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.
Protagonist, group or leader centered psychodrama? Terminology
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.
Encounter The Heart of Psychodramatic Couple Therapy — AANZPA Journal 2019 — Walter Logeman
How do you open a session – William Doherty
Anger and Relationships
Alaine De Botton on anger:
Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.
Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?
My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.
A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:
In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.
I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.
There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:
Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”
Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.
Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.
Anger and Psychotherapy
I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:
“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”
The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.
It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.
In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:
Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.
In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.
Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.
Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.
Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.
Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.
The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.
William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.
In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:
The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.
I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.
Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.
Roles Create Roles
“a role is the functioning form the individual assumes in the specific moment he reacts to a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved” (Moreno, 1977, p IV)
Lets take a list of roles, these are from Max Clayton’s article (Clayton, 1994), it is a convenient list, and it is the one that got me to think about this:
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
For each of these there is as Moreno puts it: “a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved.” We can grasp the role it is possibly in relation to from the role.
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Art Audience Muse
Absent Parent, Threatening bully
Challenging person or situation
Creating Change in a Role Relationship
These role pairs will change as one of the roles changes:
The teacher can’t teach without the student
Lovers need lovers
If the manipulatee ceases to be duped and becomes assertive the manipulator can’t manipulate.
If there is no speaker, become a good listener.
If there is no artist, become an appreciative audience and contribute materials
Be loving and love may come your way.
Stop criticising, appreciate and praise and you won’t be with a self-doubter for long.
There are different types of role relationship. Max talks of complementary roles and symmetrical roles.
“The diagrams made it easier to be aware of the complementary and symmetrical role systems that developed with other people and of the fact that there was an increase in complementary role relationships. As ability to analyse, plan and enjoy life came to the fore, so those roles pertaining to intimacy increased. There was a welcoming of closeness and an interest in complementing what others were doing. The aggressive approach to others diminished and along with this a lessening of symmetrical role relations and of the competitive dynamic that is associated with these. There was also a development of a real sense of being a role creator. Previously there had been much more of a sense of being a mundane person. A look at the diagrams also confirmed the ability to create forms of expression through which life purposes could be fulfilled. The experience of being a role creator was accompanied by an increase in motivation.”
An example of complementary role might be speaker / listener – and this would increase intimacy, as max suggests.
Symmetrical roles can escalate and be competitive e.g. Talker / talker can become shouter / shouter.
But some symmetrical roles can be intimate lover/lover gardener/gardener
Google search found the book online Note: I have a physical copy.
Clayton, G. M. (1994). Role Theory and its Application in Clinical Practice. In P. Holmes, K. Karp, & M. Watson (Eds.), Psychodrama Since Moreno (pp. 121–144). London: Routledge. Retrieved Tuesday, 9 February, 2016 from aanzpa.org
Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.
Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter
Just added this to my Writing page.
Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter (docx) — Out of date (Saturday, 7 May, 2016)
Now working on a draft here in Google Docs
This is an article I’ve been working on since I presented something along these lines at 2014 AANZPA conference. Its about the value of doubling what is adequate in the protagonist. Doubling is not coaching, but assisting the protagonist to say what is in them in a way that it can be heard.
It takes further the ideas I came away with from the Dan Wile workshop. He says something like this: I assist the couple to heave the conversation they would have if they were not fighting.
See additional notes from 6 October 2012 Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele
Varieties of Encounter
Facilitating interaction was the dictum I used for the first couple therapy I did. I recall, as an untrained social worker in a hospital being asked to work with a couple who had difficulties. The night before I read a gestalt based book on couple therapy and facilitate interaction was the central practical guide I took away. I could have done worse.
I have written on dialogue and encounter in the AANZPA Journal more recently: The Imago Affair. Let me quote a relevant chunck from that paper as I wish to further reflect on encounter.
At their heart, both Moreno’s and Hendrix’s work go beyond technique and are an invitation to a profound experience. The aim of a dialogue is not a specific outcome, nor is it reliant on one method. Here is the section of Moreno’s well known poem that encapsulates the idea of encounter.
A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine.
Harville Hendrix introduced the validation step into the Imago structure with an eye to facilitating just such an experience. It is often taught as understanding or making sense. The lead-in line goes like this: “You make sense. And one thing that makes sense is…” The listener is invited to cross a bridge into the world of the other, and to see what they see, and feel what they feel in that world. Note the similarity to Moreno in Hendrix’s idea.
Buber clarified for me that a “Thou” relationship with others required honouring their “otherness” as an “I” distinct from me and any concepts I might have of them. This required a willingness to look at the world of another through his or her eyes.
Linger on the moments of connection described here:
I will look at you with your eyes (Moreno)
look at the world of another through his or her eyes (Hendrix)
Are they the same?
Both Imago and in the work of Moreno there is the idea of a special meeting. Not just any meeting, but something profound, where you become the other…
How to facilitate, or operationalise encounter is different in the psychodramatic sphere than in the I Imago sphere. They use different contexts for their techniques as well, psychodrama: the stage. Imago: the couple in dialogue and Hedy Schleifer has a variation: Host / Visitor to the other’s world.
There are techniques/concepts in these modalities that are sometimes akin, but differently nuanced, and sometimes unique to the method. There are other modalities and have techniques for interaction, of importance is the variation of Imago developed by Hedy Schleifer and her husband, and the work of Dan Wile.
My friend and colleague Dan Randow and I are working on describing the varieties of techniques for encounter. Here is a beginning.
Here is a list of techniques/concepts:
Doubling: in Psychodrama
Mirroring — Psychodrama
Role reversal — Psychodrama
Doubling in Imago: Related to the use of lead-lines
Doubling in Dan Wile’s CRT
Mirroring in Imago
Empathy as used in Imago
Host, Visitor (Hedy Schleifer)
How does role reversal relate to encounter? In role reversal and in doubling you become the other to the best of your ability. You take the physical position of the other, quite literally in role reversal and by being alongside and slightly behind the other when doubling.
Is it useful to distinguish the inter-psyche from the intra-psyche; what goes on in our subjective world and what goes on between us? Maybe sometimes, all these encounter processes aim at improving the relationship and healing and growth of the individuals at the same time.
Evolution and human behaviour and culture.
So much on my mind – I can’t keep up with it!
Books to read on relationships – “Marriage is the medium”
I have been reflecting on the role of evolution in relationships.
An hypothesis follows and then a long list of books. Continue reading “Evolution and human behaviour and culture.”
Interview with Zerka Moreno 2000
İSTANBUL PSİKODRAMA ENSTİTÜSÜ – an interview with Zerka Moreno 2000
(it is on that link but takes a bit of perseverance to find it.)
I was intrigued by the ideas about couple therapy. Pre marital clarifications of expectations.