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Adam Blatner, M.D., TEP

Posted, November, 2, 2011 
(This webpage is another suppl
ement to a workshop given on November 4, 2011 at the annual conference of the National Association for Drama Therapy.
    A different and complementary supplement is posted elsewhere on this website, a supplement to a presentation in April 2011 for the conference of theAmerican Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama in Clearwater, Florida.)

    Beyond Techniques (The importance of others) Confidentiality
Inner Dialogue    
    DeMystifying Mysticism
 Step-in Sociometry 
    The Axis of Inspiration
     Workshop Outline

This workshop has a few minor changes, was co-led with my wife, Allee Blatner, and I have some more ideas to post here. Also, I post this at a different place in the table of contents of papers, under “Spirituality”— with a link to the other webpage.

Beyond Techniques

One concept that has impressed me is the presence of others who really are interested, who want to function to draw the protagonist forward. One functions as a director/facilitator, and the other as an audience and available to be a double, play a role of some other figure in the exploration, what Moreno called an “auxiliary ego.” Having two others who become “friends” in a sense, who are willing to devote perhaps fifteen minutes to not getting into their own stuff, but rather to serve the protagonist in his or her exploration. It’s understood that the person who takes the role of the protagonist for a while will re-enter a later enactment or exploration in one of the other roles—director or auxiliary ego—to help bring that other person forward. In other words, in groups of three or four, participants “take turns.”

The key is the power of social connectedness, of someone being engaged with you. For a time you become the center of attention! How wonderful! We should on occasion do this quite explicitly. So many people cannot take the stage even for a minute without feeling apologetic for using up other people’s time and attention, and this is because others have not explicitly agreed to play this way. So having a bit of structure allows for the reduction of this kind of resistance or inhibited warm-up.

Developments in social psychology and neuroscience in the last few decades have demonstrated ever more vividly the power of social connectedness, the exquisite and largely unconscious sensitivity to receptivity and reciprocity by others---or the absence of these dynamics. I have realized that becoming aware that others are really interested in you and not just waiting their turn to get attention for themselves is (alas) not that common in our fragmented culture, so making a point of such moments of positive tele or rapport can do much to help us. (See more recent papers on the dynamics of rapport on this website.)

Demystifying Mysticism

Another recent presentation covers further ideas about spirituality. Essentially, I make the point that mysticism might best be thought of as intensive spirituality. The valued of mysticism is that mystics sometimes come up with great ideas that can be used by those beginning to exercise their spirituality, just like master chefs can come up with ideas that can then be used by beginning cooks, or master composers can invent new ideas in music that a half-century later have become part of the mainstream practice of many less accomplished musicians.

The Axis of Inspiration

Redemption of the freedom to imagine, or to think independently, or to own one’s sensuality, or any other dimension of the psyche that may have been repressed in childhood as one accommodated to the definitions of the religious beliefs of one’s elders (parents or teachers). Many have gone through a phase where it is difficult to find what is useful in spirituality apart from what has been found to be oppressive. To distill out what is valuable might be recognizeed as itself being both a spiritual and a heroic quest.

In a related way, our culture has not in general clearly recognized that moving to a more inclusive spirituality is also a journey for some. What I call the “axis of inspiration” parallels the chakra system of Kundalini Yoga: For some, moving from a religion of fear to one of love is progress (i.e., from first to 2nd chakra). For some, moving from love to social action, becoming effective, needed, active instead of passive in a role in one’s church—that might be viewed as moving from 2nd to 3rd chakra. Moving to 4th (heart) chakra might involve those who are seeking to be more inclusive in their spirituality, including, for example, people of other religions.

Fifth-chakra spirituality interests me: Can we find “flow” or a surrender into spontaneity as part of our being, and recognize that there are spiritual elements here, too? Can the arts be vehicles for feeling more connected to the Whole? Well, it works for me in music, singing, drama, dance, art, and other activities: When I let go and “it” does it—or perhaps “they” or the muses or angels, whatever, it tends to bring forth a sense of amused wonder. Most folks have experienced “flow” sometimes, and I suspect this might also become recognized as a kind of spirituality.

What makes this difficult is that spirituality has been under the domination of the unspoken expectations of what is and is not proper, and for many this has been a somewhat solemn type of piety that values self-containment, submission, blind obedience, and a stifling of any traces of individuality or spontaneity. Such qualities are mistakenly associated with immaturity rather than vitality, and in that mistaken view, worthy of repression. Turning that around becomes a common theme in the spiritual journey of those involved with the arts.

