Developing Emotional Intelligence Through Applied Improvisation: An Essential Mind and Skill Set for Social Workers workshop handout
Emotional intelligence grows through increasing the connections between emotions and higher cognitive functions - experiencing emotions consciously, labeling them cognitively
|Workshop design and facilitation by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, CGP, MT|
Applied Improvisation trains the brain and mind to engage with the tensions of a complex situation through the use of games and exercises that produce a temporary and low-stakes sense of uncertainty and disruption while at the same time producing a sense of fun and aliveness. Learning to manage emotions that emerge during the controlled sense of crisis that occurs when playing a game with others in a safe space is an ideal method for training ourselves to manage real-life situations of intensity and uncertainty without being derailed by the stress response.
The Four primary dimensions of Emotional Intelligence are:
Self-Awareness - the ability to identify our own emotions and what triggers them and to validate one’s own thoughts and feelings.
Self-Regulation/Self-Management - the ability to work through highly emotional reactions without being derailed by them, and to use emotions in positive ways; Self-regulation increases resilience to the stress response that could otherwise be triggered by the onset of a serious problem
Relationship/Social Awareness - the ability to recognize others' emotions, reactions and responses
Relationship/Social Management - the ability to choose our responses to others that are appropriate to different situations and are "intelligent" in the sense that we take into account the emotional tone and tensions without being controlled by them;
Daniel Goleman, Ph.d, researcher and author of the seminal book on this topic, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations defines self-awareness as "the ability to monitor our inner world – our thoughts and feelings."
Excerpt from "Emotional intelligence training and its implications for stress, health and performance" in the journal Stress and Health, Volume 19 2003: "Emotions serve to draw attention resources to issues that in some way threaten the individual’s integrity; whether that be physical, social or psychological. Emotions are also considered to be adaptive, as they protect the individual from physical harm, facilitate maintenance of self-identity in social settings and guide the individual toward the achievement of tasks and goals. The experience of stress is the manifestation of negative emotions triggered by danger, threat or challenge and which signal to the body the need to prepare for actions of defense and protection."
- Demonstrate how quickly the brain lays down mental patterns;
- Illustrate how disrupting even a brand new mental patterns is uncomfortable, which is why uncertainty is so uncomfortable;
- Focus on the here and now;
- Demonstrate that learning happens in those moments of uncertainty;
- The basic pattern: Everyone stands in a circle. The facilitator starts the game by having everyone say their name, then points to someone in the circle while saying that person's name, keeping the hand extended to clearly show who is being pointed to. This person then points to someone else while saying that person's name, keeping hand extended. Play continues until everyone is being pointed to by someone – no repeats allowed – and the last person points to the facilitator and passes it back to him/her. Ask the participants if they remember who they received from and who they passed to because they are going to stick with these people. Play two more rounds so everyone becomes comfortable and encourage the group to go faster.
- The power of patterning in the brain to produce a sense of certainty and how quickly patterns are created by the brain;
- Failure or great difficulty with this task is a result of the way the brain works and everyone is in the same boat;
- People do get better at this game and are able to handle more than one pattern at a time with a lot of practice, which means we need to embrace the "failure" as a way of examining the emotions triggered by uncertainty. If we keep going and use the emotions triggered by a task like this to understand our own brain we gain a sense of mastery not only over the task but over emotions like anxiety or frustration.
- Increase spontaneity;
- Produce mind/body dissonance* which disrupts habitual thinking;
- Play with breaking out of cognitive patterns;
- Experience a game that is difficult and look at "failure" differently as a result;
What Are You Feeling?
- To practice responding to the last offer made in the development of a story;
- To practice letting go of agendas and connecting to what happens moment to moment;
- To participate in a creative process that involves a low-risk degree of uncertainty;
- To build on the offers made by others;
- To practice managing uncertainty through engagement;
- Experience expressing unedited, unrehearsed self-expression that combines thinking and feeling;
- Commit to a position and then allow the creative mind to justify it;
- Practice emotional engagement from different perspectives;
- Examine an issue from a range of perspectives;
- Experience both the role of attentive listener/active receiver and initiator of ideas;
- Recognize that ambivalence or internal conflict that is below the level of consciousness can be worked through by exploring emotional states;
- Explore the experience of shifting gears emotionally about the same issue or from the same character;
- Explore all the emotional dimensions of a human dilemma;
- Explore the complexities of an issue based on different perspectives;
- What emotional truth was surprising about the issue under exploration?
- What emotion was most challenging to explore and why?
- What insights can we gain from mining the different emotions packed into a single decision or dilemma?