Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stories we tell, in film and psychodrama

I'm told Stories We Tell is an intelligent, sensitive, quietly moving documentary film about family secrets and lies, myths and truths, memory and forgetting. I've not seen the film, but this single clip reminds me so much of the value of psychodrama and it's ability to tell our stories -- and reframe them.

The narrator says:

"When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all -- but only a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story when you are telling it  to yourself -- or to someone else."

Oscar-nominated director Sarah Polley offers a genre-twisting film about her mother, released in 2012, that playfully excavates layers of myth and memory to reveal the truth at the core of a family of storytellers.

Rosalie Minkin's sociodrama manual is ready!

It's here -- the long-awaited sociodrama manual Sociodrama For Our Time by Rosalie Minkin which has been in the creation stage for the past couple of years. With the emphasis on psychodrama  -- working on one person's issues in dramatic form -- sociodrama has taken second place. In sociodrama, we work on social and cultural issues that affect a group, culture, country or globe.

Rosalie, TEP, MSW, ATR-BC, LCAT, has focused her work in the area of sociodrama through the years and has created sociodrama programs at drug treatment centers, hospitals, community organizations and in a variety of public and private settings. She has  worked with an assortment of groups, ranging from corporate lawyers to first-time youth offenders and drug-addicted teenagers. See her web site here.

J.L. Moreno described sociodrama as an action method dealing with inter-group relations and collective themes and issues. Rosalie's forthcoming book will offer the reader some of the following subjects: What is sociodrama?, New procedures of a sociodrama, New ingredients, The role of the director, Tools of a sociodrama, and offer ideas for sociodrama settings.

The book Sociodrama: Who's In Your Shoes? by Antonina Gracia and Patricia Sternberg is the classic in the field. Eva Leveton also wrote about sociodrama and drama therapy in her book Healing Collective Trauma Using Sociodrama and Drama Therapy in 2010. Now we have another addition to that section of the library!

Ann Hale speaks on fine points of sociometry

I like to call Ann Hale the grand mistress of sociometry, the science of evaluating the social relationships in our lives.While most of us divide our skills between sociometry and psychodrama, sociometry is Ann's true love and she is very, very good at it. She's the go-to person when most of us have a sociometric question.

After J.L. Moreno died in 1974, the training program at the Moreno Institute in Beacon, N.Y., was re-established by Dr. Moreno's widow and collaborator Zerka Moreno. Zerka was the main trainer  and enrolled Ann Hale and John Nolte as additional trainers.

Ann's site is the International Sociometry Training Network, which is rich with content on social relationships. Recently she posted an essay on Grouptalk, the psychodrama community's discussion list, that I snagged to offer to the larger audience.

She writes about sociometry as it relates to spontaniety, action, tele, role theory and more. 

Read on:

As anxiety increases, spontaneity decreases. Taking time to create an environment where participants find ways to become receptive to one another, their differences and similarities, helps decrease the anxiety related to belonging, fitting in and the creation of a "mistakes allowed" atmosphere. This is often referred to as group building. group building can occur with a sequence of psychodramas. However, if you do not take time to look at patterns of choice making for roles, people get lost and their needs for roles unexamined.

If your energy is tied up with hiding your authentic self you have less energy for action.  Being playful is a great energizer.  Being happily connected to others is a springboard to more and more spontaneity. It is important to remember that "play" for some people was fraught with cruelty and humiliation. The action increases opportunities for integration rather than repeating old patterns which once promised safety and which now keep you stuck.

Sociometric exercises may be useful; however, they can be quite hurtful if leaders and group members have inadequate training and haven't the skill to slow the process down to connect choices people make with their personal story.  This is one reason why I do not separate sociometry from psychodrama.  Once the story is explored in action (even short sequences of action), there is a greater awareness of what prevents authentic connection.

I see tele and empathy as a result of having integrated life events; and transference as a result of an internal push within a person to attain completion of a life event in order to reach true integration. The transference is projected onto a likely auxiliary ego who may or may not choose to assist the person's integration.

The cultural conserve where the role perception and role expectation reside,  once challenged,  begins a process of warming up to something new and leaving the role taking position.  Internal or interpersonal supports help a person in their warmup to role playing the options that occur to him or her.  Role creating results from an energetic state where the momentum received from interpersonal connection and enthusiasm generates an "over the top" experience of novelty and usefulness.  Throughout the connections necessary to engage in this process is enhanced by being connected with positive sociometric relationships.

She notes that she has always liked Jonathan Fox's definition of spontaneity:  "Knowing what is happening, and when to articulate it and to act on it. And, when not to articulate it and act on it."  Sociometry is walking that path.