About Last Night…

Last night I hosted a play night in my North Dartmouth studio. We were a good bunch. And I flopped a bit.

There were several take-aways for both the participants and myself.

First thing I’ve observed: People are interested in the theoretical knowledge I have. With this in mind, the activities that I provide a stronger theoretical frame work for tend to work better.

Second observation: I tend to take some of the things that are in my head for granted as common knowledge. This kind of magical thinking is great for me to become aware of within my process of developing a pedagogy. As such, this post will detail a bit of what happened well last night as well as reflections that contain more of my theoretical framework.

Creating a pedagogy of play and resilience

I’m a messy person. My process is messy. Frequently things that I think are ready to see the light of day are just a draft that needs work. I have two modes of operating when beginning something:

  • Plan, control, perfectionism and paralysis – nothing gets done
  • Under plan, under prepare and improvise

So. I either begin by barfing something out and just seeing what happens, or I cower due to the anxiety of trying to make something. I use my perfectionism and way too high standards to hide. Fortunately, over the last two play nights, I’ve erred on the side of recklessness.

The first play night, I used some old faithful exercises in an old faithful way. It went fairly well despite the fact that I was nervous. The second night I did what Jerry Seinfield did when he made the documentary film Comedian. I want to throw away all of my old material and launch my career based on new exercises. I essentially want to create a new show.

Mr. Flop

In the documentary, Jerry goes to open mic nights at New York comedy clubs. There are bits that get a laugh or two. Most times he flops. Jerry flops with humility and grace. In doing so, he learns what works and what doesn’t and after just a year he has enough material for an hour long show. Last night? I flopped. Hopefully with a degree of grace, I took bits that I wanted to test on a group of humans and put them out into the world. Time after time I could mostly see what was or wasn’t working. When I was unsure, I checked in. My group was equal to the task and were generous with letting me know where I strayed. At other times, they were so jazzed by what we were doing, I followed their suggestions and the work really took off. The activities proposed by the group were frequently better than what I had planned and were vital in their impact on the flow of the evening.

The Gestalt cycle of experience

Sensation, awareness, mobilization, contact, satisfaction and withdrawal are the major stages of the Gestalt cycle of experience.

This cycle is a basic map for how a person becomes aware of a need, mobilizes to meet that need, and achieves satisfaction. The key phases of the process are sensation, awareness, mobilization, action, contact, satisfaction, and withdrawal/rest.

from good therapy.org

Two things about this from last week? First, through play, I’m hoping to help people become more aware of how they move through the cycle of experience through play. Second, I use this as a tool to examine myself in relation to how I engage with people. The Gestalt cycle not only describes the mobilization of energy but also about how we interrupt ourselves / stop ourselves from making contact with the field (our environment). Gestalt is a relational form of psychotherapy – based on I / thou relationships with the world we are part of. Gestalt, in my understanding of, has less to do with our relationship with ourselves and is focused on how we come into contact with others..

It’s all in the timing

This is where my clown training comes in. Clowning, play and comedy they share one key element – timing. Where we are in time, in relation to the field and also how we find the impulse within ourselves. Time and timing for a comic, a musician, an athlete, a teacher and even a therapist isn’t a cognitive experience. It’s felt. It lives in the body. I propose that this felt sense can be plotted on the Gestalt cycle of experience relationally.

If I look at the two sessions that I have led so far with these play groups, the first session, I hesitated. My timing was behind. I was slow. I was behind the impulse withing the cycle of experience. During the second session, I was anxious. I pushed. I raced ahead of the cycle of experience. In the first case I resisted allowing as the tension built within myself. I was stuck and stiff as a leader. In the second session, I was erratic – more like a pinball than a leader. As such I felt ungrounded and less present within the process.

So, I’ll close with this. What is your relationship with the anxious energy that moves through the Gestalt cycle of experience? Do you hesitate? Do you stall? Are you stuck? Can you identify where and how? Or do you push ahead, racing away from the discomfort of the moment?

Presence is the ability to be with the time, with the tension and with the others. Play is a gateway to explore and experience being fully present.

As such, I’d like to invite you to the next phase. Beginning in January, every second Monday night, I will be hosting a series workshops exploring timing, play and resilience. I encourage you to join me for our evenings of People @Play to find out more, sign up in the form below.

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