Encounter

This is the third of three posts based on the monograph “Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

This is obviously the main theme of the encounter monograph. There is more here on encounter than I’ve seen in other books by Moreno.[Check out Vol 2] Useful. Encounter is so central to Moreno’s opus, but it has not been developed fully in practice. It was railroaded by the ‘encounter’ movement.

I think some clarification is needed, philosophically, for the psychodrama director to enhance practice, and for people seeking greater depth of encounter in their lives. How is encounter related, in practice, to role reversal, mirroring and doubling, how can encounter be produced on the stage and as a phenomenon in life?

A more comprehensive definition of encounter is contained in Progress in Psychotherapy, Vol. I.* “Encounter, which derives from the French rencontre, is the nearest translation of Begegnung. The German zwischen-menschlich and the English ‘interpersonal’ or ‘interactional’ are anemic notions compared to the living concept of encounter. Begegnung conveys that two or more persons meet not only to face one another, but to live and experience one another—as actors, each in his own right. It is not only an emotional rapport, like the professional meeting of a physician or therapist and patient or, an intellectual rapport, like teacher and student, or a scientific rapport, like a participant observer with his subject. It is a meeting on the most intensive level of communication. The participants are not put there by any external authority; they are there because they want to be— representing the supreme authority of the self-chosen path. The persons are there in space; they may meet for the first time, with all their strengths and weaknesses—human actors seething with spontaneity and zest. It is not Einfühlung; it is Zweifühlung—togetherness, sharing life. It is an intuitive reversal of roles, a realization of the self through the other; it is identity, the rare, unforgotten experience of total reciprocity. The encounter is extemporaneous, unstructured, unplanned, unrehearsed—it occurs on the spur of the moment. It is ‘in the moment’ and ‘in the here’, ‘in the now’. It can be thought of as the preamble, the universal frame of all forms of structured meeting, the common matrix of all the psychotherapies, from the total subordination of the patient (as in the hypnotic situation) to the superiority and autonomy of the protagonist (as in psychodrama).” “Summing up, Begegnung is the sum total of interaction, a meeting of two or more persons, not in the dead past or imagined future, but in the here and now, hic et nunc, in the fullness of time—the real, concrete and complete situation for experience; it involves physical and psychic contact. It is the convergence of emotional, social and cosmic factors which occur in all age groups, but particularly in adolescence (Begegnung syndrome); it is the experience of identity and total reciprocity; but above all, psychodrama is the essence of the encounter.”

* The first journal which has the phrase “interpersonal relations” in its title.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1970)

I’m not sure if the reference is to Psychodrama Vol 2, but that does have a relevant passage:

In other words, a process which had operated from the start, parallel to the charm produced by transference, is now coming more strongly to the fore. He sees the patient now as she is. This other process acting between two individuals has characteristics missing in transference. It is called “tele”, feeling into one another. It is “Zweifühlung” in difference from “Einfühlung”. Like a telephone it has two ends and facilitates two-way communication. It is know that many therapeutic relations between physician and patient, after a phase of high enthusiasm from both sides, fade out and terminate, often for some emotional reason. The reason is frequently a mutual disillusionment when the transference charm is gone and the tele attraction is not sufficiently strong to promise permanent therapeutic benefits. It can be said that the stability of a therapeutic relationship depends upon the strength of the tele cohesion operating between the two participants.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1975:6-7)

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1975). Psychodrama Second Volume: Foundations of Psychotherapy (Second Printing). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

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