This article first appeared on the LSPConnect Magazine, Issue 01 | Winter 2020
For a couple of years now I’ve been intrigued by the idea of enhancing my LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (‘LSP’) practice with a more “integral experience”.
By this I mean an approach that is centred on the whole body and emotional intelligence, and how it is applied to creative work for personal transformation. The intention is to widen the spectrum and range of possible applications that can be made, by combining a variety of creative sources for a more immersive and comprehensive experience.
In this article I’m going to expand on the reasons for coming up with this alternative Application Technique, which I’ve called “Simple Guiding Emotions”.
What is the difference between this and the classic “Simple Guiding Principles”? What are the basic assumptions for applying this technique? Which “LSP rules” were “broken” and why? Lastly, I’ll share some insights on how I’ve experimented with this application.
The whole idea behind this experiment was inspired, on the one hand, from my work with the Applied Hero’s Journey approach for personal transformation and, on the other hand, by my personal background in bioenergetic and performative arts.
Since the idea for this Application Technique is strictly interrelated to this trans-disciplinary context, it might be useful to briefly revisit some of the fundamentals.
BACK TO BASICS
This application technique draws on some of the basic principles of the Applied Hero’s Journey approach:
The 80/20 Principle Inward (or the Lonely Guy Within)
The Blind Question that lies within Let’s see very briefly how they work.
THE 80/20 PRINCIPLE INWARD (THE LONELY GUY WITHIN)
This is one of the key ideas behind the applied Hero’s Journey approach. In short, it is related to the observation that although we seem to be individuals, we are actually plural beings. Each of us has a great multitude of distinct personalities coexisting within the same body, sharing the same psyche. Nonetheless it happens that the biggest part of our psyche is normally controlled only by one dominant agent, the Ego-mind. Beneath this small portion of enlightened/conscious order lies a multiform underworld of non-conscious agents; we can call it the Shadow System. This is where our life force springs and thrives in many different ways and forms, such as various personalities, characters, emotions, complexes, personas and archetypes (which are - according to the Jungian approach - energetic and dynamic combinations of symbols and emotions). Now, if you think about it, the relationship between the Ego-mind and this Shadow System is the same one that exists between the Boss and the Lonely Guy. So, in the same way, the purpose of the Hero’s Journey approach is to give voice to this inner Lonely Guy and then enable a positive 100/100 balance between all this complex ecosystem of inner dynamics. Now, in brief, the fundamental idea behind the applied Hero’s Journey approach is that we can apply the symbolic-archetypal system to the LEGO Serious Play process and so observe that what people build in their LEGO® models is actually a creative projection of their inner world and dynamics: so that values, beliefs, behavioural patterns, decisional styles, resistances, intentions, blocks and potential can be here creatively represented/projected into the model through symbols and archetypes, emerging from building patterns, “lapsus” (what I call “game-lapses”), metaphors and personal as well as collective narratives. Stay tuned for more about this.
THE BLIND QUESTION THAT LIES WITHIN
In addition to that and based on what I’ve been observing and developing with the applied Hero’s Journey approach for personal transformation, I truly believe that, by building the model, the participant does NOT actually answer the facilitator’s question (in fact, that’s just an external trigger); ultimately, when we’re asked to build a model, we always answer a blind and deeper Question that lies in our personal “innermost cave” (to use a classic Hero’s Journey expression).The point is that this “Blind Question” that we bear within is exactly what our Ego-Mind (Inner Boss) never wants to question: let’s say it’s a blind spot.
Finding/arousing this Blind Question is crucial and that’s the ultimate purpose of any LSP Hero’s Journey facilitation process for personal transformation.
For this reason I say that the model is always a message and an invitation for us: a call to exploration toward that innermost cave. In the applied Hero’s Journey approach for personal transformation, the facilitator puts in place the initial question as an external trigger - sometimes it’s even built as a “trick”, a nudge toward a “trap” or a “bait”, that could prompt that (game-)lapse to catch the Ego-Mind off guard, which is needed for the journey. Just like a Rabbit Hole, an unexpected call to exploration, but the facilitator knows that the rest of the challenge consists ultimately in leading each participant toward that Blind Question that lies within.
Again, stay tuned for more about this ;)
FROM “STRATEGY” TO “QUEST”: THE REAL TIME TRANSFORMATION
Now, the reaching of that “innermost cave” is not so much about a “Strategy”, but rather a Quest. This is why the applied Hero’s Journey approach focuses on “RealTime Transformation” instead of the classic “Real-Time Strategy” (this shift is also consistent with the idea of gradually getting rid of obsolete militaristic metaphors that still invade our language). We know, for instance, that the worthy conclusion of a “Real Time Strategy” is the definition of the “Simple Guiding Principles”, consisting in a smart way to translate the lessons learned in the LSP workshop into “actionable guidelines” for the future: which is so great, clear and pragmatic. As long as we remain within a certain context, which is mostly the domain of the strategic business commander/performer (read Ego-Mind). But what happens when we move toward the human/ personal side of the story? Are “principles” enough to deal with that different level of complexity?
