We flee or fight to avoid pain. In psychodrama we call those ways of being the coping roles. The path to the progressive, being fully alive, is to be with the vulnerability of the pain and attend to it. This can’t really be done alone, yet no-one can do it for you.
This is a universal idea and present in many modalities.
The title of this post comes from Hedy Schleifer’s ECcT – Encounter Centred Couple Therapy. On her website she says:
“I want them to leave knowing that the “survival dance’ that they have been dancing for such a long time is “not’ who they are in their essence.”
“Imago shifts the focus from the self to the relationship and posits “relationship” as fundamental reality of which individuals are derivatives. To embody this paradigm shift, partners must shift their focus from their own need gratification to the needs of the relationship. The paradoxical outcome of that counter-intuitive shift is that such a sacrifice will insure the satisfaction of their needs in a way that was not possible when the focus was on the self. When the couple becomes partners rather than opponents in the project of creating and enacting their dream relationship, they create a thriving relationship. This perspective rests on the assumption that human beings are intrinsically relational, that the human problem is relational rupture, that all emotional symptoms are expressions of relational anxiety and that relational repair is the only and sufficient path to human well being.”
Beauvoir, Francine; Crapuchettes, Bruce. Getting Back The Love We Had: Forty-Two Answers To Real Questions From Couples Who Feared They Were Losing Their Way (pp. 4-5). Kindle Edition.
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.
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.
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.
Here are links some blog posts on encounter, including relationships, dialogue and the relational paradigm. I’ll keep adding to the list, there are plenty more not yet summed up. The idea is that I can see a brief summation, not avilable in the usual searches. They are in chronological order (latest on top).
Creativity Encounter June 27, 2009 – Added material Sunday, 6 December 2015 This is worth emphasising: relationships produce creativity. I added a bit today about the purpose of dialogues – when what is indicated. This can be distilled for the encounter manual (work in progress).
★★★★ Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele September 10, 2011, with updates on Saturday, 6 October, 2012 and
Sunday, 29 November 2015 This is the post I was looking for when creating this guide. It is not from Moreno but Zerka. “the space between people, that is the foundation of his and our work.” Quite a summation! It is also the one on difference between empathy and doubling.
Creativity Encounter June 27, 2009 – Added material Sunday, 6 December 2015 This is worth emphasising. I added a bit today about the purpose of dialogues – when what is indicated. This can be distilled for the encounter manual.
★★★★The Locus of Therapy – Moreno April 18, 2009 Ah this is the one I was looking for – confirms the Zerka post above, I was looking for both of them! Long Moreno quote – excellent on relational paradigm.
Hippocratic oath will have to be reformulated
In a particular group a subject may be used as an instrument to diagnose and as a therapeutic agent to treat the other subjects. The doctor and healer as the final source of mental therapeusis has fallen.
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. Moreno
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. Hendrix
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.
Three articles on the relational paradigm were published in the Imago newsletter this year by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. They are available on the Imago website. I have collated them here as I wish to refer to them in my writing on this blog and in discussion with others.
They seem fine. I’m surprised these branches of the tree are even needed – I would have thought that psychoanalysis and T.A. Were already “relational” in this way, i.e. Valuing of the relationship between the therapist and the client. Understanding attachment and early relationships as primary. Apparently not.
However I realise I’m in a different school altogether. One that see the relationship as the therapy, but not only the relationship with the therapist but the relationship people have with each other out there in the world. The marriage or committed loving relationship is the dominant one. I’ve come to understand that, especially in individual therapy, the relationship with the therapist can undermine the potential of the committed loving relationship with a partner. If there is no such relationship then the relationship with the therapist can be a surrogate, or if possible a way of facilitating the search for a mate. The rest of the time the therapist is there to facilitate the consciousness that will enable a committed loving relationship to be therapeutic. They are not naturally so – though they have a natural propensity to be so.
With this relational paradigm more and more fully grasped of late I see that psychodrama has something of this philosophy well developed. Moreno speaks a lot of “in situ”. I think of that as working with the actual here and now relationships in a group.
Psychodrama does not require a theatrical setting, a frequent misunderstanding; it is done in situ – that is, wherever the subject is found.
Who Shall Survive? (1978) P86
However Moreno is not clear on this – Later in the same book he speaks again of therapy in situ
… it can take an immediate form, in situ, that is, in the course of all activities in which the individuals are en- gaged, in the home, in school, at work, for instance the handicraft shop, steam laundry, carpentry shop, department store, etc . The situations of living and working are at the same time used as therapeutic settings. We have found, however, that the analytic and activistic forms of group psychotherapy are not applicable to the deepest disturbances of the individual and the group; they require the application of deep action methods in the form of psychodrama. But they are applicable to social problems of the group in a setting in which, during the treatment, the group is artificially cut off from the community as if the rest of the community were non-existent and as if the influence coming from it could be disregarded.
He comes close to a relational paradigm, and then moves away for “the deepest disturbances of the individual and the group” to theatre where psychodrama clearly becomes treatment of or via a protagonist. Yet he stays close, because as we know, … the protagonist is a protagonist for the group. (ref?)
The idea that the relationship itself can be the source and vehicle for growth and healing, is not explicit in psychodrama – it is there in most psychotherapy, but only in the relationship between the client and the therapist. Yet this idea that the protagonist is working for the group can be translated to the protagonist working for the relationship. That helps!
The relational paradigm is still to have its major impact, like any paradigm shift it is hard to get from the perspective of the old space.
Imago dialogue is one technique for activating relational healing, one that is easy to teach to clients. However I think T.A. Has the potential for that, Marshall Rosenberg NVC, and psychodrama does as well… Concretisation, role reversal, mirroring and doubling are potent methods. Psychodrama is not so easy without a director. How make the method easily accessible is what I’m working on all the time.
1. Everyone is mirrored. This slows sharing down but develops a sense of each speaker feeling safe and being fully heard.
2. Anyone can volunteer to mirror. If no one else wishes to mirror the speaker, the facilitator(s) will do it. We suggest that if a person wants to “respond” to what has been said, they not be the one to mirror the speaker to whom they wish to “respond.”
3. Have an attitude of pre-validation.* In other words, assume that all persons “make sense” and are valid before they speak. Listeners seek to understand the “sense” that speakers are making and are trying to express.
4. The group holds the “space of validity” for all members and encourages the sharing of different points of view.
5. Avoid MasterTalk* – in other words avoid sentences that imply that only one point of view is correct. If Master Talk statements are made, “Boundary insertions” may be used to return the tone to one of sharing.
· “This is a fact” is politely mirrored, “So you believe…”
· “This is what happened” becomes “So you remember…
· “You are wrong” becomes “So you think differently. You think…”
· “I think I speak for everyone here” is met with a polite request to just state what is true for him or her.
6. Value silence skillfully. Powerful points are often followed by silence. Silence doesn’t have to be filled right away. Listen for the emerging wisdom of the group.
7. Silence, on the other hand, can be a signal that talk is going underground. If this is perceived, a facilitator may invite and encourage sharing.
8. Facilitators and group members encourage all points of view and honor real differences.
9. Work to shift the tone from “conflict” to “sharing”. Saying you want to make an “addition” can be a powerful alternative to debating and win/lose thinking.
10. Encourage a sense of seeing a larger picture by valuing each person’s contribution to the group consciousness.
11. Learn to enjoy hearing and sharing even ideas you don’t particularly like. Learn to hold the tension of differences and grow the communologue space.
12. Senders should make relatively short sends; paying attention to the needs of other’s to share the time available.
13. It is believed helpful for senders to stay with one subject per send.