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Enchanted Games League; Gray Fox; News and Movie review with Matt

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Chloé Valdary

Today's Segments:

Enchanted Games League
Gaming is a common hobby. How to use online gaming to teach empathy and anti-racism. We visit with Chloe Valdary, founder of the Enchanted Games League. She's coming to ND as part of the Brave Conversations Series from HumanitiesND.

Gray Fox
Dave Hoffman, a technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and his team use a radio receiver to track and collect data from a male gray fox known as "GF1" to study its habitat and den sites. Amidst concerns over a significant decline in gray fox populations across the Midwest, researchers from multiple states are investigating causes, including disease, habitat loss, and competition with other wildlife, to help the species rebound as we hear in this report from Harvest Public Media.

Dave Thomson News Review
News Director Dave Thompson talks about his newsletter, this weekend's North Dakota political conventions and reviews the news.

Matt's Movie Review
Matt Olien reviews the "Ghostbusters Frozen Empire" and remembers Louis Gossett Jr.

Transcript of Interview with Chloe Valdary

Ashley Thornberg

And let me ask you this.

Have you ever heard a racist comment but didn't know how to talk about it? Or maybe the better question is, when was the last time you heard a racist comment but didn't know how to respond? Maybe it was something that happened at work, and you wished your office had a better, inclusive space for conversations about race.

An upcoming event from Humanities North Dakota brings Chloe Valdary to Fargo. She will be speaking at the Sanctuary on April 18th at 7pm. And the tickets are available at humanitiesnd.org.

She is a writer, lecturer, and developer of The Theory of Enchantment, which uses games to help us learn empathy. Chloe, thank you so much for joining us today.

Chloé Valdary

Thank you for inviting me.

Ashley Thornberg

I'm really intrigued right away by Theory of Enchantment. So for starters, why theory? Why enchantment?

Chloé Valdary

I would say that the theory part really comes from the intellectual nerdy part of my brain. And the enchantment part comes from the artistic, constantly in awe part of my brain. And really enchantment is all about this idea of delighting people, of creating a situation or a space where they open up to themselves and to the wondrous complexity of what it means to be human.

And by doing so, become able to perceive the wondrous complexity of their neighbor, regardless of their background, their race, their ethnicity, their gender, their socioeconomic status, so on and so forth. And of course, just to add to that, the theory part, to say a little bit more about that, in order to be able to see that and perceive that in ourselves and in the other requires a great deal of practice. And I think that theory sort of like speaks to that, that part, that piece.

Ashley Thornberg

Well, that enchantment part really does have a different ring to it than it's time for your annual anti-harassment training at work. Talk about the atmosphere of the type of work you do and how it led to creating this game-based, compassionate anti-racism.

Chloé Valdary

So Theory of Enchantment has produced many different, you could say, modalities. So you know, we have workshops, which I'll be giving a workshop when I visit the community. We have digital practices.

We have an online course. But the practice piece actually came as a result of us being in relationship with our customers. So a lot of our customers have been, in the past, engaging with our online course and our online coursework, for example.

And some of the feedback that we got was that it was great, but we want a quick three-minute or six-minute thing that we can do every single day or every other day that will drill in the habit of actually showing up in the way that the three principles of the Theory of Enchantment want us to show up. So the three principles of the Theory of Enchantment are treat people like human beings, not political abstractions, criticize to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy, and try to root everything you do in love and compassion. So our online curriculum is really chock full of incredible source material, readings, music, etc., that get people to drill down into studying that. But not everyone has time to do that. And so the practice or the habit modalities that we developed, which I can talk a little bit more about, were in direct response to that demand from our customers and our clients.

Ashley Thornberg

Well, I really want to hear right away more about the power of habit in mindset work like this. Why is it better in your mind to do three to five minutes a day instead of an hour or a week-long intensive?

Chloé Valdary

So listen, I, like I said, I'm a nerd, and I know that I am willing to do both the intensive and the three to five minutes a day, but not everyone has time. And so we need to recognize that and respect that. And in terms of forming practices or forming a new mindset, so there's a thing that we created called the Enchanted Games League.

And the Enchanted Games League is set up so that members of a team or members of an organization go into a digital practice, and they receive two quests a day. And the quests are questions. They're introspective questions that get the user to reflect on the way their mind works.

So questions include questions like, write about a mindset that you got from your parents that you'd like to keep and that you'd like to get rid of. Questions like, write about a time where you felt expansive and you felt defensive. What were the differences between those feelings?

