The other day I ran into someone I have name blindness for. You know those people? I’ve met her loads of times in a group setting and never quite mastered her name. Now I was meeting her for the first time in ages in a diffferent context and I definitely couldn’t remember what to call her. I’m sure my consequent feelings are familiar ones – not quite sure where to put my feet I trod delicately through the conversation, careful not to call her anything, experiencing a mounting sense of disconnectedness from her. I was relieved when the conversation was over.
I was thinking about it this morning and I think in fact I do know her name. I’ll have to check it – for the second time – with my informant. For the sake of this article, let’s call her Joan. The thing that I realised, scouring my memory for Joan’s name, was that when I asked the person who told it me (sotto voce in the group context) and they reminded me of it, was that I weighed up Joan’s two names to me in my head – ‘Joan’ (my new information) or my more familiar name for Joan, ‘That Lady Whose Name I Can’t Remember’. And my name for Joan, ‘That Lady Whose Name I Can’t Remember’ – TLWNICR – won out. And through that mind trick my name blindness for Joan won out. Joan’s name had become to me TLWNICR. A random string of letters, totally unmemorable. That’s name blindness for you.
Now, thinking about that in the context of what we’re doing with the app Mental Snapp, we focus on naming feelings. In Mental Snapp you record video diaries on your mental health. After you have recorded, before you can upload each one, you have to rate your mood on a sliding scale from ‘The Best’ to ‘The Worst’. You then have to choose a feeling tag to attach to it. You are only allowed one. We have based the feeling adjectives from Plutchik’s colour wheel of emotions, and are going to go on and further customise them based on our experience of what feeling tags people come out with in workshops and focus groups. This work is yet to come, at the moment we are working with Plutchik as a basis. The Plutchik words are slightly removed from how people describe themselves in everyday life, ‘awe’ is one of them. They have a detached quality. Maybe this is what we are trying to capture.
There is a science behind what we are doing here, that of encouraging metacognition, or thinking about thinking. There is evidence to show that rating your mood on a sliding scale improves mood as an exercise in itself. Taking it to naming and identifying feelings takes this one step further. Feelings are shifting sand, and one moment is never the same as the next. However, by pinning down the one moment that you have recorded and naming it, you take one step away from the intensity of being absorbed by the feeling and start to become able to observe the feeling. It has similarities to mindfulness. It is also a creative process, the recording of the video, the choice of content, and finally the choice of feeling. It is a powerful set of elements that put together are more than the sum of their parts.
So thinking about Joan and how I’ve remembered that I do remember her name, I’ve made friends with her in my mind. I’ve shifted her status in my head from TLWNICR to a real person. And when I converse with her next time I won’t feel that rising sense of panic. If I can do that to my feelings, the ones I don’t name, don’t admit to myself, so much the better.
If you haven’t tried Mental Snapp, please do. I thoroughly recommend it. Though to a large extent it is my brain child, after using it for two months on a fairly regular basis, even I wasn’t expecting the change that it has implemented for me in the way that I manage, monitor and recognise my feelings. It has made a huge difference to how I feel about my mental health. Search for Mental Snapp on the App Store, and coming live to Google Play on 6th March. Now I’ve identified and named her, I can forget TLWNICR. Meet Joan.
Also published on Medium.