Oppis are a central feature of self-positioning. Oppis are opportunities.
An opportunity is just that: a chance you can take, or not, as you wish. It is offered to you alongside many other opportunities: you take up the ones that are relevant to you, miss out on those that do not seem right for you at the moment. An oppi may not seem right for you now, but you may remember it, and come back to it. Or another one may come along that comes at the same issue from a different angle and appeals to you more.

We all have many opportunities in our lives: to make a new contact or friend, to take a new job or course, to study something, to read something. Self-positioning is about thinking through, so the oppis on the website ask you to think about something.

The oppis come most days, so if you take a feed or follow the website, most days you will get an oppi – most days only because the site does not always operate smoothly.

The oppi has two parts. First of all, there is a picture. Then, second, there are some questions sparked, sometimes obliquely, by the picture. The questions are in a particular form, which I describe below.

First part of an oppi: the picture
But first the picture. The pictures are of places, or things, such as sculptures, sometimes they contain people, sometimes they are animals, plants or flowers, or sometimes they are more symbolic: they may show a roadway, or paths intersecting. The pictures are of ordinary places and things that I have photographed: they are not supposed to be clever or special.

Very occasionally, the picture is a diagram that goes with a brief explanation about something to do with self-positioning. These explanations add the basic information given in the link pages at the top of each page of the blog.
How do you react to the picture? Do you like it, or dislike it? Is it the colours, the place, the people, the subject? Does it remind you of something? If you think about it, what direction does your mind go in? This is an opportunity to react to something. Now think about your reaction: what is it about you that reacts to that particular picture in that sort of way? And what does that mean with your relationships with other people?

You can react alone; think through alone. But you may find it better, or you may prefer even if it is not better, to take oppis with someone else or a group. Get together and discuss your different reactions to the picture. Not the picture, whether it is well-framed, unfuzzy, boring or whatever, but what your different reactions say about yourselves and yourselves in relation to each other.
To self-position, you may also want to think about how someone else who is important to you would react. ‘Janie would like that picture of a cat’. ‘Jo would like that misty mountainside.’ Why would they respond in that way? How is that different from your response? Why?

Second part of an oppi: the questions
The questions are stimulated by the picture (not the other way around – I look for a picture that I like and that is a bit different from other recent ones and wait until the questions come). They only take one line of questions: usually several are easily possible. That is why the oppi starts off from being about how you want to react to the picture.

Another article will look at the questions and how they are structured; and suggest how you can create your own (and submit them to the website so that other people can take them up).

But there are three main points. First, the question asks you to do something active, to think about something. Sometimes it will tell you to do something like ‘tell a story about...’ ‘explain how...’ Self-positioning is an –ing word, so it means you should be doing it, creating your own position.

Second, the question is open. It is either about an open and sometimes quite metaphorical point: with a picture of boats in a beach for example, the questions were: do you feel beached? Is it safe? To some people, this might mean nothing. They perhaps react: ‘He’s away with the fairies today’. Sometimes the openness is because you are asked to talk about both sides of the question. One is a view of a famous building being cleaned, and the question is: three things that need cleaning up...and three things that don't. You could answer that politically: three things in society. Or personally: three things in your life. Or interpersonally: three things in the behaviour of someone who is close to you.

That example demonstrates another aspect of the questions. They are quite specific. They ask you for three things, not a whole long list of complaints or positives. On the other hand by asking you for a specific number of things, they push you to come up with several points, not just one.

Answering the questions may be useful to you, especially if a particular one really connects with you. But whatever, think again about your reaction. Why do you react that way? Why does this question irritate or intrigue you? And think about other people: how differently would they react.

And if you do your self-positioning with other people, you can also explore the differences and links between you.

One final thing about the questions and the pictures: they do not attack you or bully you. They are gentle, you can choose how deeply or not you work on them.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Malcolm Payne is a leading educator and writer in social work and end-of-life care, emeritus, honorary or visiting professor at universities in the UK, Poland and Finland. He is the author of many books and professional and research publications in health and social work. Among his recent books are: The Creative Arts in Palliative Care (edited with Nigel Hartley) Philadelphia/London Jessica Kingsley; Humanistic Social Work: Core Principles in Practice Chicago: Lyceum/Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan and Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care (with Margaret Reith) Chicago: Lyceum/Bristol, UK: Policy Press.