Doris began the evening by giving a little of her own background and a brief insight into the subject itself. Psychodrama, she said, ‘facilitates the wide range of human communication and goes beyond the paradigm of verbalisation’. She shared her passion for the work of Jacob Levy Moreno (1889 – 1974) who was the founding father of Psychodrama and an ardent pioneer of group therapy. Born in Romania and educated in Vienna he qualified as a Doctor of Medicine and studied philosophy. He was there at the time of Freud with whom he did not entirely agree, believing the analysis process (especially of dreams) took people apart whereas his belief was to help them put themselves back together in order to follow their dreams. Moreno moved to New York which allowed him to fulfil his own dream of focusing on sociometric group research.
It was there in 1932 that he introduced Group Psychotherapy to the American Psychiatric Association and others. He subsequently developed his Theory of Interpersonal Relations terming the elements as ‘psychodrama’ and ‘sociodrama’ and more interestingly as ‘Therapeutic Theatre’. Whilst, in itself, it is not a method, Psychodrama is a systematic process informed by elements and methodologies of Sociometry, Psychology, Existential Philosophy, Physicality, Spontaneity and especially Creativity whilst also considering any transference and counter transference of those involved. Moreno’s work chimes with Martin Buber’s ‘I-Thou’ philosophy. Psychodrama has also influenced Body-psychotherapies and is connected to the field of Humanistic Psychology. The British Psychodrama Association (BPA) oversees and safeguards the modality’s specific perspective, elements and dimensions as well as the standards of the training for Psychodrama Psychotherapists.
Throughout the evening sociometric (group) exercises encouraged us to explore and find connections with each other and explore our physical space a little. As a prelude to inviting us to partake in the group ‘Theatre’, vignette, Doris explained the separate roles that would be involved (‘Roles’, Moreno, 1985) and these are the: Somatic Role (eater), Psychological role (enjoyer), Social role (consumer) and Transcendental role (communicator). The roles in a psychodrama enactment typically include the Protagonist, the Classical Double, the Mirror, Auxiliary Ego and Observer. Being able to ‘step into another’s shoes’ is paramount.
In our case, through the Group Process the protagonist selection identified a protagonist/person whose meaningful event to share was the joy of a 10K race along part of the Coast bordering the Solent on what had been a beautiful sunny day.
For the enactment, a classical double worked alongside the protagonist in order to help the protagonist to express relevant thoughts and feelings that the auxiliary could sense from the protagonist. Further roles were chosen by the protagonist, including that of her husband, the gentle wind and the Isle of Wight – demonstrating that every aspect and experience of the elements involved in the work is important for the meaning making of a person and carries information. The auxiliary egos were superb as they held the roles in the spirit of of the protagonist’s explanations. They explored, in the here and now, physically, emotionally, mentally and through the transpersonal a race that had already been run. Through watching the scene from outside (mirror position) and the enactment by the auxiliary egos, the protagonist gleaned more insights of her experience and meaning making process.
At the end, in the sharing process, each person who held a Role reported their different feelings and emotions they experienced being in the specific role. Then the sharing opportunity was opened to all participants, inviting them in what way, if any, the observation of the vignette echoed within themselves. In the ideal case of psychodrama work, all participants engage in their personal work evoked by the protagonist. It was funny, poignant, challenging, informing and insightful and I realised how important such a creative medium was within therapeutic work with its intrinsic ability to enhance understanding of the Self and Others – the possibilities seemed endless and our Director was clearly in her element and excellent at her Role.
The following is a sample of the feedback given to Doris from those present.
“Many thanks Doris; thank you for the invite and an opportunity to have a bite off the Psychodrama apple:) You were brilliant drawing together from a million facets and using a presentation where we could take part.
I sense the vastness of the field, scope and possibilities.
It was a tangible experience and powerful.
I shall forever see the Isle of Wight in a new light. a sense of being seen and almost grounded by this huge lump of land basking in the sea. I often watch it from [the coast line], yet it hasn’t spoken back to me quite as vividly before.”