Practica: Seeing is believing in our identity

Here is an exercise that a colleague shared with me that helps explore how we frame reality according the prerequisites of our personal and cultural identity narratives. We all have plural identity stories and can imagine many more. This exercise brings out the variety of perspectives that we may have about a context that we find ourselves in.

  • Ask your participants to close their eyes.
  • When their eyes are closed, instruct them that, in a moment, you will ask them to open their eyes and then to pay careful attention to what they notice in the room.
  • Do this and have them share aloud for all to hear what stands out for them.
  • Then, ask them to close their eyes once more. Tell them that this time when you tell them to open their eyes, they will be imagining that that they are interior decorators.
  • Do this and again have them share aloud for all to hear what stands out for them.
  • You may repeat the exercise several times, asking them to change their imagined identity each time, e.g., as a four-year-old, as the four-year-old's parents, as a cleaning person, etc., etc.

What's the point? Debrief the exercise asking participants what made the difference in their several iterations. Usually the exercise will illustrate how easily our cognitive frames can change and expand if we allow ourselves to shift contexts and points of view. This means that there are also alternatives to strongly held biases and one an practice new perspectives to alleviate their influence. The will rarely be totally uprooted, but flexing perspectives allows us to dismiss their compelling nature.

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