Action & Psychodrama

I’m working on a handout on action for a Psychodramatic Couple Therapy Training event in September.  Psychodrama is sometimes mistakenly called an “action method”.  That might mean people move about. That they exhibit behaviour.  The real question is: are they actors?  That is, agents in their own life!

The action includes: the body, emotions, thinking, the breath, the spirit, the soul, the chi, life energy, prana.  In psychodrama language that is spontaneity-creativity.

Here are two quotes:

The organism-in-environment is a behavioral system; the actor in situ is an actorial system, and, Moreno (1953b) states, it is important to distinguish between the two. A collectivity of actors is a different entity from a collectivity of organisms and has a different meaning.

Warner (1954) points out that from Moreno’s perspective, when one tries to understand behavior by separating an action into components, as the psychologist does, one ends up ignoring the most important characteristics of human behavior, social interaction. Acts, actions, and interactions are complex behaviors that are intended to gain a desired goal. They occur within a cultural context. There is a reciprocal relationship between the members of a group and the group’s culture. On the one hand, it is the actions of the members that create the culture of the group and on the other hand the culture of the group shapes the actions of its members.

Meyer writes, “The heart of Dr. Moreno’s sociometric method is action. Time and again in the writings of this book and elsewhere, he insists that sociometric methods require that individuals cease to be subjects for research, patients in the clinic, or objects of reform. They must become participants” (1952, p. 360). Sociometric research, Moreno insisted, is for the benefit of the people involved, not for the benefit of the researcher. Therefore, the subjects should be included in the design of the research, in the selection of criteria, for example. Sociometry should take place in life, in the real situation of the individuals, not in the

laboratory of the scientist. Unless the sociometric experiment includes an activity in which the group members partake, it is, at best, “near sociometric.” Sociometry is an action method.

John Nolte

It is worth meditating on the words of Moreno — especially how they might apply to couples.

An action matrix registers acts and events . A behavior matrix registers “observations” of acts and events . The actor must become an observer of himself and an actor towards the observer, i.e ., the observer must become an actor towards the observed and an observer of himself ; one must co-act with the other, a meeting is taking place . In an ongoing socio-psychodrama the subjective view of the actor and the objective view of the co-actor are one, they are on the same plane . Indeed, as … auxiliary egos to each other on the plane of action the degree of their reciprocal subjectivities and objectivities are continuously in a process of mixture; A acts towards B, B acts towards A; A observes self and acts towards B, B observes self and acts towards A ; A observes A, B observes B ; A observes A and B, B observes B and A ; A acts towards C, A acts towards B and C, C acts towards B and A, etc . A genuine theory of action and actors deals with actorial categories and interaction potentials like spontaneity, creativity, the warm up, the moment, the meeting, … auxiliary ego and other categories which express the coexperiential level of an actor’s world on the level of action .

Moreno “Who Shall Survive?” p74


Some notes about Action & couple therapy

How does work when we are working with the relationship?  The “third entity”?







Not “male female” but role systems — unity of opposites  unity and opposites.

The protagonist will transform the and the auxiliary will transform

Action is to do with being actors — active participants.

If there is ambivalence about the relationship — Discernment therapy.

Individuation is always needed






Wisdom is not Consciousness

Skills, knowledge, spontaneity, intelligence, creativity and wisdom are not consciousness.


Easily and often confused. Consciousness raising, so effective in the 70s brought with it the idea that learning and education developed consciousness.  Maybe the miss-use of the word began with Marx?  Class consciousness, does he even use that word?  If he did he did not mean that it could be developed by reading books or classes alone.  Learning comes through experience. Why is using the word consciousness now in the 2010’s a problem?

Hmmm, bear with me…  I’m exploring something.

People do not have higher or lower levels of consciousness. People have skills and abilities including the ability to warm up to spontaneity and creativity. People learn things in practice.  Experience and relationships build ethical wisdom. Discrimination can be taught. Spontaneity can be trained.

To learn, people need relationships, access to teachers and books and crazy people ( typo) I meant craft people.  Being around people who can sing, converse, act, make things, helps people learn. Generous people who share what they know are real teachers.

Action, involvement, engagement, immersion and courage to act and to make mistakes is how people enrich themselves and others. Out of action we get knowledge and ideas. Action first reflection second. Collaboration and interaction before contemplation.  All of this makes us wiser.

Wisdom is not consciousness, it is attained through practice and living. Consciousness is a mysterious quality of knowing we are alive and exist. We just know it, but it is a mystery.

Becoming more able, relational, effective and wise is less mysterious, it takes access to good teachers.  Courage to act. Willingness to seek advice. Ask questions. Discrimination. Love


This is a simple ideal I’m trying to express. Dewey, Marx, Moreno all promoted action learning. Experiential learning.   Now more than ever the dominant culture works to keep us passive, ignorant, isolated.  Consciousness, higher, lower, altered, psychological, even radical, by any name is individual, private, personal.


One of the reasons I’m exploring this line of thinking is that there are plenty of movements that promote the idea that if 10% (or whatever) of people reached some sort of higher state of consciousness then the world would be fixed.

It is more dialectical than that.

We are in process and as the world changes, we change.  Action by action.  Not only thought by thought.