Therapeutic Meeples: Inspiration Temptation

Benny returns with a look at the intersection of inspiration and temptation.

inspiration photoInspiration is a big part of being successful as a therapist. It’s those lightning bolt moments where the answer appears suddenly and it makes a huge difference. Inspiration doesn’t just drop out of the air randomly though. Inspiration is the product of experiencing life, especially inspiring bits of life.

It is trite to say that everything can lead to inspiration. Being a creative person means I am inspired by a lot of things. Though not all things. TV or movies aren’t very inspiring for me even though I often like to ask clients what their favorite or top 3 TV shows and movies are. A lot can be learned from what clients like. What brings them joy. It’s like a Rorschach without having to show cards with ink blots on it. Not scientifically valid either. It does offer talking points that can help launch someone onto the next topic, like word association.

My inspiration often comes from music. Right now the new Blink-182 album is inspiring me. I like the addition of Matt Skiba. I’ve also been inspired not very subtly by Neil Gaiman’s books, especially American Gods and Anansi Boys. Mythology from many of the world’s cultures inspires me. I can hear the heads nodding now thinking about Siddhartha and his trials and tribulations on his way to being the Buddha.

Creatives always tell me how they battle temptation.

His stories are great, don’t get me wrong, really highly influential. Temptation, get thee behind me. This is a recurring theme in many mythologies, someone is tempted and they spiral out of control. Creatives always tell me how they battle temptation. A brand new idea, a glorious idea, comes along and it sidetracks their attention from the project they had been working on.

This is relevant in therapy too. How often do clients come in with some brand new concern they want to address rather than picking up with last session? Its temptation to follow that new concern, to address it and forget all about the last session(s).

In a lot of ways it feels like we are all just magpies and we’re moving from one shiny object to the next. The next shiny will bring happiness, until they see the next one. It’s a never ending chase to find that happiness.

Those shiny bits though, if we examine them thoroughly are where we can draw inspiration. The curve of this, the gleam of that, the imperfect scratch, the movement of the particular bit. I think about pocket watches periodically. Like right then. Time as we know is not the therapist’s friend. Fifty minutes is not a lot of time to cover it all, especially with new concerns being introduced. I think of the white rabbit from Alice running about shouting “i’m late, i’m late.” A boss of mine described the phenomenon of clients letting loose a bunch of metaphorical rabbits and trying to distract the therapist from their current line of questioning. The temptation to follow.

Following may lead to an inspiration, but likely is just a distraction. It’s the song, Rabbit Hole from the Blink-182 album. Your thoughts and brain may want to dive down that rabbit hole after that temptation, but what does it in the end provide. Maybe inspiration.

Maybe not. Mostly distraction. The direction lost, steering that vessel back to port where the inspiration originally led. Lead me not into temptation. I don’t necessarily see temptation as evil though. Just distraction.

This need to focus, to be present is a chronic battle. For therapist, for creative, for everyone. Designing games is a huge inspiration moment with more inspiration moments and even more temptations away from the original inspiration. Sebastien Pauchon is a hugely inspirational designer for me. His games Jaipur and Yspahan both have inspired many wonderful new ideas for me.

I think of his games in therapy often. In Jaipur, a great therapy game, you’re tasked with taking 1 card from the display or multiple cards from the display if you trade in your current stock of camels and/or goods you already have. This can be hugely tempting, but doing so may reveal another good you and your opponent both want. Mr. Pauchon leads you into temptation, do you take those camels from the middle, you can have them all! Though now in revealing more cards the goods my opponent needs are on full display, they are grabbing those goods and selling them for big money while I have this group of camels hanging out with me.

I love the push-pull. The idea that you can have something but give up something else in return. Do you chase those rabbits like Alice? Do you stick to the plan and stay on the original inspiration track? So many choices.

With a nod to more choices, Mr. Pauchon’s Yspahan allows you to select actions based on die rolls. Roll a bunch of dice, then take 1 value for an action, if multiple dice you can do that action more. But the way it is lined out, you can always get camels or coins, but rarely investment in shops in the city. Again we have a push-pull, a decision to be made. Do you instead use the die value to move the supervisor and send your investment to the caravan or do you grab a card that could help you later? So many decisions!

The role of therapy is important here, I can justify that new inspiration and temptation. Friends who are mutually inspiring are certainly valuable in this regard. The back and forth is great practice in therapy. Especially if it someone who is open to random questions and willing to be called on their stuff. This is really the biggest goal in therapy. Calling out the stuff, not being distracted by the rabbits, and finding inspiration for the client in that moment. You can call BS on me, but can you give me something new?

My friend, Christine Rose, noted author, speaker, artist, overall creative talent, is a reminder of this. She has given me many inspirational thoughts and hopefully I’ve returned the favor. Always teach something, offer something new. She does this with aplomb.

I have so many more great friends who do this including my wife, Jax. Also friends like Donnie, Ken, Derik, Stefany. So many great folks to challenge me each time we talk. To be fair I challenge them back and maybe this is where the inspiration that I’ve been searching this post for is. That other people are more than just Soylent Green (sorry, spoilers). They are the inspiration, the temptation that leads to new moments in therapy.

This flies in the face of so many philosophers who believed inspiration occurred while they were alone. Alone with their thoughts. I question if I’m ever alone with my thoughts any more. Mostly I crank up the music to prevent that. Like right now. Currently i’m in front of a computer and Kings of Nuthin’ is blasting in my ears while I type. So not really alone at all.

This is where inspiration hits though. The music is inspiring lots of news thoughts for me and I have a great new game idea to add to the stack that I will maybe get to later and it has given me some new ideas to talk to a client I’ll see next week about.

So go get inspired, whatever that looks like for you. It’s all around, every moment of the day. Whether it’s being with people, listening to music, playing games. So many great options for inspiration. Follow some of your temptations too, because life’s too short to avoid them all. Unless you’re Buddha, then avoid those temptations so you can be the archetype for Nirvana.

Headed off down the rabbit hole, you all be kind with yourselves!

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