I am updating the Psychodramatic Couple Therapy Handbook. In the introduction I link to a historic Outline of the first Psychodramatic Couple Therapy Training course, preserved online here. It is the latest version from April 2021.
A couple is truly a couple when the hitherto hidden dimensions of pain surface in the relationship. The couple may not see it, but there is an interconnected web of role relationships that involve projections and yearnings from childhood. Thus a defining aspect of couplehood is:
- Connections at a primal wounds
Of course there are other aspects of couplehood:
- A wedding ceremony
- Shared memories
- Domestic life
- Social reality & recognition
Some of these will apply and some may not.
The crucial aspect of couplehood is an uncanny reciprocity of pain. Hedy Schleifer refers to the “deepest desires meeting the darkest resistance, and vice versa.” This can appear like a disconnect, but it is the relationship doing its purposeful work, a profound connection.
Psychodrama refers to ‘the interpyche’ with an interplay of co-conscious and co-unconscious ways of being. Evocative and useful words. Imago relationship therapy has the word ‘imago’, a word meaning image, referring to the match of the unconscious dynamics involving the unmet needs from childhood, mixed with the love that was there.
One word for it: trouble!
Who wants it? Who knows how to get through this impasse when one person’s deep desires meet the other person’s fears? And vice versa. It gets harder as regression seeps in and our usual adult functioning goes out the window. I’d rather look at facebook or go for a walk.
There is another side to the story, trouble means opportunity. The ‘interpsyche’ is not so stupid! This mystical third entity wove a web for us to climb through impasses. They are not impossible passes, we can get through, with help. And once through we continue the adventure with new vigour.
For the therapist it is easy! “Wow, you two are here, facing this trouble! Well done. This is normal, this is healthy, this is natural and right and you can work through this. Talk and listen. Listen with great care! Talk without blame. I’ll help you do it.”
Its is not so easy when you are in it. Love is blind, and so is trouble. Have a look at this feast of quotes about love: 90 Beautiful Love Quotes from Literature I wish there were as many beautiful quotes about the purpose of trouble as there are about the glorious magic of love.
Perhaps in an approach of the social universe we can learn from Democritus and close our eyes to the actual configurations social “matter” presents to us families, factories, schools, nations, etc. Perhaps a mind not distracted by the gross facts in society will be able to discover the smallest living social unit, itself not further divisible, the social atom.
J.L. Moreno “Who Shall Survive?” p 291
THE MATERIAL ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL SITUATION
The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate and has remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation. For millennia therefore, the activities of human society perhaps have been a greater mystery to him than every other part of the universe. Because of their greater distance from him he could see the movement of the stars and planets, or the life of the plants
and animals, more objectively. Therefore, the science of human society is today hardly as far developed as physics and astronomy were in the minds of Democritus and Ptolemy. It takes enormous sacrifice and discipline to view and accept himself as he is as an individual man, the structure of the individual psyche, its psychodynamics; but the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles than to be objective toward his own individual mind. The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend to know it because it operates within him. The involvement of the socius, however, he cannot pretend to know as it operates outside of him; but it is an outside to which he is inescapably tied.
This is a quote from Moreno — SOCIOMETRY, EXPERIMENTAL METHOD AND THE SCIENCE OF SOCIETY AN APPROACH TO A NEW POLITICAL ORIENTATION
J.L. MORENO — Foreword by GARDNER MURPHY
The same paragraph appears in a different context in Who Shall Survive? P73.
Here are my thoughts about this passage which I think has some important concepts and raises a question for another post:
- “The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate”
This might sound trite, but it shows how he is focused on the relationship, not the individual. Not like Freud, Jung and all those on that tree of thought, who were predominantly individualists, in theory and practice. And note the words dynamic logic. Dynamic, moving changing, alive, and logic, something that makes sense, that can be grasped. Moreno wrote this in 1949 so this is written at the time of the upsurge of systems theory, cybernetics and the Macey conferences in New York. Maybe he was influenced by the zeitgeist of the time, or influenced it.
- “…remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation.”
- Unconscious. He uses the word unashamedly even though he is equally unashamedly anti Freud later in the same essay. The words maximal proximity are nice. McLuhan used the analogy of a fish not knowing what water is. It is because of the water’s maximal proximity to the fish. While so much is made of the bias of maximal proximity we see that for the study of humans Moreno turns this problem into the crucial advantage. Science is turned on its head, the group studies itself. Of course! Humans are explorers of space, of stuff outside of us, minimal proximity, so to study ourselves we have to make that inescapable maximal proximity a feature of the work.
- “… the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles…”
The invisibility of the structure of human society is a phenomena. Invisibility … we can see people, but not ‘systems’. someone famously said “you can’t kiss a system”. Now the meditation on Moreno’s writing here gets interesting… note the title of the section: The Material Aspect of the Social Situation. So does the relationship, the network, have a material aspect? What does that look like? You can see two things but the relationship between them is a space. The space between is a cherished notion in Imago Relationship Therapy. I’m not sure how Moreno resolves these questions about the material aspect. (I think I heard Timothy Morton talk sense on this. For another post.)
The socius. Another potent word. He uses it as if there is a reality that exists. I think of his other wording: the sociometric matrix as being somewhat similar, if not the same. The socius is similar and just as slippery as ‘the psyche’.
• “The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend
to know it because it operates within him.”
Note the word pretend. For Moreno it’s all roles. There really is no inner even though he uses that language here.
I’m looking forward to writing another post on the whole section on the material aspect of relationship
Waiting For The Miracle
Have had this song in my mind since the Theatre of Spontaneity group on Tuesday.
That was the group theme, ambivalence, sticking with the known.
I love the verse:
Ah baby, let’s get married
We’ve been alone too long
Let’s be alone together
Let’s see if we’re that strong
Yeah let’s do something crazy,
Something absolutely wrong
While we’re waiting
For the miracle, for the miracle to come
A passage from “Who Shall Survive?”
Continue reading “Spontaneity, Anxiety and the Moment — a passage from “Who Shall Survive?””
The term “group centered” is used in Australia and New Zealand psychodrama circles with respect to warm-up and also with respect to the drama itself.
Firstly with respect to the drama. I recall Max Clayton’s teaching when the group was under the misapprehension that sociodrama was always group centred i.e. without a specific protagonist, and psychodrama always had a protagonist. He then demonstrated a protagonist centred sociodrama, i.e. one based around the social roles in one person’s work situation. On rare occasions, I have seen a group centered psychodrama, one that began as a sociogram. An isolate emerged and the group then worked collaboratively with that person to include them.
With respect to warm-up, I am familiar with the usage where a “director directed warm-up” is contrasted with a “group centered warm-up”.
I have found a passage in “Who Shall Survive?” where Moreno talks about “centeredness.” and his usage is a bit different.
I doubt that we would use “leader centered” for psychodrama. If there is a psychodrama, then it is based on the group or the protagonist as the central focus. Emergent psychodrama sounds interesting but is not related to this discussion as far as I can see. I imagine all our groups are “group centered” in the way the word is used in the passage from “Who Shall Survive?” Even director directed warm-ups lead to group or protagonist centered psychodrama.
What has sparked my interest in this linguistic exploration is that I have been working with couples in groups in a variety of ways. I want to use the words “relationship centered psychodrama”. I think there are many ways to be “relationship centered”. I think more exploration is needed as being protagonist centered can run counter to the needs of a couple. I am writing another post on relationship centered psychodrama as I research the variety of ways this can be done and also the way Moreno tackled this in the past.