The Blue Man Group and counseling. READY GO

Love it or hate it, the Blue Man Group isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We saw it with my husband’s band kids last week on their trip to Chicago, and for 80 loud, hyper, curious, music-loving kids, it was perfect. They had a chance to talk, laugh, interact, and stretch their imaginations in a setting where that is encouraged before seeing the symphony the next evening (where audience participation is…not quite as encouraged).

This is my second time seeing the Blue Man Group, the first also with band kids in Florida. Personally, I love it. Call me a tasteless sellout if you wish, but there are some lessons that can be learned, even for counselors. Here is what I love about the Blue Man Group experience (without giving too much away for those of you that haven’t seen it):

1. The creativity and absurdity of the show itself.  For example, who thought to construct instruments out of PVC piping–and then finely tune them so they can produce music? To most people, pipes are just plumbing. The Blue Man Group sees them as a raw material to create something wonderful and a little silly. For me as a counselor, it’s a good reminder that problems, from banal to terrible, can be reframed to eventually create something good. It’s all in how you look at it. That takes creativity, and also an embrace of how absurd life really can be sometimes. Once we see that, we can construct something beautiful and new.

2. The show forces me to sit up and take notice. As an introvert, I tend to live inside my head. Both times I’ve seen the Blue Man Group, I have managed to completely forget everything going on outside the theater: that we have 30-hour bus ride coming up, that X kid tried to buy a sword (?!) at Medieval Times, that it might rain and I have online class responses to post and the bills are due and asdajiofdwqerjawerjgh!! Being involved in the moment is great! And I have an awful time doing it! This is a primary concern as I enter practicum this summer. I really want to be fully there for my clients, and I know what it feels like to be completely absorbed in something, and I have a hard time achieving it right now. I’m currently getting the Insomnia Monster under control, which has helped, and I think the next step is to find a few minutes to meditate each day. This was suggested to me by my own counselor earlier this year…and not being a perfect counseling client sometimes, I keep forgetting to try. Time to get serious, which for me means programming a reminder into my phone every day. Done.

3. Most importantly, the Blue Man Group is all about forging connections between people. I have asked myself after both shows, “What was that all about?” And I think that’s the underlying message–connecting us to each other. For one thing, the Blue Men don’t really show much emotion. They draw out our emotions instead and reflect them back to us. An audience member pulled onstage usually displays a range of emotions, and the rest of the audience feels connected to that person because they empathize with his or her feelings. We also feel connected to each other during the large-scale audience participation activities: It’s so much fun to see how far we can hit giant beach balls, or to wave our hands in the air like we just don’t care. This message is inherent in each show. If you’re familiar with any of the shows, here’s Rock Concert Movement #237:

Taking the audience on a Jungian journey into the collective unconscious by using the shadow as a metaphor for the primal self that gets repressed by the modern persona and also by using an underground setting and labyrinth office design to represent both the depths of the psyche and the dungeon-like isolation of our increasingly mechanistic society which prevents people from finding satisfying work or meaningful connections with others. (Source; emphasis added by me.)

At its very core, counseling is all about connecting to each other. We can’t get very far with a client if we can’t connect with them. I’m sure it’s becoming cliche, but in-the-moment, person-to-person connection is growing increasingly important to us as it becomes less common. This year’s Blue Man Group show has changed from the earlier version I had seen by highlighting our lust for information and online connection at the expense of in-person experiences. I think that message is very relevant for myself and my classmates–the counseling relationship is increasingly important.

The arts also serve as a connector between people. The Blue Man Group show connected all of the students and chaperones, the rest of the audience, the performers, and even the theater staff that evening. We felt the same connection the next evening during the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

And in the end…I think this why I’m so drawn towards incorporating the arts into counseling. The arts make it easier to forge that ever-important connection between people. They make it easier for us to discover creativity within ourselves and beauty around us, even if those are borne out of pain. They make it easier to let ourselves go and experience the moment. I had recently gotten so wrapped up in theories, techniques, research, and papers, that I lost sight of these important fundamentals. Thanks to 80 band kids and three guys in blue grease paint, I was able to remember.

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