The Scenario: a.k.a. “Improve Your Relationships by Harnessing the Power of Freaky Synchronicities”
September 10, 2010 § 2 Comments
Last night I met up with Àngels in front of Café Zurich, which if you’re ever in Barcelona is the de facto meet-up place in the centre of the city centre. And being de facto we instead didn’t go inside Zurich but went in search of a quieter place a few blocks into the atmospheric Raval; grimy neighbourhood of artists, drug-dealers and pickpockets. 8pm is a tricky time in Spain to meet someone for a drink: some people are finishing work and others could be at any interval between breakfast and slumber. Coffee or beer is thus a difficult decision to make at 8 o’clock, and we somewhat suitably went for claras and brave potatoes. (That’s orangeade shandies and stale day-old potatoes in mayonnaise and spicy sauce).
Àngels was my coursemate and partner for one of the most important exercises from the Summer Courses in Cazalla. We shared a rather sobering experience just two weeks before this evening drink and it was time to catch up before I left the city. As conversations can go after a couple of drinks, this one went pretty esoteric, as we discussed those strange synchronicities we experience from time to time in our relationships – you know, like when you have a strange dream about that person you haven’t seen in eight months and they send you a message the next day. It could be the case, we pondered, that the 10% of our minds of which we are conscious are our own. And it could be the case that the other 90%: that spooky unconscious part, is actually collective throughout the entire species.
Now I’m not going to deny that dreams and messages and surprising synchronicities actually happen, but I am from Oxford; and if something is not proven and confirmed by the scientific method and readily repeatable under the explanation laid out in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, my culture impels me to cry “charlatan!” But in these moments I remain with the first lecture I had at University, which laid out the rules and model of the intellectual, who constantly seeks to question that which is readily accepted by the crowd, and constantly seeks to search credence in that which is readily dismissed. In other words, give mumbo jumbo a chance, my son.
I’m also reminded of that great quote by Nietzsche who claimed that “Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity.” Uhm but now it seems we’re getting off-topic. Back to the mumbo jumbo..
Now Àngels and I worked together in Cazalla on an exercise named “The Scenario”. We were both drawn to different places around the monastery in which to do the exercise – her in an exhibition room that was like a long corridor with a cold ceramic floor and porcelain and artwork straddling the walls. I was drawn to, very strangely, the altar of the church – ready to act out my Scenario on stage to a capacity of some 500 people in a cold, dark and echoey chapel in the middle of the day. Rays of light found their way in from time to time, and both luke warm and chilly sensations wrapped our bodies at unpredictable time intervals. Of course we had a cup of warm tea to sip from at all times, and upon choosing subject matter for this exercise, Àngels selected a professional relationship to work on; me, another long-term flirt that seemed dead in the water and mired by a series of delays and mental games.
Again, what’s necessary to carry out this exercise is space in which to do it, and various pieces of paper to spread out around that space. The Scenario also benefits from having a partner present. So, first of all you represent yourself on a piece of paper, and place that where it needs to be. Then, you represent the other person – the person whose relationship with you you want to improve or learn more about – on another piece of paper. This could be a simple drawing, the writing of their name or even just their initials. Place the other where they need to be, in relation to you. Then, write context 1, context 2 and context 3 on three more pieces of paper and place those in spaces, or vantage points, around the relationship of you and the other. More or less in places that feel about right. The Scenario should now be set up.
So mysteriously enough, I’m at the centre of the altar, facing the other, who for all intended purposes we can mysteriously call A, who is looking back towards me. If this were a wedding we’re bride and groom. Cue unconscious groan, cue shared face of spooked realization between Àngels and I. This was not manipulated, I only put the papers down in places that seemed “right”. Three vantage points of context became situated as 1) someone like the best man, diagonally situated behind me and seeing the relationship from my side and up-close; 2) random ceremony attendee seated on the bride’s side of the church fairly distant from the action; and 3) the priest himself, unbiasedly placed between the two of us as if to form some kind of triangle.
