Seeing clearly after blindfolded conversations

The community manager of MyRafiky, Aiswarya Dev, explains, “Our community connects with what ‘Rafiky’ itself means, which is ‘friend’ in the Swahili language.
Participants at the blindfolded conversations
Participants at the blindfolded conversations

CHENNAI : What if you could vent out your feelings with someone without the fear of being judged? What if you had someone who could listen to you without any bias? A person who could see you without actually seeing you? This is what MyRafiky — an organisation that promotes mental health positivity, and fosters the development of a friendly community for mental well-being — offers with their novel blindfolded conversation sessions, in which people get to share their feelings with a stranger while both are completely blindfolded.

The community manager of MyRafiky, Aiswarya Dev, explains, “Our community connects with what ‘Rafiky’ itself means, which is ‘friend’ in the Swahili language. Everything that we do is focused on making our community friendly, empathetic, and approachable for people. Even when we talk about mental health, we make it a very normal and accessible conversation, we accept and acknowledge everyone’s experiences.”

Talk and listen

On Sunday, a diverse crowd of about 30 people gathered at the Olanza Conference Hall in Nungambakkam for a blindfolded conversation session; everyone eager to feel the relief of expressing pent up emotions. Explaining the concept, Aiswarya says, “A lot of us don’t have a safe space to share our personal stories, either because we don’t have the time, due to taboos surrounding mental health, or because people have a fear of judgement.

The blindfolded conversation tackles all these areas. It takes away that fear of being judged because when we express vulnerability to a person we can see, we tend to analyse the other person’s expressions or reactions. Therefore, we started blindfolded conversations with the idea that when you talk to someone, you don’t have to worry about how they’re reacting, you simply get to share your story to someone who is all ears.”

The session started with a quick ice-breaker activity, during which Aiswarya dispelled the tense atmosphere between the strangers by pairing up everyone and asking them to find at least three things in common with a person they had met just seconds ago. After a few moments of hesitant silence, a bubble of conversation filled the room as everyone loosened up before the actual blindfolded conversation.

Then, all the participants were blindfolded and shuffled around the room. While being blindfolded might be disorienting, Aiswarya put everyone’s mind to ease by dedicating a few minutes to calming breathing exercises.

The conversations then began, after Aiswarya prompted everyone to share their personal hardships with their new partner. It was wonderful to witness the trust and understanding that was being forged between these people. After about 40 minutes of conversation, the pairs were switched up. This facilitated an even deeper connection between all the individuals as they readjusted and continued to express their feelings without fearing any repercussions.

The volunteers shuffled everyone’s places once more. Aiswarya instructed the gathering to remove their blindfolds, and when they did, they would have no idea of who they had confessed their innermost thoughts to. The lightness everyone felt was palpable. A feedback session and a fun activity of writing kind messages for others to take home, followed.

Regarding the experience, a first-time participant, Dodo Kashyap, shared, “It was very relieving and I got some clarity on my problems. I could share my feelings without being judged because I don’t even know who I had the conversation with. This is a good middle ground between going to a therapist and talking to a family member or friend.”

Another participant, Vanshitha, said, “It was a little overwhelming with the blindfold but after we took it off, reality seemed a bit different. I would definitely recommend this experience to others in Chennai because when you’re blinded to the rest of the world, you’re completely focused on your own feelings and the fact that someone is actually listening to you without any prejudice.”

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The New Indian Express