Adam Blatner, M.D.

(April 6, 2013.)
I've been re-thinking the basic principles of Moreno's various approaches, seeking some more understandable rationale. Gradually a progression of logical concepts have become more apparent (and are noted below). They are not organized in Moreno's own writings, but I've felt that making the points more comprehensible is part of my mission. This is not just about classical psychodrama as a treatment for mental illness, but rather about the whole corpus of Moreno's efforts, including
- the use of psychodramatic methods in psychotherapy and for life-enhancement for healthy people
- sociodrama
- axiodrama (which is semantics explored in action)
- bibliodrama (which explores sacred and fictional texts, seeking the personal associations of the group as they identify with different roles in the story)
- role training (which includes simulations, technical and people-skills practice for all kinds of roles, including medical and legal
- spontaneity development or vitality training for healthy as well as not-so-healthy
- sociometry
- role theory and role as a user-friendly language for developing mental flexibility especially in the psycho-social dimension
- broadening the role repertoire to include the non-rational, mixed Morenian approaches with various expressive arts approaches (those that involve improvisation)
- the basic philosophy of creativity and spontaneity
... and so forth.

I think Moreno was so taken with his intuition of the revolutionary power of his ideas that he may have over-estimated how much good they can by themselves. In my opinion, they need to be combined with innumerable other approaches and technologies, but indeed they do add some powerful energies and ideas in many potential arenas of progress.

Action Explorations

This is my term for a complex of ideas that not only includes psychodrama and its related approaches, but also elements of approaches that include improvisation, enactment, creative collaboration, and (sometimes) deepening insight. This is my latest revision and will form the basis for rewriting my next edition of what was in the past titled Acting-In, and in the future will be titled Action Explorations. That’s because these words and Moreno’s vision transcends the medical model of therapy or treatment, and includes business, schools, continuing professional education, spiritual development, recreation, community action, personal development, and so forth.   (To lump these all under the rubric of psychodrama is misleading, because other than those in the know, the cognoscenti, the in-group, most people think of psychodrama only as the classical method—and even that is rarely really understood! (Journalists typically mis-use the term to describe the way certain situations can be both psychologically-infused and also dramatic—they miss the consciousness-expanding dimension because they don’t know of any way that really expands consciousness, and the very idea is for many still somewhat foreign.)

A Technology for Consciousness-Expansion

The following list of principles should be recognized as tools. A good theoretical concept, an apt word or metaphor, a technique or way of doing something, a way of thinking about something, is a tool as much as any piece of hardware! In turn, tools may be integrated into a wide variety of approaches.

I’ve listed the following principles as being associated with Moreno’s complex of ways to raise consciousness.

Many of these principles are useful in themselves, and when any techniques are combined with others, their effects are magnified. Technology involves more than hardware: theories, concepts, the choice of words, and techniques—the way the tools are used—all are part of this expanded methodology. With this in mind, saying it again, the following should be recognized as tools that can be not only used to help people improve their communications, solve problems, and enhance self-awarness, but often they can be taught to the people who use these methods!

A Logical Progression of Concepts

  1. Creativity as a goal & value, replacing the illusion that there’s a “right” way to fix it.
     (Explanations of these will follow.)
 2. Improvisation as a way to be more creative.
 3. Spontaneity as the optimal psychological state for improvising.
 4. Warming-up as the operations that enhance spontaneity.
 5. Play as one of these dynamics.
 6. The small group as an instrument for feedback, encouragement, ideas, collaborative creativity.
 7. Re-play, re-do, as an implicit opportunity to try different things, experiment.

These are pretty much true for all kinds of collaborative creativity. Now, when it comes to the challenges of dealing with the psycho-social aspects of problems, the next series of principles apply:

 8. Drama as Useful Metaphor for Life.
 9. Role as the basis for a language for analysis and exploration
10. The stage as a “laboratory” for psycho-social exploration.
11. Others to help—as facilitator-director, supporting player, audience roles, in contrast to everyone in the group playing the same role. This role distribution reduces the demand on the main player.

And, to emphasize again, especially with people who are willing to learn new ways of taking responsibility for their lives;
12. All these principles and techniques may be learned. People can come to use them so they can engage in problem-solving on their own.

The Techniques:

Many techniques exist! I’ve been able to notice several rough groupings:

13. Variations in self-disclosure.
    A. The person half-knows what isn’t being spoken and makes asides to the audience as if in confidence.
    B. Or the person offers a soliloquy, thinking out loud.
    C. Or the main player warms up by being interviewed by the direcctor, the “walk-and-talk.”
    D. Some things that are murmured almost inaudibly are repeated loudly by the double or, with encouragement, by the main player (the protagonist). This is “amplification.” Or the director amplifies the words.
    E. Multiple Parts of Self: Part of me feels that... while another part thinks the opposite.
    F. Concretization: Metaphoric phrases are enacted more literally to bring the feelings more into consciousness.
    G. Personfication of what in actually has no voice or vocabulary—furniture, walls, furniture.
    H. “Surplus Reality”: Enacting people who have died, not yet born, what a baby could say if it could talk, what someone else might say if they had great insight.
    I. The “magic pills” that enable people who are not articulate to be more fully expressive, or to speak with some depth of insight.  .
 half whisper—asides, voice-over, helping the main player to articulate what generally remains unspoken and unconscious.
    J. Exaggeration: Express a statement more affirmatively.

13. Variations on time: Repeating an event, from the past.
   A. Amplifying the present, adding other voices, getting grounded in the protective context of the actual session, the allies, the safety
   B. Replaying a scene exaggerating the nonverbal behavior and leaving the words out.
   C. Exploring a past event. What was it like.
   D. Re-doing a past event: How it might be better.
   E.  Future Projection:  Anticipating an event—feared or hoped-for.
         (1) Mixing that with an opportunity to rehearse a behavior.
14. Shifts in viewpoint.
     A. The mirror technique, which is like video playback without the camera or projector. People just observe and re-play:
    B. Role Reversal. Help in warming up to what it’ like to be the other person. There is much involved in developing this skill, which is one of the most important ways to build empathy.
    C. Play a higher ideal, best self, or guardian angel, protective older sib, defending attorney, advocate..
    D. The self now talking to they more vulnerable or out-of-control younger self
    E. Other role conflicts within the self—multiple parts..
    E. A scene where one is among others who are supports, the audience, the party.
    F. “Behind the Back”—other people being frank and feared negative.
                  Or positive.
 (Other variations in Dickens’ Christmas Carol)

15. Playing fictional but psychologically valid roles: 
   A. The vulnerable inner child or some variation.
   B. The ideal and protective older self, best friend, guardian angel, ideal parent.
   C. Reconciliation with one who has died.
   D. Encounter with those who have left, died, moved away.

16. Scenes that would be healing, aside from their factual possibility.

17 Time Line, to heighten the awaress of life not just as “one damn thing after another,” to discern some story-like theme.

18. Sociometric techniques:
    A. Family sculpture, or group sculpture.
    B. Diagraming to highlight in consciousness the themes of preference and criteria.

19.  Audience Roles:
    A. Sharing
    B. How might someone else do it.
    C. Let many people be various roles who are supportive or negative in the social network.

20.  Miscellaneous:
    A. Magic Shop
    B, General Roles (fictional): Bibliodrama, composite sociodrama.

This list is suggestive rather than definitive. Feel free to create new variations!

For responses, email me at

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