I’m asked by Àngels, playing coach during this part of the exercise, to step into my own shoes, onto my piece of paper, in the middle of the Scenario. I’m asked about what I think from there, what I feel from there, and what I know from there. I’m asked to reflect on what’s going on between me and A, how this relationship is taking shape, and why it’s like it is. I leave the Scenario and am asked what the relationship gives me, and what I give to the relationship. I’m then asked to make some general comments about the experience of “playing” myself in the Scenario and give some feedback. I don’t really know anything I didn’t know before, but I certainly feel more connected to the relationship in terms of how those old feelings and ideas have been brought back to the fore, rather than scattered and half-forgotten as they were before the exercise. Okay… Now I’m asked something about football and I get excited because my team is in the Champions League for the first time in our history and we’re playing the European Champions next month and it’s all rather exciting and … my state of self-association and self-indulgence is completely broken and I’m in a clearer frame of mind to play A.
So I’m invited to step into A‘s shoes. It’s seemingly difficult to really put yourself in the position of the other, but by standing over her representation on that little piece of paper on the floor and looking towards where I was standing just moments before help me to get some perspective. I imagine her physiology and her tone of voice and the kind of things that she says. I try to turn off my damned analytic Oxfordshire science-brain for a few moments and permit the – dare I say it – collective unconscious to infiltrate my body and work it’s magic. I look back over at me and feel smaller, more feminine, more fragile; actually more like A.
And you know the next sensation that arrived? A strong tingling in my crotch, quickly followed by some kind of energetic current running around my knees and up my legs, and also in my hands and lower arms. I’m in the shoes of this girl, looking and thinking about me, and feeling totally and utterly turned on. I obviously start to doubt the whole Scenario but also marvel at the size of my own ego being able to produce so much certainty that I can turn a girl on so much by just standing in front of her. I feel as if I want to quit the Scenario as the whole arrangement just feels so stupid but Àngels starts to batter me with questions, the same ones as before but picking up on every possibility and semi-answer and grilling me for more and more information.
And as my mind, now firmly in the shoes of A, starts to recollect the specific whys and wherefores of the relationship, I start to feel static. My whole body freezes, arms outstretched and at 45 degrees from my sides; feet unable to move, internal feelings and tinglings one by one starting to turn themselves off and I feel utterly frozen. Some kind of sensation is present as a kind of wave covering my whole body and I hear from my timid and tepid voice at responding to Àngels’s questions that I’m totally associated in the role of A; or what I believe could be the role of A or whatever. I’m grilled and grilled and I stand still for what seems like fifteen minutes – completely disabled from moving my body the whole time. When I leave the Scenario I’m completely short of breath and in disbelief at what had just occurred.
I’m asked about what I’ve experienced that A gives and receives from the relationship and it dawns on me for the first time, that cruel and difficult as this person can be, they are actually frozen solid from fear. They may have had at some point some kind of romantic or physical experience that has caused them to shut themselves off from their body for some kind of self-preserving purpose or self control. Now this is hypothesizing, totally, but the big breakthrough for me was that this relationship is not about me and how well or badly I was trying to seduce this woman, but that this woman has a history and an extremely complex set of psychological and physiological behaviours – possibly outside of her conscious recognition – that completely determine her responses to my advances. And that if I want to recreate some kind of relationship with this person I would have to radically change my advance so as to continue with the presence that attracts her to me – and she certainly seemed attracted – while at the same time respecting the fact that she could be very afraid of any kind of strong proposition. And then I seemed to recollect at the very same moment every story and every piece of information that A had given me about her past and her past relationships; and once compared to this realization of how she might feel, her entire story suddenly aligned and started to make sense.
I was then invited to step into the context: as best man, as observer and as priest. I felt the relationship unfold from three different perspectives and saw how possible it looked and what could be built long-term between us. I realized that I was in control of the destiny of this relationship – well, not in complete dominant control – but I had an awareness that could help me out massively in terms of how to treat A, how to make her feel safer and more comfortable with me, and how I could – with this new knowledge in mind – really go about approaching her in a drastically different way. Of course, that’s if I’m motivated to, and I’m not at all sure if I am.
