Dissociative Walking

Dissociative Walking:


Students are asked to start walking through out the room. As the students walk the teacher will call out instructions such as turn, stop, jump, etc. With each instruction the teacher will give a related action; jump means jump, turn means a 180º turn, stop means stop and remain on the spot. After a while of walking and following the directions the teacher will ask why the students did as they were told. The students will then be instructed that when the teacher gives an instruction the students will do the opposite: if the teacher says turn the students keep walking, if the students are told to stop they run on the spot, etc. The challenge is for student to listen but to respond with a dissociative response.


Dissociative walking is a good exercise to practice active listening. It requires that the students actively listen in order to make the right action follow the wrong words. Dissociative practice allows the mind to do one thing while thinking of something else. This is a good skill in any theatre practice. This exercise is also a good starting point for a discussion about power structures and why we listen to people in roles of authority. It is easy to engage students on why they listen to teachers without question. It is a great place to jump into larger discussions about societal roles and political power structures.


  • Start by telling one group that they are to do the opposite of what is said and tell the other group to follow all the orders. Discuss how each group felt.


The initial power of the discussion comes from the surprise of the realization that many students will do what is asked of them without question. This exercise will initially be a great space for discussing power structures. In the future once the exercise becomes less about fostering discussions of power it can continue to be useful in order to practice dissociative thinking and actions as well as active listening.

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