Robert Poynton
A cartoony hand-drawn portrait of Robert Poynton
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How are things?

November 30, 2011 – 2 min read


Where I live people are really struggling. There is little work and less prospect of work.  And yet I have had a good year. Which is a bit tricky. For most of the year I have tried to be positive (without gloating) and to do what little I can to spend money locally and employ local people. Whilst being sensitive to what’s happening around me, it also seemed important not slip into negativity myself.

And yet now, as the year draws to a close, I find myself doing so anyway. I have noticed that I am starting to interpret the (completely normal) end of year slow down negatively, and even misrepresent the prospects for next year to myself! It’s reminiscent of the something Keith Johnstone (improv guru) calls ‘joining’ where two actors, if they don’t make an effort, end up mirroring each others actions and mood. .

I am wondering why this happens. I suspect it is partly because I am much more permeable than I imagine, much less an individual and much more a node in a web: so when the web to which I am physically connected is suffering, I interpret things in such a way that I suffer too. Sustaining a different interpretation is hard because it creates too much cognitive dissonance perhaps? Maybe it’s a time of year thing, the year drawing to a close, onset of winter and so on? Maybe it is because in the last few months I have seen people lose hope that it will get any better soon?

Whatever the explanation, I find it striking that reason and knowledge have little power over my emotional state. I have plenty of reasons to feel positive, at least for myself, but I don’t. It reminds me of visual illusions. The fact that you know (because you have been shown) that two lines are, say, the same length, doesn’t help you overcome the impression that one is longer than the other.

Which I suppose is what people mean when they say ‘context is everything’.

So, where’s the offer in this eh?  Well, I think it is to start to ask creative questions. If this isn’t working, or, if it feels like it isn’t working, what could I do or make that would feel better. And interestingly, merely articulating that possibility seems to make a difference….

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