Date: 6 September 2019 from 14:30 to 16:15
Conductors: Sérgio Guimarães
“Back to the Basics: Moreno, the Rabbit and the Tree of Psychodrama”
Forty-five years after his death, J. L. Moreno will have his name once again uttered by many during this International Conference. Nevertheless, his books are unfortunately still not well known, and his ideas are not always acknowledged.
Let’s take a concrete example regarding both basic data about his life and the method he created, generically known as “psychodrama”. Not even the dictionary of the American Psychological Association (APA) escapes misunderstandings and inaccuracies. Although it was in the United States where Moreno lived most of his life (1925-1974) and systematized his work, the first edition of the APA book, published in 2007, wrongly reports that the Romanian-born creator of psychodrama was “Austrian-born”. In addition, it reduces his method to a “psychotherapy technique”, limiting also its five components to only three (protagonist, director and auxiliary egos), while simply ignoring the other two (stage and group).
In the same vein, most of the books already published on the subject continue to favor the definition of the method as therapy. Even within this area, the classification proposed by Moreno in the 1950s – in which he explicitly mentioned four subcategories of therapeutic psychodrama, namely “prevention”, “diagnosis”, “treatment” and “rehabilitation” – is almost always forgotten.
The idea of this workshop is to present clearly the unpublished diagram drawn by Moreno for what he called “General System of Psychodramatic Methods” , found among his papers filed at Harvard University, Boston, USA. It is about going back to the modern roots of psychodrama and making use of the words of the creator of the method himself. In his “The Theatre of Spontaneity” (1947), for instance, he explicitly states that “the theatre for psychodrama stems from the theatre of spontaneity which had originally nothing to do with therapy”.
To illustrate the proposed diagram in a more lively fashion, I will take the image of the tree, which the young Jacob Levy used in the Viennese parks during his encounters with children, as told in his autobiography: “One of my favorite pastimes was to sit at the foot of a large tree and let the children come and listen to a fairy tale. (…) Often I moved from the foot of the tree and sat higher, on a branch”. Through this allegory, Moreno will then meet the rabbit Churro and the cactus, his “auxiliary ego”, a drawing recently created by Argentine graphic artist Gastón Caba.
The aim is to show the participants that the method imagined by Moreno includes three equally important branches: (1) “Exploratory/Experimental Psychodrama”; (2) “Therapeutic Psychodrama”, with its already mentioned four subcategories, and (3) “Teaching/Educational Psychodrama”.
We will then have the opportunity to practice each of these three modalities and to verify the necessary links between them, as can be ascertained when educational aspects are necessarily found whenever “preventive therapeutic psychodrama” is to be performed, or experimental aspects being identified when psychodrama in a therapeutic context is to be played.
Participants will also be invited to look at the other side of the tree, and will have the opportunity to come into direct contact with the indispensable sociodrama. Once again, we will go back to Moreno’s own words, from 1943, when he introduced for the first time the concept of sociodrama, explaining that “the roles which represent collective ideas and experiences are called sociodramatic roles, those representing individual ideas and experiences, psychodramatic roles. But we know from our experiments that these two forms of role-playing can never be truly separated.” His conclusion was crystal clear: “Every role is therefore a fusion of private, and collective elements. Every role has two sides, a private and a collective side.” (Five footnotes not included due to lack of space).