The Clown's Come Back

Emily Wong Posted by Emily Wong, Digital Editorial Intern, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

The Clown's Come Back

Many years ago, while attending a graduate program for psychology, I attended a one-day workshop on the psychology of clowns. The leader had a new clown nose for each person. One by one, each participant walked to the front of the room, and after turning their back to the group, re-appeared with their clown nose on.

Believe it or not, it was a powerful exercise. The workshop leader explained that clowns represented another side to our emotional life, a side that was not often expressed, or that held mixed emotions. I'll never forget that one participant in particular looked terribly sad with their clown nose on, even though they claimed to not have sadness when they turned to face the class.

The clown nose also represented separateness, marginalization. When I wore the clown nose & felt people without clown noses looking back at me, it placed me in the position of "other". I was separate from the group, and all eyes were on me. I was no longer myself, instead merely a perception conceived by the group & placed on me. It was quite unnerving.

After the workshop, I put the clown nose in the center console of my car, and left it there. One day, as I was driving along, I noticed I was becoming frustrated at the horrible traffic creeping along in front of me. On a whim, I decided to put on the clown nose. I wanted to see what people's reactions were in the other cars, especially when I had no other clown costume, and I wasn't "acting" clown-ish.

Well, there were almost several accidents! Once the traffic got moving, many other drivers were distracted. Kids loved the clown nose, of course.

Most importantly, I felt better. By acknowledging the ridiculousness of the traffic, cars, and frankly jam-packed city lifestyle with a clown nose, it removed the burden of "pretending" to be cool with it all. It was a subtle yet significant move towards a major decision in my life: quitting grad school. This decision lead to other ones, like traveling in Asia for 18 months.

Recently, The SpokenCoast Project held a fundraiser at The Spice Monkey Restaurant in Oakland, with great fanfare & success. To honor the last time I left town, I brought back the clown noses. I bought enough so everyone could wear one. People got creative on where the clown nose ended up!

Several clown noses were leftover and they ended up, you guessed it, in my pickup console. The best part is there is a pack of spearmint gum in the console, too, which "perfumes" the clown nose. Every time I put it on, I smell spearmint. Better than smelling the cheap foam!

Recently though, processing my own fear, anxiety, & general angst about shifting my entire life into my truck to go film some people living on the coast, prevented me from wearing the clown nose. I just wasn't feeling it. Many tears were shed, much hand-wringing commenced.

Yesterday, for the first time in over a week, I put on the clown nose. One lady at the post office waved to me like she knew me. Kids, of course, loved it.

Most importantly, I loved it. I loved surprising people. I loved not taking my errands too seriously. I loved people's blank stares, trying to figure out what I was up to, but pretending they weren't noticing or caring.

And, my heart was light enough that it felt good to wear it.

"Next up for the Bozo Buckets..."