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






INTERPSYCHE – Relationship Therapy for Couples

Two notes from a search on “marriage” on my Moreno texts. There is a new clarity I’m getting about the principles of working with couples psychodramatically. Thes two snippets reinforce that. Interpsyche is very close to the notion of an imago in IRT.

INTERPSYCHE … Marriage and family therapy for instance, has to be so conducted that the “…” of the entire group is re-enacted so that all their tele-relations, their co-conscious and co-unconscious states are brought to life. Psychodrama v. 1 p. vii Introduction to 3rd edition

RESISTANCE TO DRAMATIZE … The two partners are on the stage, for instance, but refuse to enact any of the crucial situations which they have disclosed during the interviews. The director tries to get them started by shifting their attention rapidly from one plot to another. This may put their minds at comparative ease and make them willing to work. If this brings no result, he will suggest that they can pick any subject at random, or anything which they would like to tell one another at the moment. If this also is without effect, the director may suggest that they project upon the stage any of the more pleasant situations in which they may have found themselves in the past (when they were first in love), or any situation which would express how they would have wished their marriage to develop (perhaps having a baby or a large family), or a situation in the future which would express any change they might like to have in their life-situation. If these do not bring any results, there still remains the choice of symbolic situations and symbolic roles for which they may have affinity or which might be constructed for them. If all this does not have the effect of an actual start, the director does not plead or insist too strongly, but sends the subjects back to their seats. Psychodrama v. 1 pp. 338-339