The event is called “Minefield.”
During a recent Family Advocacy training course the instructors led us in this exercise. It’s a fun event and is more like a game. There are three primary players in this “game”:
1. The victim (i.e. victim of abuse)
2. The spouse or parent of the victim
3. The victim’s advocate
A six by twelve-foot rectangle is taped off on the ground. The rectangle is strewn with eggs—which the blindfolded victim must negotiate as they walk through the minefield. Each egg represents a “mine”—i.e. painful secondary events and factors that pop up after an episode of domestic violence as Family Advocacy and Behavioral Health attempt to help the victim and family. For instance, during treatment sensitive information might be disclosed to the community—“BAM!” Or other family problems may come to the surface (e.g. child abuse, infidelity, substance abuse)—“BOOM!” The victim hits one mine after another and derails from the road to recovery.
In the game of “minefield” the victim is assisted by two people – their “spouse” on one side and the victim advocate on the other. Each gives directions to the victim as they attempt to steer the victim safely from one end of the rectangle to the other.
But often their guidance to the victim is conflicting, as each—the “spouse” and the victim advocate—attempts to help the individual. In addition to their verbal instruction, a lot more guidance comes from other helping professions (e.g. attorney, military police, chaplain, mental health professionals, physicians, alcohol abuse counselors)—all shouting advice to the victim, all struggling to get the person’s attention and to be heard.
The exercise is bewildering to the person playing the victim. They are blindfolded and get a lot of conflicting guidance. And they get increasingly stressed by those who are shouting. Invariably they will become confused and step on some eggs. Thus, the purpose of this exercise is to make caregivers aware of how they can add greater stress to the victim and sabotage the recovery effort.
But there is another profound lesson that comes out of the exercise. Amidst all the shouting, the “victim” will always tune into the softest voice in the group. Despite all the shouting the victim gravitates to the gentlest voice, the most soothing voice, and the least stressed voice—and tunes out the harsh and loud voices of those who merely want to be heard.
How interesting it is that people respond best to kindness and gentleness. Gentleness makes counseling more palatable. Kindness sweetens the medicine we administer.
Do you recall the biblical story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19? The discouraged prophet traveled to Mount Horeb, the mount of God to receive God’s guidance and counsel. While seeking God at the mountain an earthquake occurred, then a raging fire, and then a terrific wind. But Elijah received nothing from these noisy forces of nature. They were all devoid of God’s presence. Then Elijah tuned into a “still, small voice” that was like the gentle whisper or a soft breeze. And in that still, soft voice, God spoke to Elijah and revived his heart. The thunder and noise did nothing for Elijah. But gentleness and kindness made God’s voice palatable.
Dear Father in heaven, teach me the value of gentleness and the power of a soft voice and a kind answer. Please make me an instrument of Your peace and train my tongue to heal and not to hurt. Amen.