Friday, November 26, 2004

"My World, as I see it now" 

I may have mentioned a while back that as well as the normal day to day work that I bitch and whine about, I also do occasional career counselling within the organisation that I work for. We had a training day yesterday, for the half-dozen or so of us who do this alongside our day jobs, looking at some different “tools” to use to help clients, perhaps to gain a fresh perspective on themselves. One of these tools involves drawing; for example, take a large sheet of flipchart paper, some thick coloured marker pens, a quiet corner, throw away any notion of artistic merit, and take 15 minutes to draw - without using any words - "My world, as I see it now".

I'd scan mine in and show it here (in spite of my success in demonstrating the requirement to ignore artistic merit), but I don't have a flip-chart sized scanner, so words will have to do instead.

There's a roughly scribbled house, on it's own with no others nearby. It feels as though it represents stability, something that doesn't easily move. The positive side of that is good - it's somewhere to go, to feel secure, but it also represents a bit of stuck-ness, a bit of inertia. A winding road goes past the door, leading off into distant mountains (all my pictures have mountains - they are my spiritual home, I think, or something like that...). Outside the house are three matchstick figures; my children. Almost opposite the house, the road forks and one branch - the branch they will soon most likely take - leads off in a different direction, off the edge of this drawing. They'll have their own drawings before very much longer. Outside the house stands a picnic table, and on the table are two glasses filled with drink, ready to share with travellers who pass by on the road of life. Past the house runs a line of telegraph poles, with a wire leading off to the house; where the wires leave the page, little sketches of people sitting at computers illustrate the connection with so many people around the world through blogging. And in the distance, beyond mountains and the plain which lies next to them, stretches the sea, with a small boat heading over the horizon - another world beyond this one.

The standard of drawing wouldn’t have shamed a six year old, yet I felt pleased with the result, achieved without a great deal of conscious thought – it just seemed to fall out of my head. The finished picture looked coherent, as though it has been designed as a complete whole, yet as I started with the house and added the other elements one by one, I had no idea what was going to come next; whether there would be any thread to be weaved through it or whether it would be just a collection of isolated images.

Instinctively, it felt true. I nearly said it felt right, but right is a word of judgement. It felt full of meaning both in what was there and in what wasn’t - looking at the complete drawing, I could see layers of meaning behind the few hasty strokes of marker pen. It’s remarkable how this kind of process can bypass the verbal centres of the brain in order to carry meaning from the part of us that thinks non-verbally to the conscious parts that have grown used (and perhaps become restricted) to working within the linear processing constraints of words.

Some of the symbols will be obvious to anyone, and some of the inferences that I can draw will be hidden from most. But get this: I drew this at work, in a work-related context, yet it wasn't until I'd finished and seen other people's drawings that I realised there was nothing at all on mine that represented or was connected with the work that I do. Except, perhaps, for that picnic table - maybe I'll get some clients calling there for some career counselling, although it's not just for them - anyone is welcome there. Apart from that, work doesn't appear to have a significant place in my world as I see it now. (The way things are going in our organisation, that might turn out to be prophetic).

Oh, and blogs and the people who write them seem to play quite an important part.


(Why not give it a go and see what your world looks like?)

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