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Icebreakers? Ball Breakers

July 12, 2015

Oh my. Just when 16 years of intensive therapy seemed to have cured me of the trauma of a therapeutic encounter back in 1999, two events this week have set back my recovery by decades.

My problem? Spontaneous (?) expressions at group togetherness and being urged to shake off my shackles before I can engage in a life changing experience. I’ll come on to what caused this later but firstly, the two triggers.

I spoke at a conference on Wednesday and was tipped off before hand that just prior to my talk, the audience would be led in one of those making a lot of noise, moving about a lot sort of exercises that are meant to leave your problems behind and bring you firmly into the room. For me, this kind of exercise takes me firmly out of the room and freezes me to the point of total disengagement. As a warm up, it leaves me cold. Fortunately, I was able to make the excuse that I had some last minute touches to make to my presentation and stayed rigidly outside the room. But the damage was done – I was back in 1999.

Then blow me down, the day after, I was following the latest Southern Health conference on twitter (#SHFTMHLDSU15) and posts started to appear about their after lunch re-energiser. Typical Sloven, no expense was spared and they hired a comms company to lead this regrouping experience. Here’s a photo:

Tragedy

I don’t want to mock but it looks like they’re trying to do the Steps version of Tragedy but haven’t quite got the moves right.

Back to 1999. It is the residential weekend of the counselling diploma course I was on. The whole Saturday was given over to a Psychodrama workshop. People are understandably apprehensive. These workshops can strip you naked and leave you there. The tutor pitches up, takes off her shoes and announces that we need to connect. We need to centre. We need to disinhibit. She then gets her portable cassette player out and puts on Rocking All Over The World. She then launches herself around the room like a kangaroo on whizz. One by one, people nervously follow her. Some just copy what she is doing. Others start dancing like they’re at the scout’s disco. I cannot move. I am gripping the side of my chair and I don’t have enough hands to cover both my ears and my eyes. My best friend is a genius. She makes  an excuse to go to the ladies and reappears a couple of minutes later and starts throwing cushions at all and sundry. The song finishes and everyone sits back down. Deep discomfort rules and the nerves about the psychodrama are more palpable than ever.

The workshop is awful. Unboundaried. Exploitative. Very upsetting. It was a vehicle for the tutor’s ego. After lunch we have a review of the morning and I offer my feelings of disquiet. The tutor then invites me to work through my feelings of unease in a psychodrama. Checkmate. We have a tense standoff for a few minutes but she can see that I’m not going to move out of my chair. By the end of the afternoon, everyone is wringing wet. Any protective layers we had when Francis Rossi started singing had been ripped from us.

Then something perfect happened. My friend suggested we have a cabaret in the evening. Totally spontaneous. Someone did some conjuring tricks. Someone did a reworking of Hiawatha. As it was my 40th birthday, I was asked to be the compere. The tutors were furious. They complained that we had shut down the opening that had been created by the psychodrama. Too bloody right. You can’t force people to be spontaneous.

Since that day I’ve been left with the thought that an icebreaker doesn’t really work if it leaves you thoroughly frozen.

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From → Social Care

12 Comments
  1. Deb permalink

    Southern Health… what a bunch of feckless clowns, are they in the “learning how to smile sincerely class”.? The image of that photo will help me to deal with their attitude from now on, ha ha…. so thanks that’s great.!!!

  2. Amanda B permalink

    Know how you feel Mark. Many years ago I was at a workshop where we were encouraged to get into pairs and discuss our experience of the Troubles (I live in northern Ireland). No thought was given to the trauma people might have experienced or how this might be dealt with. I refused and was told to sit on the sidelines and do some reading. I couldn’t believe how many people went along with the exercise and didn’t question the leader

  3. nic permalink

    too much psychodrama for me all around, not a lot of re-energizing going on for many people ( 168 hours a week commitment is so normal for so many ) barring sips of tea, that works. Bit of an eye opener, the tea parties and the workshops, explains a lot of the alien like encounters. Rather not have had these insights, another layer of strangeness discovered. Where are all the ordinary folk, anyone fancy just doing their job well , its normal for everyone to have a protective layer of sortsthat is how you do the whole damn thing again the next day. No time for laying it all bare. No more tea and cakes either just do your job.

