Theory of Roles – JL Moreno

Quote from “Who Shall Survive?” pp 76

Theory of Roles*
Every role is a fusion of private and collective elements; it is composed of two parts,—its collective denominators and its individual differentials. It may be useful to differentiate between role-taking—which is the taking of a finished, fully established role which does not permit the individual any variation, any degree of freedom—role playing—which permits the individual some degree of freedom—and role creating—which permits the individual a high degree of freedom, as for instance, the spontaneity player. The tangible aspects of what is known as “ego” are the roles in which it operates. Roles and relationships between roles are the most significant development within any specific culture Working with the “role” as a point of reference appears to be a methodological advantage as compared with “personality” or “ego.” These are less concrete and wrapped up in metapsychological mystery.

Role emergence is prior to the emergence of the self . Roles do not emerge from the self, but the self may emerge from roles The hypothesis upheld by many that the genesis of role emergence and the genesis of language are one and the same is not tenable according to experimental role research. Long before language- linked roles emerge in the child’s world, “psychosomatic roles” operate effectively (for instance, the role of the eater, the sleeper and the walker). There is considerable psychic resistance against the intrusion of language in infants and even some resistance against gestural infiltration. There is no reason to assume that the language-free areas are non-human. There is overwhelming evidence that these silent areas are co-existent with the vocal ones on the human level and have great potentialities for independent growth. There may be forms of social communication without gestural involvement. The tele phenomenon operates in all dimensions of communication and it is therefore an error to reduce it to a mere reflection and correspondent of the communication process via language.

The roles of the mother, the son, the daughter, the teacher, the negro, the Christian, etc., are social roles ; the roles of a mother, a teacher, a Negro, a Christian, etc., are psychodramatic roles.

The term role itself comes from the language of the stage. Role playing may be considered as an experimental procedure, a method of learning to perform roles more adequately. The present popularity of the term and concept derives from the value it has proven to have as a training device in various social, occupational and vocational activities, and resulted from the initiative which the author has taken in developing them. It is through the study of roles in action that new knowledge about roles developed. In contrast with role playing, role taking is an attitude already frozen in the behavior of the person. Role playing is an act, a spontaneous playing; role taking is a finished product, a role conserve.

* See also “Two Schools of Role Theory,” p. 688-691. (in the same vol of “Who Shall Survive?”)

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