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MindTrek, wolves and survivors

Written by Kirsikka Kaipainen (6 Nov 2014)

You saved my day!

Role-playing? Storytelling? Toni and I applied these methods in a workshop that we held at the MindTrek conference in Tampere, Finland this week. The fifteen participants seemed to enjoy themselves as much as we did, and more importantly, they got the idea of cognitive defusion.

Kirsikka guiding the participants to try out different emotions.

The purpose of the workshop was to try out in practice how we can take distance to unpleasant thoughts and feelings. We turned one of the cognitive defusion exercises we use in our programmes into action. One brave volunteer, Survivor, stood in the centre of a circle and acted out a situation which we had described to her. The people who formed a circle around her, Wolves, acted out nasty and unpleasant thoughts such as "you are worthless and useless" or "nobody likes you". This obviously made both the Survivors and the Wolves feel bad - which proves that this was an effective way to demonstrate how unpleasant thoughts about ourselves our minds can produce.

Wolves surrounding the survivors.

After this, we let nice and encouraging thoughts join in: "you are beautiful and unique", "you can do it", "you will succeed in everything you do". It was lovely to see how genuinely the participants expressed these thoughts. Finally, we discussed together how the participants had felt and what ideas they had as a result of the exercise.

Having persistent negative thoughts such as the ones we used in this exercise is very common in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Such thoughts used to prevent me from doing things I wanted to do, and keep me silent when it would have been best to speak up. Yet, they are only words produced by our own minds. Why give them so much power? Why believe in them?

In contrast, I certainly choose to believe these words that the participants wrote in their feedback:

You saved my day and I had a lot of fun. Wish we had more time with you!

"This is just a thought" is a great tip.

Looking forward to online tools, such a great idea for e-health!

We felt good after the workshop. Next time, we'll hopefully have a bit more time.

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