This program was developed during the “Mindfultainment” phase of The Eureka Room.
I believe the unconscious mind knows things that, if made conscious, would make us uneasy, uncomfortable or upset. Sometimes the unconscious thoughts pop their heads up into the conscious space and say things like: “I should really call grandma” or “I’m just faking that I like this job/relationship/career”, or “I still can’t stop thinking about so-and-so”, or “I could really use some coffee right now”.
Most of the time, the conscious keeps these from popping up and it typically has some good practical reasons. But sometimes the subconscious knows things that need done that would really benefit you to be aware of and it would help to get these thoughts out.
The idea behind Word Cloud was that participants would be asked questions that weren’t too personal (eg, “Where do you want to go on vacation?”). Then a word cloud would flash on the screen for just a split second. It would appear long enough for the participants to focus on it, but not long enough to read everything.
The idea was that the subconscious, faster to respond than the conscious, will jump to the truth first. Then the cloud would disappear before the conscious mind could review the full list and choose a more comfortable, practical or safe answer.
For example, if the question was “what do you want to do this weekend?”, the participant’s subconscious might know they deeply want to go zip-lining, or to Cambodia or to visit their estranged cousin.
The conscious however, is more practical and risk-averse. It looks for the safe options that keep you safely in the same reality you are already in, rather than risking growth. It says:
“Zip-lining? That is too out of character for you. That’s not you at all”
“Cambodia this weekend? That is too unrealistic and expensive.”
“The cousin? That’s just going to be hurt, pain, and drama”
In an effort to keep you safe it rummages around for things that don’t risk a stretch in any way. It says “Your choices are hang out at the pool or clean the house”.
Those are fine options, but the conscious has cut off some messaging that could be valuable to you.
Maybe zip-lining would add another dimension to how other people (and you) see yourself. You might feel great after taking on a personal challenge. Or you might meet more people. Or you might just really really enjoy it.
Maybe if you could hear that you wanted to go to Cambodia you would realize this was a real interest you’ve been harboring and you would really like to spend some time this weekend planning how you might go there.
Maybe there’s something special about your relationship with the cousin that is worth the risk and likely pain.
But because the conscious was able to speak up and choose a “way out”, it choose the way out and you don’t get to consider the things your unconscious would like.
The program asks a question then shows a word cloud for a second before it disappears.
Then you are given about 10 seconds to consider why you chose that word you chose.
The cloud is different each question but it includes many different types of words, not just ones that make sense. For example, the weekend question’s cloud might include “forrest” or “giraffe” or “science”.
The idea is that if the unconscious can’t find the word that is the answer you want specifically, it will find the closest associated word. Neurons the fire together wire together. If you see “forest” you might need those 10 seconds afterward to figure out what you were trying to tell yourself. In this example, it’s likely that forrest might to go jungle which might go to Ankor Wat which you know is in the jungles of Cambodia.
So this was the premise of the program.
Results Of Program Testing
So…how did it go?
In a word: badly.
People *hated* it.
I’m not entirely sure what went wrong but here’s some theories based on what they told me afterward:
- Expectations. They thought they were going to see crazy lights and music. This was not that. While it was technically using the side walls it wasn’t doing much with them. Described by one person as “something I could see on youtube” I had half-assed the adaptation to the LEDs
- Personal questions. Yeah, I definitely didn’t prepare them for this. Months later, I read in Priya Parker’s book “The Art of Gathering” that I was basically ensuring disaster when I invited people to something and didn’t tell them they will have to share personal information (even just in their heads to themselves). I did feel a little better when she had admitted to having failed at this herself sometimes.
- Creepy music. The music was way way way too intense in a sort of dark new agey way that siphoned all the fun out of it and gave it an intolerable vibe. One of the Eureka Room’s biggest supporters said “I almost walked out”. Yikes. It was only 10 minutes long.
The Fun-Mindfulness hybrid was just not working. People were confused. Expectations weren’t met. It was a total disaster. Luckily I only had about 10 people view it and most of them were very forthcoming about what they thought. Painful as it was to hear (and I felt awful to having put them through something they found so disagreeable) it helped me see the light and directed me to drop the mindfulness stuff and focus just on the weird fun stuff. I was already struggling with the mindfulness stuff and loved the weird stuff so this was an easy jump.
While the personal questions are probably out for good, there might be some way to take this program and make it more in the new improved style of the Eureka Room. Some ideas:
- Questions that are not at all personal.
- Answers that make visitors feel awesome because they compliment or are funny.
- Music that is upbeat.
- Crazier narrator.
I’d have to do more brainstorming because I don’t think those alone have the magic in them but there’s probably something in this mess if I put the time in to find it.