Psychodrama and the body

Some quotes from Moreno in “Who Shall Survive?”

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.

“Who Shall Survive?” 76


The antiquated couch was transformed into a multidimensional stage, giving space and freedom for spontaneity, freedom for the body and for bodily contact, freedom of movement, action and interaction .

“Who Shall Survive?” 119



Language is one of the dominant social institutions of mankind. The discovery of the infra languages and the basic language technique may become of similar importance for the science of communication as the discovery of the tele, social atom and network has been for the formation of groups. They can serve as creative antidotes to a logically and emotionally overstuffed civilization. The kiss, the embrace, the handshake, the “magic” touch of the hand, the looking into each other’s eyes, the signs and gestures of love and friendship, of longing and despair, of pain and misery, the rhythm of the body in motion, at work, in dance, walking and in song, in plays and games, have potentialities which have been only partially unharnessed. The frozen forms of language and arts have held them back and have not permitted them to grow and develop and lend life a new richness: a spontaneous-creative cultural order. There are human situations of such universality as to cause our social symbols and customs, our cultural standards to be suddenly transcended; “we” experiences become possible without their direct aid. I remember a man and a woman in love, one from an African culture, the other from a Nordic one, who could not speak to each other except by unheard-of sounds, the look in their eyes, the touch of their hands, the rhythms of their bodies acting in unison. Who has not seen a mother talking to her infant, a few weeks old, taking the part of the baby as well as her own in perfect harmony . Here the logical-emotional languages of our culture would rather interfere than aid.

“Who Shall Survive?” 35-36

These are not social and mental signs only but also physiological signs, altered breathing rate, gasping, crying, smiling, clenching the teeth, etc. The bodily starters of any behaviour as acting or speaking on the spur of the moment are characterized by physiological signs. In the process of warming up these somatic symbols unfold and release simple emotions, as fear, anger, or more complex and diffused states. It is not necessary for verbal reactions to evolve in the process of warming up; they may or they may not. But some mimic symbols are usually present; they are related to underlying physiological processes and to psychological states.

“Who Shall Survive?” 338

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