SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?
The essence of behavioral sciences is the view that it would be more beneficial to use all disciplines related to the subject instead of using a single discipline to understand human and human behavior. Creative drama practices such as improvisation and its derivatives are a very enlightening and high potential discipline in this regard.
One of the biggest functions of our subconscious is to protect us, and it often uses bad or negative thoughts and schemas in this protection process. In a way, this "well-intentioned" operation is something that prevents us from facing ourselves, staying in the moment, being aware of ourselves without judgment. So what is the weakest point of the subconscious mind? Free Association! Free association is a psychoanalytic tool introduced by Sigmund Freud. This tool allows the client to express whatever comes to mind during the therapy. Today, free association constructs the basis of many of the improvisation practices.
If we start from the meaning of the word, improvisation is a way of saying without any preparation, suddenly and as it was born into it. It is now well known that drama studies, structured or semi-structured improvisation exercises, creative activities in groups or involving at least 2 people generally have a relaxing effect and facilitate stress management.
We can talk about many positive effects of this type and similar studies, but in fact, the most important factor underlying all its positive effects is how much individual’s mindfulness has improved thanks to these exercises. In other words, we can say that the emergence of many positive results that we can easily list, such as stress management, reduction of anxiety problems, and improvement of anger control, are actually the results of mindfulness that develops thanks to these creative practices.
So why is mindfulness so important?
Mindfulness can be described as a mental state obtained through observing one's own thoughts, feelings, and body, to answer the question "What am I experiencing right now?"
Mindfulness is about focusing your attention on the present. It is a state of awareness when attention is focused “non-judgmentally” and “willfully” on what you are now feeling, thinking, seeing, hearing, feeling in your body. An important feature of mindfulness is that subjective experiences such as thoughts and feelings are approached with acceptance. In mindfulness, thoughts and feelings are not rejected, judged, suppressed, or avoided. All momentary experiences, positive or negative, are accepted and released. Thus, the capacity to tolerate negative experiences (such as anxiety, sadness, and anger) increases.
Being conscious (i.e. being aware, self-consciousness) is a description of a being that enables us to accept whatever may arise in the present moment, rather than staying in the past or pinning our hopes on the future. The development of awareness is actually a pure state of being.
Before I talk about an example application that I think that it shows the benefits of improvisation exercises very effectively, if we need to list the most important psychological effects of creative activities like improvisation, we can mention it as follows.:
- Improvement of mindfullness,
- The development of creativity and different perspectives
- Improvement of stress management or decrease in stress level
- Better anger control
- With better recognition of emotions, more minimalization of mood complaints
- Overcoming problems such as the lack of self-confidence, stagnation in communication, overexcitement in front of the community and self-control, which can be experienced in daily, business and private life,
- Easier to understand the starting points of behaviors as well as emotions
Finally, I would like to talk about the sample application that I mentioned above. I voluntarily carried out experimental drama and improvisation studies with individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Community Mental Health Center affiliated to Bakırköy Mental and Neurological Diseases Hospital in Istanbul. We continued to work on a regular basis, once a week for about 5 months. Since the patients were in remission, they had passed the stages of acceptance the diagnosis and its treatment, which is one of the most difficult parts of schizophrenia. But many of them still had serious problems with personal hygiene, having a good communication, and self-confidence. As our work continues, remarkable progress has been made in many areas like them. They began to see their potential and improved in many aspects as their mindfulness improved day by day. To list briefly;
- Giving importance to self-care (i.e. personal hygiene, cleans clothes, etc.)
- Gaining self-confidence and accepting their current diagnosis on a more realistic basis, by becoming more aware of the labeling (or stigmatization) they are exposed to
- Expressing themselves much better. Developing proper communication skills,
- The prevalence of a more stable and positive mood
- Developing a sense of responsibility
- Reduced stress and anxiety levels compared to before
I was born in January 1991 in Bursa, Turkey. I completed my undergraduate education in Psychology at Bahçeşehir University in 2015 with a full scholarship. During this period, i was included in the internship program at the Institute of Behavioral Sciences in Istanbul and voluntarily participated in clinical applied social responsibility projects (family therapy, child, adolescent and adult clinical evaluation and various test applications, etc.