04 March 2011

The Kitchen Table

The kitchen table is an exercise which I learned from a woman who is the most skilled hypnotist I have ever seen close up. It is simple and takes very little time, but it does require a dedicated group of people. It is from the Gestalt Psychotherapy field, and very similar in dynamics to the Two Chair Exercise, which I previously went over. The working premise for its effect is that stress and neurosis are often sourced in things which happened long ago when we were less resourceful, and that exploring these event origins with the full array of resources which we now possess will permit us to process them in a healthier manner.

In the kitchen table the subject of the exercise revisits a typical meal in the home of their youth. It is one variant of a role playing exercise, and the role the subject plays is their self, at home, when young. The exercise also requires other players to play the roles of the significant others in the youthful home of the subject--his parents, siblings, &c. The subject specifies the cast in the preparation for the exercise. The subject also specifies a line or two or three for each of the other characters. They can be mundane, but they need to be appropriate to the characters. For example:

"That dress looks pretty".

"I wanted that piece of chicken."

"Do we really have to go to Uncle Drew's?"

The lines do not need to be memorized or professionally acted or voiced. You can even fit a guy in for mom in a pinch. All that is required is that the various characters speak only their lines, and it hardly matters if they speak them especially well. Then the characters sit around a table, just like it is time for a meal long ago and far away in the subject's past. They start speaking slow, distinct, and one at a time. Gradually they speak louder, faster, and overlapping one another. The physiology of what happens can be very strange, but I believe there is an avalanche in the subject's audio processing system; there is just far too much information entering their ears for them to keep up with. Although as the exercise begins they are consciously attempting to follow it all, soon they are overwhelmed by the sound stimulus. The result is (almost invariably) a profound hypnotic trance state.

I once took a poetry workshop with my poet-mentor Dave Brinks in New Orleans, where we did something quite similar as a writing experiment. He had two portable stereos set up on opposite ends of the room. On one he had Coltraine jazz, and on the other he had Bach Brandenberg Concerto. The poets sat in the middle and wrote poetry. Gradually as we wrote, he cranked up the volume on both the Coltraine box and on the Bach box. After about forty minutes, we took turns reading our stuff and giving feedback to one another. That was a worthy writing exercise similar in process. The results could hardly be compared to the kitchen table in the Gestalt psychotherapy room, which are more like abracadabra, presto, and SHAZAM!

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.