WHAT REALLY DRIVES YOU? (A CREATIVE LINK TO OUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE)
Let’s just think about ourselves: when we’re in a moment of crisis, transition and change, are we more often driven by “principles” or by “emotions”? In the real world - when a crisis comes - our principles are so easily blown away to make room for a complex - and often bewildering - range of emotional responses (emerging from that under-world) so that our behaviours and decisions are just driven/triggered accordingly. The idea of the “Simple Guiding Emotions” originates in the form of principles that are not aroused by an ego amplification but rather by an immersive and mindful listening, an emotional experience that will serve as a starting point for the construction of the model.
So, as we’ll see in a moment, the initial question is not “directly posed” but rather indirectly “prompted” and guided - in the form of an unconventional, immersive and creative experience - so that each participant could find a personal way to probe and dig out a unique call to action that will serve as a “Simple Guiding Emotion”. In other words, this Application Technique is meant to be an actionable link to our Emotional Intelligence that also aims to prove to ourselves that the “under-world” we fear can be on our side. As J. Campbell once stated: “ the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”.
THE STORY OF AN EXPERIMENT
A bit of context first. A few weeks ago I ran a full day workshop for only 2 participants (husband and wife) with a classic Hero’s Journey standard in the morning and the afternoon entirely dedicated to a work loosely based on the “RTS for the team”, specifically adapted for the couple. The aim of the workshop was to unlock and expand the sense of purpose and awareness about themselves as individuals and as a couple, enabling and facilitating a space of open and mindful communication as well as providing them with creative tools to be integrated in everyday life. Note that, although this experiment has been run for a couple, it has a quite broad and still unexplored range of application areas - so, not just couple counselling and relational coaching - but, for instance, facilitation of group dynamics, agile coaching, conflict management, education, community engagement, nonviolent communication, diversity and inclusion, empathic leadership and, in general, any time there is a desire to enhance and embrace the human factor as a core driver.
SIMPLE GUIDING EMOTIONS: EMBODYING ARCHETYPES
First of all, up to a point, they basically follow the structure of the Simple Guiding Principles: as long as the aim of this application technique still comes in the final part of the workshop to conclude the “Real Time Transformation” process by turning the lesson learned into actions, choices and behaviour to be integrated into real life. But, here we go with a distinctive key element: the Simple Guiding Emotions are a creative way of letting an emotive guiding principle emerge from our “underworld”; like an emotional compass to recall every time we’re facing challenging moments into uncharted waters. Note that they’re not a way to get rid of “principles” as such, but rather to innervate those principles with life force. In one word, Simple Guiding Emotions are a creative way of embodying archetypes (as dynamic and energetic combinations of symbols and emotions), and this is why they perfectly match with the context of the applied Hero’s Journey approach.
Here’s the rough structure of the day.
Morning (about the individuals):
AT1: Reconnection challenge (“Double Tower”)
AT1: Hero’s Journey challenge
Transformation of the model
Extraction of the Hero’s Core
Afternoon (about the couple):
AT2: Shared Identity
AT2: Shared Vision
AT1: Core emerging issue
Double agent (call to action): 1. How can I help? 2. How can you help me?
Simple Guiding Emotions
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Now, in practice: the central point here is about the reset of the “1st Step” of the LSP Core Process, since in this peculiar application technique it doesn’t merely consist of a classic question, but rather a different kind of challenge. In fact, the trigger here is NOT a verbal question posed by the facilitator to the participants, but rather an “experiential challenge” which aims to spark a deep and wide variety of emotional responses (somehow creatively related to the workshop’s main topic). This “experiential challenge” can be described as a bodycentred, guided exercise of emotional release. [My personal background in bioenergetic, performing arts and holistic counselling gave me inspiration] In the case of this workshop, the exercise was based on an emotional dialogue between the two of them, with eyes closed and only through their hands (under my guidance). A way to sensitise and raise awareness with our hands - just in a different way - and come full circle with the “3 Hs” : Hand, Head, Heart. After such an “experiential challenge” - but still ensuring a continuous flow - the invitation to the participants was to elaborate what/how they felt by building a model that could represent a “Simple Guiding Emotion” (to be offered, eventually, to the common cause). Hence one can easily see how it goes much further than a classic set of “principles”. In fact, the purpose of the “Simple Guiding Emotions” is to actually fix the commitment previously expressed with the “call to action” to an emotional response: as we said, it is not a way to get rid of the “principles” as such, but rather to ground them and turn them into life force, so they become memorable and truly transformative.
The way of the “Simple Guiding Emotions” goes further than the “think with your hands” principle, more toward a “feel with your hands” invitation that leads in the direction of a greater holistic experience about who we are as individuals and collectively. We know that in order to truly learn something in a positive way, just as theory alone is not enough nor is experience as such; we embody a new learning only when – within a safe and inclusive space – the experience is strongly linked to an intense emotion, which will be then the subject of a deeper elaboration/ reflection. It’s a way to radically challenge ourselves beyond the limits imposed by our inner “Boss”, the Ego-Mind (beyond biases and assumptions), to unchain more of that inner “Lonely Guy” that thrives through our emotional-body, and so to innervate our “guiding principles” with life force that could be truly memorable and transformative for us.