Posted May 31, 2017 in Monthly News

Playing Games

We are at our best when we are playing. When we are playing, we are having fun, and this month we decided we would do some playing with the newsletter format. Previously, we have written separate articles for the monthly newsletters, and this month we decided to try something new and co-create one article. As we tend to work at different ends of the day from different locations, we decided to create a new online dual identity for the purposes of collaboration to avoid having our combined efforts being posted with just one of us being identified as “author.”

When we started discussing collaborating, we were reminded of the way improv actors work together to create comedy. One of the TV shows we both enjoyed has been Whose Line Is It Anyway, a show based entirely on improv.

Here’s an example of how improv actors just “make stuff up”:

Improv is fun, isn’t it…. It’s also serious business. A lot of research supports the idea of Learning Through Play, showing us how having fun is good for both body and mind. Our ability to “go first” is a foundational concept of energy medicine, so we decided to enjoy a novel way of co-creating this month’s newsletter. In thinking about when we most enjoy being together, some of our fondest memories are from the SCS/NLP trainings we conducted. Training with SCS included play—games designed to promote not only laughter, but learning various processes. We borrowed many of our favorite games from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Questions Only is essentially self-explanatory. The only rule is that the entire conversation is based on questions:

        A:   Are you thinking about lunch?
        B:   Was my stomach growling?
        A:   Were you thinking it was?
        B:   Well, if it wasn’t your stomach, what is that sound?
        A:   Was it my asking about lunch?

The process continues until one person can’t think of a relevant question to ask. One student in our NLP trainings disliked the game immensely, and her only participation consisted of, “Why would you ask that question?” While it fit the rules of the game, it prevented the genuine joy of being able to laugh at ourselves and others as we learn. Having fun while learning is the point. Lack of fun may, in fact, be one of the problems with our educational system. One of the teachers in the Dickens novel, Hard Times is named Mr. M’Choakumchild. We suspect that you can remember teachers who made learning fun and those who had a “spare the rod, spoil the child” approach to teaching and learning.

Clever teachers think of new ways to have fun with learning. Another idea from improv, “Props,” starts by taking ordinary objects and imagining their being used for alternative purposes. A pen becomes a flashlight. A hair brush turns into a phone. A piece of play dough morphs into a booger. A similar improv concept is “If You Know What I Mean,” which uses analogies in an unusual way.

Our most memorable version of “If You Know What I Mean” was based on the work of Joseph, who made a living selling home improvement, including new roofs. In the game, each phrase appropriately related to the occupation is followed by, “If you know what I mean.” The resulting innocent suggestibility of sexuality opens up the second chakra, letting it’s creativity flow.

        “I’d like to tar her shingles, if you know what I mean.”
        “She’s got a nice pitch to her, if you know what I mean.”
        “She’s certainly not going to leak now, if you know what I mean.”
        “Her seams are nice and tight, if you know what I mean.”
        “Her chimney is smokin’ hot, if you know what I mean.”

What was most important in our use of improvisational games was that it gives students ample opportunity to have fun while learning. Without fun, learning something new, especially something as complex as NLP, can trigger fear of failure and/or performance anxiety. Being able to enjoy ourselves stimulates good brain chemistry. Laughter is a release of tension, much like sneezing or orgasm. Brain and body chemistry both change for the better. The best comics know this well (if you know what I mean).

In 1964, Norman Cousins was told by a doctor to “get his affairs in order,” that he had a 1 in 500 chance of survival. His strategy was unique at the time: He fired his doctor, found one who would work with him, started Vitamin C injections, and spent time watching funny movies, including the Marx Brothers and Candid Camera episodes. Oh, Norman Cousins did die, but not until November 1990. This was a full 10 years after his first heart attack, 16 years after he was told to get his affairs in order, and 26 years after his doctors first diagnosed him with heart disease.

Laughter really is the best medicine. One of the staples of television has always been “sitcoms,” or situation comedies. The “I Love Lucy” episode where Ethel and Lucy are working at the candy factory is a classic.

The episode on the Mary Tyler Moore show featuring the funeral of Chuckles the Clown has also become a classic.

And, if you’re old enough, you may remember many other situation comedies that provided your evening entertainment. Are you still watching comedy shows?

One of the things about current TV comedy is that the shows seem designed primarily for younger viewers, viewers probably too young to understand the implications of The Odd Couple, a show definitely intended for adult viewers. I suspect not only that TV has changed, but also audiences have changed. It seems as though there is a tendency for people to lose their enjoyment of life as they get older. A long time ago, a poet named Robert Browning, said ““Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” For the complete poem, see Rabbi Ben Ezra.

Wherever you are in life, you can determine that the best is yet to be. And, under the premise that laughter is the best medicine and the key to remembering, here’s one more round of “Whose Line” episodes:


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