SimplyPsychology Club: Discover Yourself with Russian State Library for Young Adults
The idea is not to make people painfully overcome themselves, but to offer knowledge in an interesting and entertaining manner; visitors are encouraged to learn more about themselves, analyze their feelings, and use their new knowledge and experience to find answers themselves.
Public libraries are assigned to impact on physical, mental and social wellbeing of their patrons. This is particularly true for libraries working with children and young adults. Russian State Library for Young Adults presents its successful programme SimplyPsychology Club which started in December 2014. It is led by young clinical psychologist Ekaterina Yashnikova and includes lectures, training and seminars at which mysteries of human mentality are discussed in pure and simple words. Personal difficulties are solved by means of psychological games and experiments.
It is said that most people who decide to study psychology are first and foremost trying to resolve their own issues, and only secondly wish to help others. If we assume that it’s correct, then in order to understand yourself and learn to find ways out of difficult situations, you need to study personality psychology and acquaint yourself with psychological theories and experiments. But if you are not studying to become a psychologist, how can you do that?
The Russian State Library for Young Adults has come up with a solution – SimplyPsychology Club. This club was an immediate success when it was launched: it was popular with both teens (14-18) and the so-called new adults. People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s visit our club. We have asked some of the club regulars what they like about the meetings. They say, “It’s a great place to socialize and learn more about yourself”, “here you can understand yourself and find solutions to your problems”, “you can learn more about psychology, which is always useful in work and family life”.
Because this club is about simple and accessible psychology for everyone. The club came to be thanks to another project at our library – Idea Factory. It’s a competition for young people who would like to run their projects at an intellectual space such as the library. Among those who participated in the competition was graduate student of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, clinical psychologist Ekaterina Yashnikova. Her idea was to organize meetings at the library, where psychology would be explained in simple words and mysteries of the human psyche would be explored. The library realized that it was exactly what it was looking for. As a result, Ekaterina became one of Idea Factory winners and SimplyPsychology club leader.
Every club meeting is a practical seminar with a brief lecture, psychological games and experiments, and analysis of famous experiments and research. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, so even very self-conscious people feel confident and talk to the others about whatever interests them. That is mainly thanks to Ekaterina’s natural charm and profound knowledge of psychology. She is good at public speaking and knows how to talk about complicated matters accessibly and humourously. It helps that Ekaterina is the same age as most visitors, so they feel at ease and trust her.
What happens at the meetings?
Let’s take, for example, a meeting called “The phenomenon of conformism. Human behaviour in society”. At this meeting, the participants talked about how to stay yourself and overcome the herd instinct, and played several experimental games.
To start with, Ekaterina suggested a few games to make visitors relax and interact with each other: rhythmic movements, dividing into pairs, “Blind man and Guide”, and “Chains”. Most of these exercises are taken from psychology, but a few originate from Stanislavski’s system. Ekaterina also conducted a little experiment demonstrating conformism “here-and-now”.
Then everybody sat in a big circle and discussed the homework from last meeting. New visitors come to each meeting, but the majority are club regulars, and the homework is given for them. It might seem surprising, but a lot of them really do their homework, even though almost all tasks require some getting out of one’s comfort zone. Not only are participants serious about their homework, they are also enthusiastic about sharing their experiences.
After the games and homework review came a little bit of theory: Ekaterina told the participants about the history or research into conformism, different forms of this phenomenon, its roots and factors that influence it. A video about the experiments of Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram as well as Soviet researchers, was shown, while Ekaterina explained the experiments’ importance.
Towards the end of the meeting, the participants played a game aimed at togetherness, where they had to solve a problem under stress. According to the rules of the game, the players were stuck on a hot-air balloon that was falling. They had 8-10 items with them as ballast, which they had to drop in order not to crash but which they might need later, when they land on a desert island. The players’ task was to come to an agreement as to what items they keep and what they throw away. After the game, the participants tried to analyze how conformism manifested itself in the actions of the group and each individual.
One of the most interesting meetings was called “Games People Play. Eric Berne and his transactional analysis”. This time, the participants learned what it’s like to play the role of a child or an adult in communication and where games lead to. Ekaterina gave a detailed talk about the theory and practice of Eric Berne, a prominent psychiatrist. To understand what a “game” is in transactional analysis, the participants played a few popular psychological games and observed Berne’s theory “in action”.
The topic of love is ever popular with visitors of all ages. Is love a disease or the cure? Why do we fall in love? How many kinds of love are there? Such were the questions discussed at the meetings. Couples have come to the club and eagerly participated in experiments.
Personality psychology was the topic of a whole cycle of club meetings. Participants have discussed Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamics, the basic concepts of psychoanalysis, instincts and anxiety, and psychosexual development. Other theories discussed included Alfred Adler’s individual psychology, Carl Gustav Jung’s analytical psychology, Erik Erikson’s ego psychology, Erich Fromm’s humanistic philosophy, and Karen Horney’s sociocultural theory.
It is no accident that such a large number of lectures were devoted to personality psychology. Many of those who come to the club for the first time are trying to understand themselves, find their identity, and choose the right path. It is especially true of young people – they often find themselves at a crossroads, not knowing what to do or where to go, feeling lonely and struggling to figure out their relationships with peers and family.
This is but a fraction of topics discussed at SimplyPsychology meetings. It must be said that the club neither discusses visitors’ specific problems nor looks for solutions. Participants do not sit in a circle where everyone talks about themselves.
Ekaterina Makaeva, Public Relations, Russian State Library for Young Adults, Moscow, Russian Federation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Irina Sokolova, International Relations, Russian State Library for Young Adults, Moscow, Russian Federation, email@example.com