plural noun: phantasms
- a figment of the imagination; an illusion or apparition.
- an illusory likeness of something.
PHANTASMS is the online home for Dr. Bruce Ballon’s endeavors of employing illusions for connecting with the reality around us.
The interactive art of illusion allows people to reflect on the relationship between the perceived and the actual.
The PHANTASMS initiative makes use of this concept to create innovative presentations for:
- Helping people to accept and cope with ambiguity and the unknown
- Increasing awareness of, and advocacy for, mental health issues across society
Learning to engage the imagination with a practical mind, we can better grapple with the stress of ambiguity and tolerate the anxiety of the unknown.
Building the ability to reflect on one’s convictions and personal assumptions of reality can enhance adaptability to our true environment. This improves the ability to master the situations we deal with at home, work, and play.
Dealing with and maintaining mental health is about being healthy overall. Often there are issues of stigma when discussing mental health, as if it all applies only to having severe psychiatric conditions. We must all realize we all have mental health needs, whether you suffer from a psychiatric condition or not.
That being said, many people in society have friends and family who do have love ones and colleagues who may indeed suffer from mental health medical conditions. There is often a terrible toll with not battling the stigmas surrounding these conditions. Over the years, two of my close friends — who also worked in the mental health field — committed suicide. Each of these friends worried that if anyone found out about their conditions, people wouldn’t want to be around them any more. They never sought help. It resulted in their deaths.
Dr. Ballon builds an environment of discovery and exploration, framing the discussion to promote psychological safety, which is essential to allow the participants to explore these concepts.
Seeing more how people are the same, rather than different, is a key element to the PHANTASMS approach.
For example, often when people don’t understand a situation or thing, they might speculate to fill in the gaps of what they do not really know. This kind of speculation is often based on cognitive frames/schema a person already has decided is “reality.” This is the power of magic and illusions – it can shake up those frames and allow people to see things in new ways. Illusion a can challenge perceptions and explore the human condition. Magic and mentalism — which can give the impression that one can read minds, implant thoughts or erase memories — can be used to mimic mental health conditions and ultimately help people develop a better understanding.
Many people engage in magical thinking without realizing it. An example might be of someone sitting at a red light and willing the light to change. Superstitions like knocking on wood, throwing a pinch of salt over our shoulders or having a lucky number are also part of our collective conscience. The practices are rooted in old, magical rituals but have endured to become part of our belief systems and culture.
You know on a rational level, these actions have no effect, but trying to control something with our minds makes us feel good, which is totally psychotic. We know it’s not possible. That’s why people like magic. They like to say, ‘could this be true? Is this real?’ And so it’s a fascinating segue to into these discussions.
Dr. Ballon is dedicated to educating the public and professionals about mental health issues and breaking down the stigmas associated with mental illness. A major aim of this work is the exploration behind the fictions and mythologies surrounding mental health. By delving into the representations of these concepts, mental health issues can be demystified and better dealt with in our world. The ultimate goal being an increases awareness of, and advocacy for, mental health issues across society.
Through participation in creative experiences that encourage the exchange of ideas between people, and the shared collective experience of audiences engaging in performances or presentation of the illusion arts, public at large and the discrimination and prejudice associated with mental health issues is eroded.
There is a terrible toll with the stigmas surrounding mental health issues are. Two of Dr. Ballon’s friends — who also worked in the mental health field — committed suicide. Each of these friends worried that if anyone found out about it, people wouldn’t want to be around them any more. And so they never sought help. Discrimination also comes in the form of impacting relationships, job prospects, and motivation.
If people had time to stop and talk about their feelings and stresses, we would be much better for it. We’re often running too fast and trying to get so many things done we don’t have a chance to stop and crucially reflect to think about “why I am I feeling and thinking a certain way today?” “Why is that other person behaving this way?”
The art of illusion which ties into cognitive science, psychology, humanities, belief systems and more, allows not only for self-reflection but allow people to step into a simulation of other people’s experiences. Trying to look at things from other people’s points of view, step in their shoes and realize why people behave the way they do can help us battle discrimination and stigma. In general, it will help anyone with their lives by developing further their abilities to critically reflect on their situations in life.