  4. Sally permalink

    You are so right Mark, Frankly it’s exploitative crap.I did counselling training at the tail end of the heavily self indulgent psychodrama movement and their workshops were best avoided during training.
    it was self indulgent bollocks often led by someone who was.terribly pleased with themselves. This was in the time of the guru style practitioners who believed they could do just about anything to clients or workshop participants without being called to account.
    It isn’t a warm up when it is a form of public humiliation, and exhibitionism in the part of the leader. A Cabaret is a brilliant idea. A group effort, yet everybody can participate in ways which are comfortable for them. Excellent.
    It comes as no surprise at all that Sloven are paying no doubt a lot for this sort of discredited rubbish.
    I am sure someone has mentioned it before. Is Slovennot the name of a minor Harry Potter villain?

    • Really? I didn’t know that about the villain.

      • Sally permalink

        Sorry, no, my attempt at a joke. Sloven the spiteful goblin just seemed to fit..

  5. Deb permalink

    On reflection this photo looks like one of those mass brain washing cults like the Moonies…..!!!!!

  6. It’s difficult to express how thoroughly I agree with you Mark. Unboundaried! I’m keeping this short because if I start to rant it will involve foul language and death threats. So I won’t.

    So very well said, sir!

  7. Reblogged this on arthur~battram… and commented:

    This is why I don’t like icebreakers* or warm-ups.

    “Back to 1999. It is the residential weekend of the counselling diploma course I was on. The whole Saturday was given over to a Psychodrama workshop. People are understandably apprehensive. These workshops can strip you naked and leave you there. The tutor pitches up, takes off her shoes and announces that we need to connect. We need to centre. We need to disinhibit. She then gets her portable cassette player out and puts on Rocking All Over The World. She then launches herself around the room like a kangaroo on whizz. One by one, people nervously follow her. Some just copy what she is doing. Others start dancing like they’re at the scout’s disco. I cannot move. I am gripping the side of my chair and I don’t have enough hands to cover both my ears and my eyes. My best friend is a genius. She makes an excuse to go to the ladies and reappears a couple of minutes later and starts throwing cushions at all and sundry. The song finishes and everyone sits back down. Deep discomfort rules and the nerves about the psychodrama are more palpable than ever.

    The workshop is awful. Unboundaried. Exploitative. Very upsetting. It was a vehicle for the tutor’s ego. After lunch we have a review of the morning and I offer my feelings of disquiet. The tutor then invites me to work through my feelings of unease in a psychodrama. Checkmate. We have a tense standoff for a few minutes but she can see that I’m not going to move out of my chair. By the end of the afternoon, everyone is wringing wet. Any protective layers we had when Francis Rossi started singing had been ripped from us.”

    Read on, follow the link…
    ___________
    * unless I’m on a frozen-in Russian trawler in the Arctic, feeling the cold, in which case I really like both.

  8. If they want Psycho-drama, could always offer to re-enact the shower scene, provided the tutor agrees to be the one on the soggy side of the curtain.

  9. Nicky permalink

    I’m shuddering at the very thought/memory of group togetherness exercises.

    On the odd occasions I’ve been faced with them, I usually managed to carry it off without anyone noticing how much I hated it, but it always left me feeling more isolated instead of less. I’m utterly certain that all icebreakers of this type are designed by and for extroverts, with no thought given to the fact that any introverts in the group will be absolutely repelled by the situation. Because surprise, surprise, not all people fit into the same comfortable box.

    • To be honest, I think they are designed by extroverts and delivered by sociopaths!

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