The notion that one is walking around in circles has a long history in personal introspection. While many people are marvelously capable of plotting out a straight and defined course to follow, others may feel as though the path ahead is as obscured and winding as it gets. And in both circumstances, people can easily veer off-course, leading to feelings of uncertainty or being lost.
Such themes are common throughout the human experience, and tend to affect those in nearly every situation, no matter their personal background or current situation, from time to time. Despite this fairly common occurrence, however, most people are likely to report that they are able to physically navigate with precision. Challenging this idea, a study centered at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics set out to find if walking in circles is more than a metaphor.
The immediate results of the study suggest that, indeed, walking in circles isn’t just a visually interesting way to describe a difficult situation. The study sent a series of people into the desert as well as the forest, equipping them with GPS devices to help track their movements. While not all subjects eventually walked in perfect or complete circles, the trend was decidedly towards moving away from the straight line on which they were instructed to journey. Results showed that performance was lowered at night, and that in the presence of a cloudy sky, walking in complete circles was significantly more probable.
The study may not have a workable tool ready for implementation in therapy, but it does have the potential to spark new discussions about the feeling of walking in circles and the body’s actual aptitude to maintain a straight course. As a growing number of therapy types and practitioners begin to incorporate physical activity into their sessions, therapy meetings of the future may include practice in walking along a straight line, encouraging the body and the mind alike to learn to navigate.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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