The Workshop Outline:

Following the definition of spirituality---an activity of seeking greater connectedness, deepening one’s relationship with whatever seems deeply higher. The object may vary with culture and I need not name it. For some it’s God, for others, Goddess, Great Spirit, the clear light—it may be personal or impersonal, with or without form---I then note that spirituality as a general category of activity may include many sub-activities. The challenge involves finding what works for you varies with your temperament and other aspects of your individuality. There’s also your history with the activity—and generally that means your history of religion—which I define as the social organization of the spiritual impulse. All these can be facilitated by some action methods.The techniques well learn about today through experiential modes, action exercises, may be used for your own life journeys as well as by you for the benefit of your clients.  In attending to the overall group process, I’ve planned breaks for going to the bathroom about half-way through.

Let’s warm up by considering together what some spiritual themes are: What general ideas occurs to you in association with the general notion of spiritual journey? (Write on pad)
This need not be reflective of your own personal life at this stage—it can reflect themes in the lives of clients and acquaintances, what’s been happening or not happening in the lives of family members, etc. Let’s put them up on the board. (A principle of group work is that the more one sees what others are thinking, the more it stimulates new thoughts.)


Although this is about you and for some, your work with your clients, one way to learn this is to allow yourself to learn it about your own life. Lest this process be inhibited by worries about confidentiality, let’s just agree together too keep this confidential. I want you to share and talk about the general principles noted in this workshop, but it’s no one else’s business to hear about any particulars of what was shared with you by anyone else. To affirm this with bodies as well as voices, let’s all get up and stand in a circle, where we can look in each others’ eyes. This is also part of the warming-up process, helping people to feel safe.      We express our willingness to honor the confidentiality of what happens in this room by taking a step forward, like this. This means that I am willing to abide by this rule in my mind and heart, and I want you to do likewise. If you feel the same, please look around and take one step forward.

Step-In Sociometry

Another warm-up also uses the circle energy. The circle represents a symbol of coherence. Let’s further the emergence of group cohesion by continuing this activity for a while. There’s another warm-up technique I first saw Dorothy Satten do this many years ago. Not everyone has shared a given experience, but it’s good to know if anyone else in the group has. So, for example, we’ll ask a question and if it applies to you, take one step forward and look around to see who else it applies to. For example, Have you had what you would call a significant spiritual experience? Other questions to promote self-disclosure and increase tele include:
 - Who here still practices the religion you were raised with?
 - Who here has consciously put together two or more spiritual paths so that what works for you cannot be classified?
 - who has been abused or betrayed by minister, guru or community
 -                    has become dissatisfied with religion and dropped out
 - Who has an active spiritual practice now
 - Who here are actively seeking a spiritual practice in contrast to having found one that works okay...
 - Who are here just interested in the subject
The point is that you’re not that alone—often there are others who have shared your predicament. And if there are none in the group, these folks probably have some friends for whom it’s so.


To continue the warming up process, let’s move the group around a little. To help group members to appreciate the diversity of sentiments another good warm-up technique is the spectrogram.  So, to bring out the diversity, here are some questions we might ask:
     -Those who have been on a spiritual journey for the longest time, even if you’ve kind of found what you want. On this end. Those who feel they’re just starting out, or aren’t sure if they even want to do that kind of thing—on this end.
 - Those who feel presently a fair amount of conflict or pain on this end, those feeling joy and serenity on this end.
 - Those who are working with at least one client in which this issue is a significant part of their issues—the more the better—on this end. Those who have no one they’re helping with this except themselves on that end.
 -  Really powerful transpersonal experience     Never had a powerful transpersonal
 -  How many different spiritual communies or paths have you participated in  Many      None
 - Comfortable in a spiritual path                  Uncomfortable in or not in
What other variables shall we explore?

Time Line

The next warm-up technique is a time line. This is done by yourself, paper-and-pencil---at least at first. Later you’ll talk about it with a partner. Diagraming and art therapy techniques are also action approaches. Start with your birth and take it to now, and place somewhere along this line—mark the approximate ages, five to fifteen significant events that have relevance to your spiritual journey. These events may or may not have much relevance to other roles, career, marriage, etc. . We’ll give you about 10 minutes to do this.

Sociometric Choice of Partner

Look around the room—register a couple of people you might enjoy sharing your story with, knowing each person will only take about 5 minutes each. When you’ve found your partner after I say “go,” move out of the center of the room so others can find their links.  After this exercise we’ll have a bathroom break for 10 minutes.      Move somewhere, sit down, and discuss your time line. Go.

(Bathroom Break)

In workshops, it's helpful to do this about an hour into the process. "If you finish early can take a break to go to the bathroom; please be back here in 10' or less.

Time Line (continued)

About the time line, you can also do that as an action experience in small groups, with having the person move along the line, state what’s happening, and then perhaps going back and building a psychodrama based on one of those events.
    Based on your time line, let’s add to the list, noting evocative places, persons, books, ideas, teachers who have been spiritually meaningful. This again warms you up to recognizing that each of these is a role fragment if not a role, a little character presenting that whatever and reminding you what it’s about.    We’re talking about inner roles.

