I was listening to Bessel van Der Kolk the other day on the ‘Feel Better – Live More’ podcast with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. They were talking about the use of drama with young offenders (he called them juvenile delinquents, but I think in the UK we refer to them as young offenders – apologies if I’ve got the terms mixed up).
If you don’t know who Bessel van Der Kolk is – he’s probably THE leading psychiatrist in the world on the subject of trauma and has written a book called The Body Keeps the Score, which everyone should read. I’ve done a few of his courses as trauma and anxiety go hand in hand and I am fascinated by his work.
Anyhow, he was talking about one of the things they do instead of putting young offenders in prison is they treat them with drama and specifically learning to act through Shakespeare and teach them sword fighting.
Weird – huh.
Imagine teaching young offenders to sword fight to support them to stop… you know… offending.
Yet there’s so much sanity in this mad strategy.
See the reason that young people generally get involved in crime is… trauma. Whether that’s big T or small t trauma, it’s still trauma.
The trauma makes them feel helpless, powerless and incapable.
Imagine your body if you felt that way… hunched shoulders, poor posture, compressed diaphragm, breathing shallowly, speech is muffled/mumbled.
Imagine how you’d feel – like no one cares, it doesn’t matter what you do, like the victim, everyone else is at fault, like you’re shit, you have something to prove.
Imagine what you might do… you might be reckless, not care about other properties or people.
Here’s what the acting does.
It uses imagination to change your body physical sensations which changes how you feel and behaviour which changes the result of that.
What the study that Bessel van Der Kolk’s group found was when you support people to FEEL a different way (even temporarily) they start to become familiar with the bodily feelings. And then they start acting differently, not only when acting, but in their day to day life because they become FAMILIAR with those feelings.
Clever – huh. Not so mad after all.
He said, for example, this is what POWERFUL feels like and then they would start to act powerfully.
And then when they became familiar with that feeling it ended up filtering into every part of their lives.
One of the most powerful questions I ask people – if you weren’t feeling anxious… how would you feel? I always ask is how would your BODY feel?
Whilst I am a huge advocate for root-cause interventions such as Belief Coding, EFT, Internal Family Systems that stop anxiety before it even starts… I believe so much can be achieved by using strategies such as your imagination, your body (Amy Cuddy – I think all my clients have seen the ted talk), and embodying those feelings.
These are the strategies ANYONE can learn – including YOU.