As shops on my street reopened this week, my first visit was to a favourite bookshop of mine - Artwords. I picked up a book that sounded like the perfect companion for my upcoming trip back home - Am I Dreaming? The New Science of Consciousness and How Altered States Reboot the Brain by James Kingsland. The other book I packed was George Miller's Psychology - The Science of Mental Life.
I have always loved psychology. The fact that so much of our own actions and reactions remain a mystery mesmerizes me. The fact that our opinions of strangers change based on us holding a cup of hot or iced coffee before meeting them absolutely fascinates me. When I'm asked at a party (remember those?) what era I would like to have lived in, I hands down choose the late 19th century and the golden age of Experimental Psychology.
A lot of my community work falls under the category of the experiment. If I was too sure of the outcome, I wouldn't be pushing any boundaries. This is why I love experimental gatherings so much: I Iove seeing colleagues at work, in action, trying things out. I love observing the porous boundary between audience and performer.
Human psychology is central to our work as community builders, facilitators, teachers and innovators. When we bring people together, we ask ourselves how will they feel, what will they remember, how will they change. There's always something to try out, to learn from, to discover. The Art of Gathering author Priya Parker argues that the conceptual details of gatherings are superfluous, but for experience designers, they are fundamental. My friend Nico always reminds me of this when he makes dishes to be eaten by hand using leaves as plates: every detail changes the interaction of people in the room.
Experimental Psychology has paved the way for advertising theories, applied semiotics, behavioural sciences, experience design and many fields we are familiar with today. What I love, is that it has also paved the way for a more experimental relationship with ourselves. Not in the sense of biohacking our bodies to be more productive, but in the sense of spiritual discovery, of finding practices condusive to our own, hyper-personal wellbeing.
I'm constantly learning new, let's call them "Experimental Wellbeing", practices through my support systems and communities. Krista Tippett calls them "spiritual technologies": tools we can use to connect to ourselves. The best thing, is that this work never ends: the more you learn about connecting to yourself, the deeper you can connect with others.