The Spiritual Network Diagram

This is an extension of Moreno's use of the "social atom." Generally that involves plotting those people or figures (it could include pets, figures who have died, etc.) who are meaningful. This variant emphasizes people, authors, prophets, those you admire, and also, perhaps equally significantly, your own inner roles, your true believer, skeptic, questioner, wanting to join with others, solitude, etc. That is, the network may  include some of your major outward relationships, but there are a host of roles inside you, too, and they can be identified more clearly and plotted in a diagram—an inner social atom. Indeed, there are so many that you could do inner social atoms of several major domains in life, your work, your romance or marriage, your parenting, your relationship with your own parents..   But we’re going to note that just within the spiritual or religious realm there’s a potential for a good many roles!
      For example, I’ll plot out mine—and following this demonstration, you’ll all be doing your own—another diagram...
         I mentioned auto-tele in the blurb and what that’s about is that I have better tele with some roles than with others. I have mixed tele, and even negative tele, So here's another paper and pencil exercise
Draw your own spiritual social network. Take about ten minutes. Like the time line.

Another sociometric choice: The criterion will be not only someone with whom you share your drawing, but someone who you’ll allow to direct you in an encounter with one of the figures in your inner world.  Gather in a circle. Look around: Choose. Move out of the center of the room when you’ve connected, find a place to sit down and again, about 5 minutes each, share your spiritual inner social atoms.
     All these are not only ways of exploring your inner world, but are also warm-ups to deeper explorations. One of these I call spiritual dialogue. Sometimes you can do this with real people, but most often it’s a matter of finding out what your unconscious fantasies are about the other or the situation— so we use surplus reality and a variation of the empty chair technique.
         I’ll demonstrate with a volunteer:

Inner Dialogue

Well, this is externalized, and your partner takes the role of the facilitator for about ten mintues  You do an empty chair dialogue. Your partner is a combination director, at times double, and witness-audience to your exploration. There will be no repeat performance for any outside audience---the process is enough. Encounter the other and then dare to imagine yourself as the other---even if it's Jesus, an angel, God, whatever. It's understood that you (ego you) cannot really know what it's like or "be" the far wiser, deeper other---or even if you pick a shadow role to investigate, an incredibly subtle and clever other. But just opening your conscious mind to wondering in this fashion helps to move the spiritual quest along a little.
    So.  With your partner serving now as your director, one of you for five to ten minutes have a back-and-forth dialogue with someone or something—magic can give it a voice---in your inner spiritual social network. About 20 minutes.
 Sharing and Questions.
Appendix 1: Related Themes   see webpage on this website: Spiritual Issues in Psychotherapy.
     spiritual abuse  see webpage about this:
     psychic or mystical experience
     LSD or other psychedelic trip
     Other religious practices
       Evolution of spirituality / religion
       Undigested experience
        Conflict with close other..
Items for Step-In (Circle) Sociometry

Items for Spectrogram
   - - -
    Examples spiritual roles
   Tree she loves. In nature
some of the following “spiritual” roles are relevant in your life:
     Believer in (name of higher being, truth of scripture, this or that specific part of the dogma of some system)
true believer, aspiring to mystical experience, seeking enlightenment, etc.

Adam’s inner social network...
    Uncle Bud, agent, like Virgil was for Dante, guide, translator
     Angelic committee talks too fast
     God lady garments sequins on a button also creative advance
      Whitehead and Hartshorne and others process...
       Jung a bit...
        Moreno a bit, mixed
        Some ancient kabbalist and the Tree
         The Geometer... and artist
          Creator story, a more dynamic version of neo-Spinozan deism
          Traditional god and doctrine... don’t work for me and feel wrong, though I know they work fine for others...
        People drawing me back, guilt-tripping, ethnic ground..

More General Roles for Inner Social Atom

  Believer literally in x; or believer allegorically or in some more subtle way in x or y.
(Each affirmation of a belief is a role or role fragment. One could play the role of affirming, even arguing for this position.
- Active non-believer in (any of the above elements); or “I believe x but not y.”
- Active unsure whether or not to believe in ___
- Wanting to Argue with Inner relative, friend, partner who wouldn’t agree wth you
- Wanting to avoid the whole topic
- Would like favorite author (theologian, sage, guru) (dead or alive) to be here to help. (This is a role: If x were here I can imagine him saying...)
- Favorite Teachers or Authors if they’re alive in you even a bit
- Favorite antagonists who you’d like to argue with and have them hear your protests
- Higher Self, conscience, ideal, giving guidance
- Magical savior, messiah, make-it-all-better spiritual force or personality
- Potentially punishing law-giver
- Doubter about this bit of dogma, belief
- Unworthy Self
- Witness or missionary, or inspired to write, comment, invent—and one knows one’s own purpose or tools
- Feeling obliged to witness, but, more commonly, not knowing what to do
              ... and so forth. (I welcome your suggestions.)

I am open to and interested in your feedback. Email me at adam@blatner.com