Write about a time where you felt superior to another human being. What does that feel like? So these are quests or questions that people receive within a limited amount of time.

So nine weeks, let's say, you get two questions a day. And the questions repeat. They're spaced out, and they're repetitive, very similar to Duolingo.

And we did that because, in part, we studied Duolingo, and Duolingo, we learned from them how you can actually develop habits over time. You can develop habits by giving people these little games that are spaced and repetitive. So we just took that model and applied it to this reflective, introspective questing thing that we created.

And the theory of change here is that the reason why we become prejudiced towards each other is because we are usually dealing with some sort of psychological insecurity or material insecurity. Let's say we don't feel worthy on a certain day, or let's say we're feeling insecure for whatever reason. And this is something that we all experience as human beings.

But if we don't know what to do with that energy, if we don't know where to place those feelings, what we often will do is unconsciously project them onto another human being who looks different from us or thinks differently from us as a way to deal with our own feelings of inferiority or as a way to deal with our own feelings of insecurity. So the practice and the workshops and everything that we do in Theory of Enchantment is all about getting people able to be in a place where they're able to hold the full complexity, their baggage, their insecurities, their flaws, their shadows, and their light, vulnerably and openly, and in a de-stigmatized way, so they don't feel like they need to project it onto the other. And so that's why we have those self-reflective questions.

Because over time, the idea is that you'll be more comfortable living in the question, and you won't have to project your insecurity onto others.

Ashley Thornberg

How much of game and app development makes you feel like you sort of have a PhD in human behavior at this point?

Chloé Valdary

Yeah, it's definitely been an interesting journey, I have to say. I mean, yeah, the whole world of games or thinking about it in games has been, in and of itself, an education for me, and I'm really appreciative of it. I mean, there's some research that suggests that gaming is older than culture itself.

Like, that's another thing that we've done as a species, is play games since the beginning, since the dawn of our species. And so it's really cool to try and use that as a way to get people to meet themselves deeper, and be able to meet others more deeply as a result of that as well.

Ashley Thornberg

We're visiting today with Chloe Valderi. She will be speaking at an upcoming Brave Conversations event from Humanities ND, speaking on April 18th at the Sanctuary Events Center in Fargo. You can get tickets at humanitiesnd.org, or learn more about Chloe's work at theoryofenchantment.com.

Okay, this study of human behavior, and then you talked about making people comfortable talking about things that make them very uncomfortable. And what we are so good at instead is projecting bad things, often that we see in ourselves, on to other people. Before we even go more into how to unlearn that, why do you think we're so good at that part?

Chloé Valdary

I think it's actually an evolutionary adaptation. I think that, you know, our limbic systems in the back of our brains are, it's millions of years old. It's responsible for fight or flight reflexes.

And it's just a defensive mechanism, we're just trying to protect ourselves from feeling hurt, or from feeling inferior, from feeling insecure. And we developed that through childhood. And we did so unconsciously, and we carry that as adults unconsciously.

And again, this is like universal to all humans, I think it's just a part of our wiring. But we also have a prefrontal cortex in the front of our brains that's younger, and you could argue less, less developed because simply because it's younger. And if we put ourselves in a reflective mode, if we deliberately enter into a reflective mode, we like exercise that muscle.

And we use that rep and we do it in community. I think it's really important to community piece. It's very difficult to change in isolation, because one of the things that we don't want to feel is lonely, right?

And if we know that we're going to enter into this work, but it's going to make us feel lonely, it's less likely to stick, we're less likely to stick it out. So community is a really important piece. But I would say overall, it's just it's just our wiring as a species.

And again, there's nothing like right or wrong about it, we're trying to get away from stigmatizing it, because stigmatizing it, when we stigmatize, we're more likely to project it. Ironically, we have to be able to really accept, accept all of our messiness, right? Which, which, which means exiting out of the good, bad paradigm that we so easily place the things that we don't like about ourselves, or the things that we fail to take responsibility for ourselves in.

We're trying to exit that paradigm and enter into a different paradigm where we're just simply saying, here I am flaws and all this is, you know, this is who I am, I would love to learn more about who you are. And I think the more vulnerable and honest and transparent we can be with ourselves, the more we create a vulnerable, transparent community of trust. That's how trust actually develops within an ecosystem.

And it's only within a trusting ecosystem that you can that you can maintain diversity and inclusion that you can maintain the Republic, the motto of the United States Republic, which is out of many, one, there has to be trust first.