The big learning here had more to do with compassion, and how it’s easy to turn yourself against the opposite sex when you see their behaviour as something that again and again hurts or disappoints you. If you can successfully put yourself into their shoes and look back at yourself; if you can see the relationship as a whole from a variety of different perspectives, you can learn much more about what’s really going on there. And bearing in mind that both women and men produce patterns of behaviour based on often unconscious manifestations of past experiences, you begin to see that someone’s difficulty, indecisiveness, slipperiness or cruelty towards you isn’t necessarily their fault, and isn’t necessarily under their control. And this new insight breeds compassion, tenderness and love: real values from which to build a future relationship with that person, or with another.
But come on, compassion, tenderness and love are nothing new.. Jesus had that one figured out and he lived two thousand years ago, even before personal development blogs.
Later on, Àngels had a go at the exercise. I’ll spare you most of the details because they’re hers, and you’ve already experienced how the exercise does and can work. The main thing she took away was an incredibly sobering experience upon realizing exactly the stress and pain her boss was going through, and exactly why she had to maintain a certain distance from Àngels at work. So many things, until now difficult and confusing, suddenly became clear and logical, and when I invited Àngels to really take on the role of her boss and wear her shoes, put on her clothes and do her hair, she had a huge emotional swelling in her body and burst into tears at the recognition of the grief of her boss’s situation. When she stepped aside into the vantage point of the context moments after, she saw everything with a cold objectivity that didn’t at all reflect the severe emotion expressed just a few minutes earlier. Spooky indeed.
And you want to know what is spooky, and why this post began by talking about synchronicities? Mmmmm….! Because things have happened. Things have happened in the “real” world. We’re not sure if we’ve created these changes by giving off subtle signals in our body language and tone of voice that tell our respective others that we now completely understand them and have some extra kind of compassion for them – or if they realize on an unconscious level, given that this level is of course completely collective (!), that something out there in the universe has been hugely altered.
Now what things have changed? Well it’s only been two weeks, so we’re still in the early stages here, but Àngels’s boss opened herself up on a hugely personal level, talking about a difficult personal event with incredible frankness within the workplace – something seemingly impossible in their particular professional context of one month prior. And with A? Well we messaged each other for the first time in over six months this week, and she’s encountered a huge and important personal change: something that completely changes the dynamic if there were ever to be an us. In fact, a dynamic that could very strangely work out, if things should go ahead as planned. (If we ever get married be certain that I’ll let you know..)
Now in conclusion to all of that, this rational mind of scientific method is inching ever closer to the wonders of the intangible, the unmeasurable, the witchlike, and the kind of stuff we can’t put in a wheelbarrow. Am I correct in doing so? Who knows. Is the information that Àngels and I received whilst in the shoes of the other 100% correct and verifiable? Who knows. In fact, it’s probably not even that important. And I’m certainly not about to ask A if she suffers from an abnormally stunted connection with her body due to extreme waves of paralyzing fear that manifest at romantic propositions. So in this case, what are these two-and-a-half-thousand words of random story all about? Well, based on what we got out of the Scenario that very day in Cazalla, we’ve both understood our relationships in a completely different way. We’ve already noticed changes and we’ve found more options on how to act with our respective others in different circumstances. Put short, we have more awareness, more perspective and more autonomy and strength in building these relationships into something caring and mutually beneficial. And that my friends, is the wonder of Personal Coaching.
What next? For some real freaky synchronicity shit I’m gonna head on over to youtube to check out some family constellations.. And later tonight I’m gonna put myself in the shoes of Lula to see if the Brazilian government can give me a grant to carry out my project there next year. I mean, I’ll be helping out, why not. Gotta try and harness the power of the collective unconscious, right? Muuuaaaahahahahahaaaa…
Quick question for you: have you ever experienced any weird kind of synchronicities? Any dreams that later came true or brought about strange coincidences?
Do you have any opinions on any of the themes discussed above? Your comments will be extremely welcomed!
And as a bonus and as an incentive, if five people in the comments section ask me to write out clear and specific instructions for carrying out this exercise at home, I’ll update this post and put them in this space here..
Procrastinating? Pick up your Free Workbook and overcome that habit, today.