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Betty.

Keith Johnstone wrote an excellent book called Impro:


I’m remembering [the psychotic teenaged girl] now because of an interaction she had with a very gentle, motherly schoolteacher…. We were in a beautiful garden (where the teenager had just seen God) and the teacher picked up a flower and said: “Look at the pretty flower, Betty.”

Betty, filled with spiritual radiance, said, “All the flowers are beautiful.”

“Ah,” said the teacher, blocking her, “but this flower is especially beautiful.”

Betty rolled on the ground screaming, and it took a while to calm her. Nobody seemed to notice that she was screaming “Can’t you see? Can’t you see!”

In the gentlest possible way, this teacher had been very violent. She was insisting on categorising, and on selecting. Actually it is crazy to insist that one flower is especially beautiful in a whole garden of flowers, but the teacher is allowed to do this, and is not perceived by sane people as violent. (p. 15-16)

Though Johnstone’s book is ostensibly for students of theatre, his text is immensely useful for teachers of all types. Furthermore, the chapter “Status” might teach more concrete information about human behavior and dynamics than psychology and psychiatry textbooks.

I still firmly believe that improv classes (and partner dance classes—really) help train people to become better doctors. Both employ the “Yes, and…” strategy, which encourages engagement, rapport, and collaboration. Doctors must cultivate those three skills to make health care work well. Otherwise, we, too, might engage in gentle violence.