Ashley Thornberg

I want to talk again about the the repetition because I've been going through this Enchanted Games League process. And I know by reading the comments of other people, that I'm not alone in getting kind of frustrated with that repetition. And getting asked the same question, what's a mindset from your parents you want to keep?

What's a mindset from your parents that you want to leave? And getting asked that over and over and over again. And let me ask you this, and maybe I'm just projecting.

I wonder, as we talk about the work of anti-racism, for for far too long, the work has fallen disproportionately, sort of mental energy-wise, on the non-dominant group of people that you're talking about. Black people have to explain why a joke is racist. Women have to explain why being told to smile over and over is sexist.

It was that intentional to make to make the people feel like, oh, this is what it feels like to do that over and over and over and over?

Chloé Valdary

Not exactly. I mean, it was it wasn't done in order to make people like feel, you know, oppressed or anything like that, or feel slighted or insulted or anything like that. But it is done rather to get you to get to a place where you're automatically reflecting, which just requires repetition.

Because this is not how we are conditioned to think at all. We're not conditioned to like, if I'm in an argument with someone and let's say they yell they raise their voice. And let's say I was raised in a home where my parents raised their voice.

And so when that person yelled at me, I felt subconsciously, actually, I felt like I was thrown back into my childhood and experiencing my parents raising their voice at me. And I was no longer actually in the present moment. And I was no longer listening to the person because what they did triggered a response for me or a memory for me that is not actually in the present moment.

In order for me to be able to consciously recognize that I have to, I have to, on some level, be primed to reflect back on that question that you just brought up. You know, what's the mindset that you got from your parents that you'd like to keep and that you'd like to get rid of? If you're actively thinking about this in a regular way, or if you're doing reps that incline you to ask yourself that question in a repetitive way, the idea is that ultimately, and eventually, after these nine weeks are over, you will look for those patterns when you find yourself in situations of conflict.

You will inquire and your automatic response won't necessarily be to that person who just yelled at you, oh, you know, this person is just, you know, doesn't care about me or just trying to make me feel bad. You might actually inquire, in addition to saying that, in addition to thinking that, you might also inquire, well, is there something about this situation that is actually bringing me back to childhood or invoking some pain point that I experienced in childhood, and is that the reason why I'm having this reaction? And can I get curious about that?

Can I voice that? Maybe I'll actually share this with the person in front of me because I feel comfortable enough to just be open and honest and own that part of myself because it's a part of me. So that's the idea behind the repetition.

Ashley Thornberg

Sure, it would be like doing weights over and over and over, and that's how you build muscle. Yeah, I will say I was a little bit surprised because I've done many empathy trainings over the course of my career, and this was the first time where I really felt like, oh, I bet that's at least kind of what it feels like to be that other person, to just be tired of having to answer that over and over.

Chloé Valdary

Yeah, that's interesting. I hadn't thought of that, but I think that what something else to think about is how often are you unaware of the fact that you are bringing up a pattern that you learned in childhood in any situation, in any given situation? Because we don't think about that.

We're not consciously asking, how was I conditioned? How was I patterned?

Ashley Thornberg

Right. Why am I having a cookie when I'm mad at my husband?

Chloé Valdary

Yeah, like what patterns am I bringing into the present moment that I'm simply unaware of? And there's nothing wrong necessarily with the patterns. It's just like we want you to become conscious of them, so you have choice.

You won't have choice. You won't have autonomy. You won't be able to choose something differently if you aren't aware that it's a pattern in the first place.

Ashley Thornberg

Chloe Valderi speaking at the Sanctuary Event Center in Fargo coming up on April 18th. Tickets available at humanitiesnd.org. Chloe, do people going to the event on April 18th need to have gone through these several weeks of Enchanted Games?

Chloé Valdary

No, no, not at all. I mean, I'll be talking a little bit, I'll be giving an overview of the theory of enchantment, broadly speaking philosophy, where it comes from, what my background is, our principles, and some of the different offerings that they can be a part of. So they won't have to have done the Enchanted Games League that you're in right now, but I would encourage them to come with an open mind and a curious heart.

And if they're a part of any community that wants to bring any of our services, including the Enchanted Games League into their community, you know, feel free to be in touch, and we would love to be of service.

Ashley Thornberg

Chloe Valderi of the Theory of Enchantment speaking in Fargo April 18th. Tickets available at humanitiesnd.org. More about Chloe at theoryofenchantment.com.

Thank you so much for your time today.

Chloé Valdary

Thank you.

NOTE: Prairie Public transcripts are created on a rush deadline by turboscribe.ai. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of "Main Street" is the audio record of the show.