other combination of roles are most likely to succeed when the risk- e.g., of rejection, being misunderstood, failing to communicate – is managed with a combination of competence and good will. Competence in relationships is a skill set we can spend our entire lives improving. Through practice we can unlearn some of the defensive patterning we developed out of hurt and fear or simply absorbed from the people who around us who had no better tools for navigating emotional uncertainty as well as discover what works better and moves us toward what we really want with other people.

     Improvisation master and Stanford University professor Patricia Ryan Madson describes improv as a training ground for acting with generosity, awareness of the needs of others, and willingness to jump in and share the struggle with others on the stage of…

Five Essential Thinking/Feeling Skills We Can Learn Through Improvisation

The ever-changing dynamics of the networked world can be viewed as a creative challenge or a series of demanding threats, depending on our point of view. There are thinking and relationship skills that enhance our capacity to make the most of the opportunities that lie within the tensions of change and deal effectively with the pace. Improvisation is an experiential method for tapping into our own creative energy while learning new material and connecting with other people. Here are 5 thinking/emotional skills fostered by experiences with improvisation:

Think relationally. Conventional education prepares us to fit into the fairly rigid structures that used to mirror the world of work, with lines of authority clearly defined along what we thought of as the ladder of success. With all the emphasis on right answers and learning the right way to do a thing, our intuitive capacity to recognize subtle connections between existing things or ideas and tolerate the tension of seeing thing…

Why Storytelling Matters Now More Than Ever - and a new class designed for finding your voice

The attraction of true storytelling – as evidenced by the rise in popularity of storytelling-themed podcasts and radio shows, such as The Moth, RISK!, NPR’s This American Life, Radio Lab, among others - seems to be rising along with the speed of life in our 24/7, social-media driven, high-tech times. Audiences stand in line for hours to getinto live performances of true stories, told as often by non-actors as by professional storytellers or performers, possibly in response to what may be a heightened psychological need for this unique combination of communication, creativity and candidness. Think about it. For the first time in human history – thanks to an explosion of technology that sweeps us up in waves of change at an ever-accelerating pace - we can meet, fall in love, have sex, shop for a ring and break up with someone we never actually meet in person. Still, at the core of all our high-tech activity with its constant, streaming demands lies something unc…

Connecting The Creative and the Clinical Through Medical Improv

by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP
Lifestage, Inc
It’s an ordinary day on the dementia unit of a health care facility and one of the residents – we’ll call her Sarah – is trying to leave. The unit is secure and residents wear alarm-triggering ankle bracelets that alert staff if they pass through the door. Matilda, a nurse assistant, reaches out to Sarah, validates and engages her in an attempt to gently dissuade her desire to make that exit. But empathy and redirecting are just not working. Sarah wants out! Beth Boynton, RN, MS, and Medical Improv expert, observes the situation, makes a rapid calculation, then goes to the entryway, hands on her hips, and musters up a stern scowl. “Matilda and Sarah, this room is closed and you are not allow to enter,” she says sternly, like a military guard on patrol. The nurse assistant picks up the story immediately and puts her arm around Sarah, saying “We’re so sorry, we’re leaving, we’re very sorry.” Sarah accepts Matilda's respon…