Friday, June 29, 2012

The science of it all

June 29, 2012

By Colleen Jordan

Maureen Anderman
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
The concept of “magical thinking” comes from Jean Piaget, a psychologist who attempted to explain how children use wishful thinking to explain and organize their world, especially when dealing with the concept of death.  Yet at times in our adult lives, we may find it is easier to live in a fantasy world than to deal with difficult reality. Theater has provided that fantastical escape for centuries. 
Theater is also a profound witnessing to the human condition that can stir empathy deep in our hearts. As we project ourselves into the shoes of theatrical characters, we recognize pieces of our own experience: our flaws, life lessons, and shadows. Someone else’s story can provide a safe lens we can use to examine ourselves. Watching The Year of Magical Thinking may unearth unresolved grief and compassion. These feelings can transform into connection and relief if the audience is considered a collective witness to a universal story. Sitting in an auditorium next to others can help reinforce that we are not alone in individual journeys of pain but rather part of a larger culture of development.  

While watching the play, take a moment to think if the person to the left or right of you has experienced loss like Joan Didion, like you, like your family, and wonder how we all have journeyed through healing and found the strength to keep going. Let the play be a journey of your experience mirrored by the characters.

Colleen Jordan is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with an M.A. in Expressive Arts Therapy and a specialization in transpersonal drama therapy. She works with traumatized children and adolescents in a therapeutic school in Western Massachusetts. In the community, she works with the Barrington Stage Company’s Playwright Mentoring Project to help teenagers create original performances based on their life stories.

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