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/ Institute of Philosophy, Citizenship and Youth

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PhiloQuests: the day of worry

8. Concentration's Recess

The totems of reassurance


Objective To play with the concept of reassurance by looking for reassuring objects!

Duration : 15 to 45 minutes

Material : 

  • Your eyes
  • Your objects

Instructions : 

Some everyday objects are disturbing: they have a strange shape, like a coat hanger, or a function that can make us uncomfortable, like scissors. Conversely, other objects are reassuring: they calm us down when we are agitated—like a stress ball!—or comfort us when we are sad... like a stuffed animal. These can be called totem objects because of this special significance they have for you. In this activity, you will be looking for your own totem objects!


  1. Find your totems. Go around your house to find five totem objects—that is, things that are significant because they can comfort or reassure you. Avoid dangerous objects and, if necessary, ask permission before taking an object! Then lay out your objects in front of you on a table, a bed or the floor.

  2. Observe your totems. Look carefully at each object. Do any of these objects look alike? What do they have in common and what differences do you notice between them? Is there anything in their shape that reassures or comforts you? Or is it when the object is used that you feel reassured? Now place your totem objects in a line from least reassuring to most reassuring.

  3. Think about your totems. Finally, think about the following questions: What does it mean to be reassured? Do you always need an object or a person to reassure us? Can you reassure yourself? Why or why not?



Bonus : What objects from your home would you save if there was a fire and you could only take a few things with you? Why would you choose these items? Ask yourself: How do objects affect us? Can you love an object the way you love a person? Would you be the same person if you didn't own any of your objects? Why or why not?

Can an object reassure us?

Tricks for tots : If you'd like, you can also ask one of your parents to choose their own totem objects and give them to you. You can then try to figure out what your parent would select as their order of most to least reassuring. Meanwhile, they can do the same with your objects! Discuss your rankings  and think about the following questions: Are there things that reassure everyone? Is it important to know what reassures another person? Can we reassure someone who is older than us? Why or why not?
Tips for teens : Are there people who are totem objects for you in some way? In your head—or in writing on a piece of paper—try listing five people you know, and ordering them from most reassuring to least reassuring. For example, you can include people who don't make you feel safe, but who encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. Then ask yourself these questions: Should you only surround yourself with people who reassure you? Can reassuring someone be a bad thing? Is it okay to lie to reassure someone? Why or why not?

Share your creative reflections by sending them via email.
Include photos of your projects and notes of your thoughts, as well as your first name and your age!

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