WALK THE TALK a psychoanalytic perspective by Jessica Taylor How can we arrive at more meaningful and deeper relational spaces within a group context? When a group is given over to a task, whether work, community or leisure focused, the relational dynamics underpinning the group’s function may be operating at an unconscious level. Culturally, it is rare to ﬁnd a group giving deliberate space to these more subtle and abstract elements of group life. Finding means to explore these areas can enhance creativity and open the way for richer experiences and more meaningful relations within groups. Walk the Talk (WTT) aspires to oﬀer a way and a means to do this. What might be occurring in this experience that lends itself to the group and its members creating a space of mutuality? It could be asked, what ‘talk’ is being ‘walked’ in WTT? The talk seems to be of a deeper kind than that originating from the mind that works with the narrow cyclic movement of the ‘this and that’ of our daily living; the discursive mind. Walking requires us to shift the attention into the body, being aware of one’s body in space when placing a foot here and the next here and so on. The external environment needs to be attended to. When our awareness is grounded in our body, we broaden the mind’s attention opening the way for more playful and abstract levels of consciousness to be accessed; those proceeding from intuition perhaps. The green space in which the walk occurs can facilitate this kind of awareness
by a process of participants’ paralleling the natural and balanced rhythms of nature within their own beings. This ‘talk’, too is facilitated by the space that Cultural Value holds for participants when walking. It dissuades from any deﬁnite purpose but to be present with the other in reverie while being open the exploration of insights that may come from the ensuing external or internal musings along the way. Participants are invited to explore unchartered territory via this sensitive and ﬂexible relationship between containing and being contained that Cultural Value provides. This way of being with another invokes trust that there is a diﬀerent kind of knowledge or wisdom that resides in the human psyche, one that is not at the behest of the reasoning mind. “Culturally, it is rare to ﬁnd a group giving deliberate space to these more subtle and abstract elements of group life." If the discursive mind is solely at the helm we may miss out on the opportunity to make discoveries along the way; we keep our psyches closed, in eﬀect. Exploring in this way we can come to know ourselves and others more wholly and in doing so aﬀect transformation of self and self in relation to other. The use of symbols on the psycho‐ spatial maps to depict the WTT experience provides a transitional function so that reﬂecting with others on the experience can be done in a playful way. Images as tools for exploration can illicit thinking from parts of the brain that words cannot. By free association to these images and symbols in the workshop new discoveries about individual and group identity can occur. The space created lends itself to a
more relaxed way of reﬂecting on and exploring the possibilities between, the fantasies that individuals hold in mind about self and others, and reality, and decrease the possible repression of negative thoughts and feelings. Analysis of individual and group identity is limited in that it gives an understanding of existing individual and group patterns of relatedness. Transitional or playful spaces can go further by aﬀecting the creation of new ways of being; transformation of self and self in relation to others. “Human beings have an innate capacity to attribute to others a mental life similar to one’s own, giving rise to social engagement.”
By giving ourselves over to attending to and reﬂecting together on the more subtle and symbolic levels of consciousness, we can come to an awareness of that which may be the same in me and you. Human beings have an innate capacity to attribute to others a mental life similar to one’s own, giving rise to social engagement. Being attuned to how we are the same; we all have the capacity to do harm and be of goodwill, brings a renewed sense of empathy. Appreciation and understanding of others increases our relational capacity and may also give us a better understanding of our role in group life. WWT oﬀers an opportunity not commonly found to explore and deepen the relational spaces in group life. These areas often remain hidden and unchartered. Fostering these forms of communication based on mutuality may lie at the heart of enhancing and opening the way for richer and more creative experiences in group life.
Jessica Taylor has a background in psychology and and works in the community health services sector. She is currently undertaking her Masters in Organisational Dynamics. This piece was written in response to an early concept brief about Walk the Talk ‐ a project created by Cultural Value that invites people to walk alongside an unknown ‘other’ in a public park. A derivative of this project, Walk the Talk@Fringe, will premiere at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Check out www.culturalvalue.com.au for more information.
A short essay in response to Cultural Value's Walk the Talk project