Erica Marx

Attract Repel, Cat-Mouse-Cheese

by for .  

Group game that plays with the tension between following your desires vs. running away from your fears. 



hard focus vs soft focus
fear vs. attraction - how it changes our attention
importance of desire/goal/need to drive a character 


Group game
Each person in group chooses object on one player (ie. button on joes shirt)
Each person in group choses 2nd object on second player (ie. suzie's shoelace)
Don't let the other people know what you've chosen.

When the game begins, you are going to be:
1. Attracted to first object -- desire, want to get as close as possible
2. Repelled by the second object -- want to get as far away as possible

Follow instructions from leader:
1. Begin (as described)
2. Now you are increasingly attracted to your item. The fear lessons in your focus b/c the attraction is so strong. 
3. Now you are starting to feel the fear more. 
4. Back to equal of each
5. Now reverse -- what you desired becomes what you fear and what you feared becomes your desire

Applied note:
Have them assign meaning to both what they desire and fear before the game begins

Facilitator notes
This game can be very powerful if you really take the time to guide people choosing a meaningful situation for themselves. All sorts of unexpected patterns will develop. Sometimes people will have a fear that chases them and they will make peace with that. Or not! Others will find it really easy to get close to their desire. Or not! Sometimes one person's desire is their desire's fear. I love this game because it allows serendipity to be a player. People can go deep with the interpretations. For example, in the rounds, focus on fear will cause people to physically spread out. Focus on desire will cause people to stick together. 

See below for online version.

Detailed instructions for in-person, applied version


We're going to work with your relationship to what you want, and also what could get in your way.

Choose one aspect of this that your really want. If you could just have one thing...Choose desire (goal)

Look around the room...secretly choose an object on someone else that represents this desire. (DEMO) Embodies the essence. Don't let them see you make this choice. Feel the magnetic pull, how you want to move toward this (keep feet planted)

What is the thing that you fear would get in the way?

**15 seconds to think about this & choose**

Choose item for what you fear will get in the way

Choose item on different person. Really feel it. You don't want to let that get anywhere near you. (don't move yet, just feel it).

Feel the tension of both of these acting at the same time.

Round 1
In a moment i will say GO and your goal will be to be as close as possible to your desire while keeping as far away as possible from what you fear will keep you from what you desire.

safety cue - be safe!

When I ring the bell you'll stop and I'll give you the next set of instructions. Encourage you to keep this real for yourself; really feel what it's like in this dynamic.

GO (people move)


Take a moment to reflect on these questions 
What happened?
What changed?
How is this related to your real life situation?
(optional: 2 min each to share with 1 or 2 people near you)

Round 2: Dial up DESIRE

less attention to fears
Really feel the desire, prioritize the desire.

*bell* Take a moment to reflect on these questions (same debrief questions)

Round 3: Dial up FEAR
feel fear more


Take a moment to reflect on these questions (same debrief questions)

Round 4: REVERSE

Try a new relationship with what you desire and what has been giving you fear.
Go toward what you fear
Go away from what you desire


Notice how it felt in your body to make these changes
What does it feel like to lean into your fears?
Sometimes people have desires and fears that travel together? How was that? How did you interpret that?

Small Group Reflection

find 2 or 3 people nearby, in small groups continue debrief. What happened? What did you learn? How do you interpret what happened? How can you apply this in your actual situation? 

Words of wisdom:

Look what happens when you prioritize your desire - we get closer Look at what happens when you prioritize your fear - we get farther away, we isolate
Importance of where you put your attention on the outcome.
Think about because of that - comes down to ACTIONS

Notice the relationship between what is happening in your mind and how strongly your body responds. Your thoughts / your perspective create your experience. 


Sometimes called "Cat - Mouse - Cheese"

Set up in Gallery View
Start in gallery view. Walk through the same process of having people choose one person (or item on the person's clothing) represent what they desire and a different person represent what they fear. If you're doing a non-applied version you can have everyone be mice and the desire is the cheese and the fear is the cat. Run to the cheese and stay away from the cat. 

Game Play in Breakout Rooms

Send everyone to breakout rooms and the game begins. The goal of the participants is to try to be in the BR room with your cheese and run away if your cat joins the room. 

If anyone rejoins the main session, quickly send them back into a random room (no hiding out in the main session). 

Managing Rounds
Close all the breakout rooms, send people to debrief, then explain the next round instructions. OR if playing without debriefing, voice broadcast the next instructions.

Online Facilitator notes

As the facilitator you can watch the game play via the BR room menu. The trick is having sufficient rooms that the game play is active. If there are too few rooms it gets bogged down and is not as fun, and if there are too many rooms then people tend to hide out in small rooms. For many rooms you really need to emphasize the importance of being with your cheese (not just resting and hiding from your cat!). As a ballpark calculation, aim for 4-6 people/room. If you have a LOT of people or if game play slows, you can add some supercats that break up any room.  


Adapted from Jim Karwisch's variation of guards and assassins. Erica Marx and Fred Brown and others in AIN created the online version. 

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