John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology


costumes mask sssh


This is a good class exercise to do around Halloween, if possible. It works best in a small class where the students know each other fairly well.

1. Tell everyone to take out a piece of paper and write down:

  • a list of costumes (e.g., for Halloween) that they have worn in the past
  • a list of costumes that they would LIKE to wear (say, to a Halloween party)
2. Pass out a handout to everyone in the class that lists the names of all the students in the class. Tell everyone to write down on their handout the costumes that they would choose for OTHER people in the class.

Collect all the papers. Take the first set of papers and read each one out loud. Do not mention the person's name before reading the list of costumes that he/she has worn in the past or would like to wear. After reading the list for each person, ask the class to try to guess which person it is.

Then, from the handouts, read the costumes that people chose for each person in the class. After reading the suggested costumes for each person, ask that person for his/her reactions - for example, what costume did she/he like, or dislike, and why.

In addition to being fun, this exercise also illustrates some fascinating aspects of personality dynamics. In their costumes that they choose for themselves, are people expressing some hidden part of themselves, or a wish, or a fantasy of some sort? Does the costume represent an exaggerated version of themselves, or the opposite of how they appear to others? Is the costume an expression of what Jung would call the "shadow."

The costumes that others choose for their classmates may reflect these same dynamics, or may be the result of the others projecting their own wishes or identifications onto their classmates.

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