Thinking often feels like an uphill battle against my brain. Between fuzzy-headedness, indecisiveness, and over-analysis, I try to avoid the amount of time I spend inside my head. But if I could think more clearly, I know my work and my life would be infinitely better. So, when I learned that “clarity coaching” was a thing, I thought, “Sign me up.”
Vijay Ram, PhD, a visiting research scientist at the University of California who studies the use of objects in cognitive functioning, is also a clarity coach, which means he guides clients through exercises that help them organize their thoughts. "The basic idea of clarity coaching is to develop a clear vision of what you want in some area of your life and identify the steps or strategy to get there," he tells Bustle. "The aim is to use tools and techniques to help people understand themselves, filter out noise, and develop a clear vision of goals and a path to that end."
To my surprise, I spent most of my four sessions at Ram’s office in California’s East Bay playing with toys. The exercise we worked on the most, RAMIC, involved putting down blocks in a specific configuration (which you'll have to talk to him to learn). The idea is to learn to group your thoughts into simple phrases and get them out in front of you so you can examine them and won’t repeat them.
But the most fun exercise took place in a room full of dolls, actions figures, and every kind of toy, with two small sandboxes in the middle. I was asked to pick a topic, put down whatever toys spoke to me, and analyze them as symbols of that issue. I created toy arrangements for my relationship, my future, and my life in general. This lets you figure out what your subconscious is trying to tell you, says Ram. For me, it revealed the bigger picture around everything I was dealing with, and it was usually a positive one. It made my life seem less scary. Here's what my relationship sand tray looked like.
The sand tray exercise has been used by psychologists for a while, but the block technique was invented by Ram. A paper he published in the International Journal on Artificial Intelligence Toolsincludes three studies showing that people have a 23 percent preference for "dynamic expression" like the block method over "symbolic expression" like the sand tray method. Other studies of his that are currently in press have found that 94 percent of people without ADHD and 79 percent with ADHD reported increased clarity after doing the block exercise. The majority of people in both groups also reported improved memory, ability to generate more ideas, emotional relief, increased focus, and facilitated self-expression.
These exercises not only helped me work through my problems but also taught me a lot about the way I think and the way people in general think. Here are some things I learned that you might be able to apply to your own life.