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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Marx and Engels on Human Nature

Useful simple short article.

https://www.sfr-21.org/human-nature.html

Marx:

“Estranged labour, therefore, turns man’s species-being – both nature and his intellectual species-power – into a being alien to him and a means of his individual existence. It estranges man from his own body, from nature as it exists outside him, from his spiritual essence, his human existence.”

Slavoj Žižek, Quantum and Dialectics

“The idea that knowing changes reality is what quantum physics shares with both psychoanalysis (for which interpretation has effects in the real) and historical materialism”.

Slavoj Žižek – quoted on Redit

This is a great little paragraph!

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From https://medium.com/@paulaustinmurphy2000/slavoj-žižeks-philosophy-of-science-quantum-obscurantists-and-ideology-e6bc3cf38505

A useful read!!

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I wish they had an inkling of Moreno in these discussions — psychodrama fits in more tightly than “psychoanalysis.”

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Interesting the extent to which Bohm was influenced by dialectical materialism:

“In this way Bohm understood it as idealistic. In Bohm’s interpretation, however, the particle possesses at all times a well-defined position and momentum regardless of observation or associating ideas. So, in Bohm’s view, matter came before mind in his theory. Thus he called his interpretation a materialistic one.4 With this materialist interpretation, Bohm wanted to expel mysticism from physics.”

Christian Forstner
Dialectical Materialism and the Construction of a New Quantum Theory: David Joseph Bohm, 1917–1992

 

The Moment in History

I am a psychodramatist and hence a student of the work of J.L. Moreno.  And I hold his philosophy and methods to be revolutionary in the sense of having potential to heal humanity.  There is an area of his philosophy and outlook where he comes short of the potential, it is in the conception of mass action and the macro forces that operate in the world.  He lacks a good grasp of Marxism. And I think Marxism lacks the science of sociometry, the outlook of small groups.

Moreno and Marx have a lot of common ground. Both Marx and Moreno have an experimental, scientific outlook. Action and learning go together. Its integrated.  This is what is meant by dialectical, a term both Moreno and Marx use for describing the process of participation in the world.  Its not one or another or even one and the other, Action and learning combine in the flow of life.

I will comment on the following passage by Moreno to show how it is similar to marxism and how it is progressive and also where it shows a gap in Moreno’s approach:

“All this, of course, could only happen if the warming up process of all human characters and all participating groups coalesce naturally into an experiment . (Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria .) There are many steps and more barriers which a sensitive crew of coexperimenters might encounter on the way to a scientific utopia . However little or far they advance they never fool themselves and never fool others ; they prefer the “slow” dialectic process of the sociometric experiment in situ to social experiments which are based on inference and logic only or the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end .”

“Who Shall Survive?” P63

First the progressive:

Warm-up is a key concept in psychodrama, the process is complex, yet the term is somewhat self explanatory. I have written with approval of Moreno’s scientific method and the “Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria.” It makes total sense sense when working with the group process of warming up.  What is central, what is extraneous? How not to dismiss all that emerges? The group warms up together and a focus emerges. See my psychodrama thesis about finding the focal conflict and central concern in a psychodrama group.

In the next few lines “slow” is a word to review.  It is sometimes slow and sometimes fast.  He has it gradual and slow in quotes. I take it he means it is relative, and as he says. part of the “dialectic process” which can be seen as outside of linear time. There are moments of dramatic change in a psychodrama group. The oft quoted idea from Lenin comes to mind:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

I can imagine Moreno agreeing that this happens in psychodrama, though he does not address the flow of history in this way.

Moreno is also progressive when he contrasts “sociometric experiment in situ”  and “social experiments which are based on inference and logic only”. Here again is a shared outlook with Marx.  It is a moment where Moreno is clearly not a philosophical idealist, i.e. someone who dreams up a plan and then works out the steps to execute it.  That way of thinking is anathema to both Moreno and Marx. When Moreno says in situ, he means in the world and not on the psychodrama stage. On the stage the enactment is as close to life as possible, but he regularly affirms that life itself is the most important arena.

A gap in his methods are revealed in his concluding negative comment about mass action: “the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end.” These are not according to Moreno the sort of group that “coalesce naturally into an experiment.”

This is where Moreno’s vision, focussed on small groups is at a loss to grapple with major social upheaval. It seems he does not have a problem with “social revolution”, but a particular type of mass action. It is true, there is no knowing what will happen when it comes to masses, social forces, large groups, classes and nations. So Moreno is then at a loss, he has no way of knowing where to stand on mass movements, how to be with them or assess them. He is not able to make use of his theory of the moment or concept of spontaneity and theory of change.

There is no denying that there is a conundrum. A challenge.  A small group can have a life of its own that is bigger than the individual will of the participants. The methods, philosophy and history of psychodrama are about the collective relational processes. Moreno made unique contributions including the philosophy of the moment. But what about the clashing of multiple large social collectives? What about the moment in history? Marxism adresses this area, (but does not have ready answers.)

