PokemonGO – Mental Health insights

PokemonGO and Psychology – a story about chasing an Ivysaur

I tried a Pokemon hunt around my suburb. I went alone. This was a risk. It’s far safer to look for Pokemon in groups or with an adult. I had not wandered the streets around my house just to explore since high school. Feeling a need to just get out and move, I trekked around the backstreets and parks.

I found an Ivysaur, but it escaped.

Seconds after the green reptile ran away, the negative critic started talking.

“You’re out, at night, alone, and you can’t catch any rare Pokemon. How are you going to keep up with your friends who are already approaching level 20, and have encountered Venasaur?”

PokemonGO and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – The inner critic

I wanted to ignore the critical voices, but they persisted. It was true that a friend had located a wild Venasaur. It was true that I had friends already more than twice the level I am (level 6 as of July 13, 2016!). I made a choice not to compare myself to their progress.

Here’s how I unpacked these thoughts with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT):

  1. CBT is about tracking and questioning problematic thoughts that lead to unhelpful behaviours and actions.
  2. The negative thoughts? That to be a worthy person you need to keep pace with your friends and peers.
  3. That’s a faulty schema (a set of automatic thoughts).
  4. You don’t have to keep pace with everyone to enjoy yourself, and be worthy.
  5. Instead of following the critical voices, and comparing myself to others, I tried another way of thinking.

PokemonGO and shame research – Comparisons

Brene Brown offers some insights into Shame and feelings of worthlessness. On comparison, Brown found when researching shame and wholeheartedness that:

  • In a competitive environment, healthy competition is okay, but excess focus on ranking and comparisons suffocates creativity and openness.
  • Setting boundaries is associated with satisfaction more so than one-upping and comparisons – show up and participate instead of focusing on perfectionism.
  • Cultivating worthiness and wholeheartedness with positive thoughts – “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

The last point is a more complex point. The basic idea is we are worthy of connection, and we are enough. Our worthiness for connection with others is not attached to how well we perform, or how we compare to others.

PokemonGO is a great opportunity to connect with others. It can be risky, since we are stepping out, meeting people, and talking to people. And regardless of the competition, and levels within the game, the connection is what’s truly important. I went for a Pokemon hunt alone, but I won’t be doing that again. I’ll be aiming to meet, and connect, with others.

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