A true story prompted by one year of Play Yourself.
On the practical application of my learning method.
Taking a step in your development is a special moment. You’ve set everything in motion and done all you can to arrive there, and then it happens: suddenly you’re doing something you couldn’t do before. Working with a ‘learning question’ in a learning group of witnesses gives this learning added depth. A real-life example makes this clear.
A participant in the ‘Play Yourself’ course – let’s call her Susan – had the learning question of ‘telling a story in my solo, and so communicating my emotion’. With a learning question you express what you most want to learn; your greatest wish. A learning question like this is a nail in your own coffin, because by formulating and expressing it in this way you simply have to do it. Your deepest wish has been spoken out loud, and there are witnesses to it. So now you’re held to it, and that’s also precisely the value of this way of working.
For Susan, working on her learning question during the rehearsal meant opening her heart. Because what emotion do you want to communicate? At the end of the day there’s only one emotion, and that’s the emotion that arises within you. All the rest is contrived, and deteriorates into mere storytelling. ‘That feels really exposed’, she said, and that’s the crux of the matter. It is exposed. When you go in search of your emotion and express it in the here and now you expose yourself, and that’s a heroic deed.
But in fact there are two heroic deeds: the moment when you express your wish is the first. When you do that you put yourself on the spot. There’s no turning back. In Susan’s case, she can no longer perform a solo that’s technically good but lacks emotion. We already know she can do that, and that’s not what she’s here for.
The second moment is the moment of truth: doing it. So there you stand: the old ways are known, the new way is ‘only’ a wish, and you’ll be searching for it, trying it out, feeling your way in the dark. The moment when someone surrenders themself to this is poignant. It calls for trust in yourself and in the group.
The extraordinary thing is that it always yields something. After all, your learning question formulates a desire. It wasn’t plucked out of thin air, and deep inside you know you can do it. By trying it out in public you create tension in the situation, and it’s this electricity that does the work: you’ve got to do it now, and so it happens. That’s a magical moment, and it’s tangible to everyone. When, after a little encouragement, Susan went for ‘the real thing’ she couldn’t just feel the difference herself; the whole group empathised with her, and that endorsement confirmed that something had really changed in her soloing.
It’s a general rule that things happen when you truly follow your desire. But it does take courage to actually do that. You’re in a trusted learning environment, but you’re also running the gauntlet: just one misplaced remark can disrupt the moment. I like to work with this principle during my courses. The presence of the audience – and more than that, your peers – gives you witnesses who anchor this developmental step: ‘I was there, and I saw it’. This affirmation proves it to you. It was no coincidence; there were witnesses. Something happened, and there’s no turning back. Now you know: I can do it!