Note this classic statement from Marx:

“Men and women make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

But can it be done well?  Marx is not always optimistic, here is the rest of the paragraph:

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

― Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

For those familiar with Moreno will see that Marx is grappling with what Moreno would call cultural conserves.  And Morenian theory has lots to say about cultural conserves. The theory of change, tried and tested in small groups is the Canon of Creativity. To become creative, to have the emergence of the adequate and new, the path is through warm up and spontaneity to creativity. But how does this theory of change apply at a macro level?

This brings us to an eternal discussion in revolutionary political discourse, where the word spontaneity is also used: the relationship between the spontaneity of the people and leadership. To get an idea about the debate, look at these two paragraphs from Wikipedia on Revolutionary Spontaneity

Revolutionary spontaneity, also known as spontaneism, is a revolutionary socialist tendency that believes the social revolution can and should occur spontaneously from below by the working class itself, without the aid or guidance of a vanguard party and that it cannot and should not be brought about by the actions of individuals such as professional revolutionaries or political parties who might attempt to foment such a revolution.

In his work What Is to Be Done? (1902), Vladimir Lenin argued fiercely against revolutionary spontaneity as a dangerous revisionist concept that strips away the disciplined nature of Marxist political thought and leaves it arbitrary and ineffective.[1]

To counterpose the two perspectives as polar opposites in this way is to do them both a disservice, but the question of the relationship between spontaneity and leadership of revolution is clear. This is also a question of the relationship between small groups and large social forces.  It is fruitful to have both the contributions of Moreno and Marx.

Facing the future… with an eye on the past

“Freud’s … therapy consisted in turning the patient into his past … instead of developing the direction of spontaneity into the future.”1

Wiese said that in to contrast with the work of Moreno.  He’s right too.  However embedded the present dynamics is the geneology. Whakapapa. Moreno talked of statu nascendi. It is in the swirl of unfolding from that moment of birth on that spontaneity happens and the new is created.

  1. Von Wiese, Leopold. (1949). “Sociometry.” Sociometry, Vol. 12, No. 1/3 (Feb. — Aug, 1949), pp. 202—214 Published by: American Sociological Association https://www.jstor.org/stable/2785387

“Between” should not vanish into a “within”.

Talking about Moreno’s approach German sociologist Leopold Von Wiese, (1949) said:

“the realm of subjectivity is never given up by him. But the use of the word subjective here should not imply that Moreno is limited in his studies by a personal involvement; it is just the opposite. His aim is directed towards the most exact objectification of observations; but the object of these operations is the realm of the human psyche exclusively. This is so perhaps because he is a psychiatrist, a practical psychologist and physician. We too, in our “system of relations” do not neglect the psychological processes; but their penetration is one of several tasks so that we can recognize that realm of existence which. is crucial; the social one which lies between men and not within them. Particularly when one, as Moreno, like ourselves, emphasizes the significance of the little word “between” one should not permit it to vanish into a “within”.”

I like this as a formulation of the relational paradigm.

More on this theme from Von Wiese:Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 6.49.13 PM

“When we try to reproduce here the chief content of Moreno’s work, we may best start With a statement from White’s foreword to it, one Which is also an axiom of our system of relations: “Social groups are not a sum of individuals but a sum of relations which exist between them”.

Which makes them complex beyond imagination.

 

Von Wiese, Leopold. (1949). “Sociometry.” Sociometry, Vol. 12, No. 1/3 (Feb. — Aug, 1949), pp. 202—214 Published by: American Sociological Association https://www.jstor.org/stable/2785387

Arthur Miller: Writer — Movie

Arthur Miller: Writer

unnamed-2

Bought this movie made by his daughter Rebecca Miller on Google Play and it worked on Chrome (not Safari) on the Mac, plugged into the TV.

Worth doing! The film about this man’s life is inspiring and moving. It had a big impact on me.

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We have been watching movies written and directed by his daughter Rebecca Miller and they are great. Full of life, intense, psychodramatic. Leaves us with lots to discuss.

Rebecca Miller movies

Rebecca Miller directed Angela and Personal Velocity: Three Portraits.
Personal Velocity: Three P…
Rebecca Miller directed Angela and Maggie's Plan.
Maggie’s Plan
Rebecca Miller directed Angela and The Ballad of Jack and Rose.
The Ballad of Jack and…
Rebecca Miller directed Angela and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
The Private Lives of…

Changes to my blog

This website url is now http://www.psyberspace.wordpress.com, just as it was about 20 years ago, before I began self hosting.  Hope everything works. (To hell with a custom domain!)

