Essential Experiences are a lot like Instagram Compositions
Meghna Chaudhury is a Learning Officer at BrainSightAI. She explores the experience of individuals living with neurological, psychiatric and psychological conditions to improve treatment outcomes. This pieces delineates the process to arrive at an essential experience for such users.
I work in the intersection of product and design, and I explore pretty interesting questions on the daily for the role.
One of them has been this concept of an essential experience, i.e What is the essential sensorial experience that I want the person using this product to feel?
Essential experiences are a lot like Instagram compositions. The moody stray ribbon of sun, that dog-eared book and the distant triangles of snow capped mountains. A vacation.
A quilt of leaves, living on borrowed time and borrowed colors, and a pair of feet - the
photograph composed from the top view. The essence of autumn.
Flat lays of food that look like a Matisse painting. Hashtag Adventure.
You get the drift.
The essential sensorial experience I investigate is this : What makes you feel cocooned?
Specifically, the essential experience of feeling warm, safe and empowered; when you're a
patient with a diagnosed pyschiatric clinical disorder.
Empowerment. Agency. The development sector remains rife with this. In social psychology, the bible is by Albert Bandura.
It links to self-efficacy, self-confidence and multiple theorists have built frameworks on top of
it. However, it feels so clinical, so detached, so sanitized. I believe in people being just -messy, you know? How does one just limit the essence of agency to 5 pillars, really?
Disability and feminist studies helped me articulate my thoughts.
I love the linguistic differentiation Geneva Gay makes in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, between "caring for" and "caring about" someone. When you care for someone it often takes away the person's agency (you care for a plant), but when you care about a person, you start with questions like:
What will help you right now?
How do you feel right now?
How may I help you manage this feeling today? Tomorrow?
What role do you want me to play right now - a parent or a friend?
Do you want a solution or do you want comfort?
What are some items/ things I can procure for you that can aid in you feeling better?
How does feeling better look like for you?
How can I help you in achieving that?
For someone whose dopamine and serotonin circuit is overwhelmed, who is on fight/flight mode, whose cortisol is on overload, whose brain is making the mind spin out of control, language is an incredible tool to take back control. To provide people the opportunity to feel empowered.
In our detailed discussions, my boss asked me, what has been my own essential experience of feeling empowered? I responded on spot, and then spent some time thinking about it.
This piece is neither motivational in intention or a directive, but only exists to serve as a reminder of one thing : we get to re-conceptualize definitions that matter to us
Because my answer was this : With all the grief and loss and pain I've felt over the last few months, I still feel empowered because my SOS medicine strip is not over.
I do not measure time linearly anymore because anchored to original definitions of success, I would be a failure. I use "Crip Time", more specifically, I measure time and my success by how long an SOS sheet of 15 tablets last for me. There was a time it got over in a week, today I've been with the same sheet for close to 2 months.
I'Il leave you with a few questions :
What is your essential experience of feeling cocooned and have you been experiencing it as
frequently as you need it? I hope you have.
Have you allowed your lived experience to reconceptualize definitions/ milestones for you? I
wish you the strength and the courage for the same.
Want to build a solution with us to improve treatment outcomes for neurological, psychiatric and psychological conditions - reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.