New Walter Logeman page: http://walterlogeman.co.nz

New home for Thousand Sketches: http://thousandsketches.com

It has been a lockdown project to close my Dreamhost server. It has served me well but it took management — that I have hopefully outsourced to WordPress.com

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More to do:

My email and some other people’s who have been on my Dreamhost.

Kate’s website & email.  http://katetapley.co.nz (coming)

My old Psybernet site??

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I think I’ll be happier to do more blogging — It has been hard with a site that came up with Viagra ads etc.

 

The heart

At the heart of the information superhighway is email. Other ways to circulate information usually want your email address to kick off.

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I wrote that when my email went down.  Then had the heart problem and bypass surgery.

Hypocognition

Hypocognition is a censorship tool that mutes what we can feel. A link to an article in Aeon. Worth reading!

It is a strange feeling, stumbling upon an experience that we wish we had the apt words to describe, a precise language to capture. When we don’t, we are in a state of hypocognition, which means we lack the linguistic or cognitive representation of a concept to describe ideas or interpret experiences.

A name for something helps us to see it. The article offers good examples, e.g.

Before I knew what phubbing was, I didn’t have the guts – or the word – to call out my friend for phubbing me (snubbing me for her phone) in the middle of a conversation. And now… I still don’t – not when I myself can barely resist the urge of being figital (excessively checking one’s digital device) and curb my own performative busyness.

The term was introduced to behavioural science by the American anthropologist Robert Levy, who in 1973 documented a peculiar observation: Tahitians expressed no grief when they suffered the loss of a loved one. They fell sick. They sensed strangeness. Yet, they could not articulate grief, because they had no concept of grief in the first place. Tahitians, in their reckoning of love and loss, and their wrestling with death and darkness, suffered not from grief but a hypocognition of grief.

I can’t help but think Levy got something wrong about Tahitians, but that aside,  ‘hypogognition‘ is a term that self reflexively lets us see a lot more. The concept leads me to describe some experiences and to some political reflections.

I recently bought a deck of about 60 cards based on the NVC lists of feelings and needs. Going through the deck really helps identify what’s going on. I’ve used it with clients and used it myself and it is like an eskimo finally getting to learn the 200 words for snow. Using the cards leads to a sharper ability to identify feelings. Its interesting how ‘worried’ might fit, ‘anxious’ does not, so cognitive ability leads to understanding of self and others.

Identifying these unmet needs helps the ability create strategies to meet them. (that is the core of NVC.)

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The darker side

The discovery, the acquisition or the creation of new concepts is enabling. The article goes on though to describe a darker side.

Hypocognition … as a form of social control, a wily tactic to expressly dispel unwanted concepts by never elaborating on them. After all, how can you feel something that doesn’t exist in the first place?

I came across this idea recently with respect to the way capitalist society through its myriad of devices has mede certain words obscure or or muddled. Alientation in the sense of doing meaningless and wasteful work is one example. Superstructure the body of ideas and systems built to support the base of production, is another example. Add to that some concepts like ‘surplus value‘ and it is clear the social control of cognition is alive and well. Look at the confusion about the meaning of the term socialism. In short, the class war is right there in the battle over words.

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Psychotherapy, and of course particularly psychodrama addresses hypocognition — cultural conserves are seen and transformed through spontaneity. Once we have the concept of roles then words, thinking, action, feeling all come together.

 

 

Folders for browsing, tags for search (or just search?)

It seems there is a debate about tags vs folders.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Here is a principle I adhered to for years:

Folders for browsing, tags for search.

So what really is the difference between the two?

Physical libraries have shelves and things are grouped (like folders).  Tags are really not possible.  So it might be good to brows the theatre section if you are into theatre.

Digitally the same applies you can’t browse one big pile, so put stuff into folders, but not too many (at least at the top level). Folders are there to facilitate browsing.  The Dewey decimal classification has 10 top levels, and that is about right.  They are rather beautiful:

000 – Computer science, information & general works
100 – Philosophy & psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography

But what about ‘Karl Marx’?  Browse in Social sciences. But there would be stuff about him or by him in probably everyone of those groups!  Hard for librarians who are forced to chose one shelf for something like: Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society, An Approach to a New Political Orientation by J.L. Moreno, which also has a chapter on Marx.  Digitally it could be in many at once i.e. in three folders: Moreno, social science and politics. That is worth doing. Some one browsing might like finding it there.  But consider the power of tags.

Tagging that book with: Moreno, politics, social science would be useful, but imagine adding sociometry, Marx, psychodrama group work, philosophy, religion.

It would come up in a fairly short list with any two of those tags. Also be easy to see what other books come up with a search on any two of those tags.

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But what the hell!  Functionality for tags is lousy in most apps. They take time to add. Maybe search has outsmarted tags. Google does it all.

In Google Drive a file can be in many folders, that’s an an aid to browsing. No tags, and search works well.