3rd World Congress for Psychotherapy
The World Council for Psychotherapy
Vienna 14-18 July 2002
The Challenge of
Existential analytical psychodrama: the principles of globalisation experienced in a small group
Ceccarelli G., Lopez G.M., Crescimbene M.
Eunomos, Center for Existential Analytical Psychotherapy and Psychodrama
Dr. Giancarlo Ceccarelli has been developing and structuring his method of analytical existential psychodrama since the 1980s. Based on and departing from Jacob Levi Moreno’s classical psychodrama technique, this method proposes the existential anthropological dimension alongside the analytical approach. Whereas the analytical approach explores and investigates the unconscious, the existential anthropological one focuses on the development of individual existence and on creative and project-oriented capabilities. This existential dimension has its theoretical roots in Sophia-Analysis.
As happens in many psychotherapeutic groups, in an existential analytical psychodrama group the single participants and the whole group go through a process that leads to the affirmation and the maturation of the various individual identities, while, at the same time, an identity related to a sense of belonging to the group matures and expresses itself.
How is it possible to reconcile the Individual - Group dimensions, which are apparently in contrast?
To answer this question, we tried to explore some of the significant steps that both the individuals and the whole group go through along the road that leads from individuality to globalisation: individuality ―› group ―› globalisation.
The term globalisation is defined in this context as the synthesis of the two antitheses individual - group and single groups – global groups at a higher level.
We have identified three fundamental principles which are necessary to assure constructive globalisation that respects the individuality of each participant in the group and of each single group within the “global group”.
With the help of examples taken from a psychodrama group, we will look at how the passage from the individual dimension to the global dimension can come about.
In this paper, we will particularly concentrate on the principles of EXISTENCE and IDENTITY, that seem to be priorities when dealing with the topic of globalisation. We consider the PURPOSE to be a subsequent passage in our existential and anthropological journey, which we will explore further on another occasion.
The principle of existence: I exist.
This is the first principle that the individuals and the psychodrama group must face all together. One’s personal, individual existence must be affirmed, while at the same time the group’s existence must be affirmed. In existential analytical psychodrama, the principle of existence is explored by paying particular attention to themes dealing with prenatal life, which is the source of existence. In the table that shows the principle of existence, we have hypothesized passages that mark the moments of conception, birth and the affirmation of existence in analogy to what happens during prenatal life.
In every psychodrama group the sequence of the “I Exist” scheme is repeated, in a microcosm-macrocosm relationship. The images proposed for the representation by each member are the expression of the paternal principle and the maternal principle of each of the group’s components. After this follows conception, that is the image chosen from the various ones that have been proposed. The surrounding group and the scene being represented are, respectively, the uterus and the fetus. The scene emerges from this synergy. The group’s choral Self helps the individual to be him/herself, to play out the role in an active manner, to exist and to affirm his/her own existence.
The second principle is the principle of identity: How I exist.
One of the major risks that arises in the globalisation process is the loss of identity. In our experience with existential analytical psychodrama, the passage from individual identity to a more vast identity has not seemed to bring with it particularly terrible risks.
We can subdivide the processes which underlie the acquisition of the principle of Identity in the following steps.
By analysing the processes which make up the acquisition of identity, we can hypothesize that similar processes must be structured on a macro-sociological level.
We have attempted to outline them.
1) Original identity.
This is the identity for which I exist and to which I identify myself in relation to a sense of belonging (like in the first scene of the pendulum clock).
In social processes involving large groups, an initial stage of belonging can give way to evolutionary processes where the individuals can acquire a personal identity, or to involutionary processes, where the individual disappears in the “totalising” identity of the group.
2) Separation from the original identity.
The next phase is characterized by a constant and unstoppable distancing from the original state of belonging. The crises within the great religions in the West and the appearance of “immigrant” religions can be an example of this. Another example of this process can be seen in how large nations, once they have broken up into smaller and more specifically characteristic ones, abandon the previous identity.
3) Death of identity.
The next step of this process involves the moment in which death is encountered. This is certainly a symbolic death of the previous identity, but sometimes it is also real, as we have seen happen in many countries, where in attempting to overcome the mourning provoked by the loss of the previous identity, conflicts have occurred which attempt to affirm the supremacy of one identity over another. This is a type of identity that is achieved by going “against” others, rather than searching for it “for” oneself.
4) Self individuation and the encounter with another.
After the mourning phase comes the time where it is important to collect one’s thoughts so as to be able to accept one’s new, specific, individual identity.
Once, the new identity has been consolidated, it is then possible to encounter the other without fearing that the other, which is the external representation of the totalising image found within each, can destroy the new identity coming to life.
The other no longer represents a danger, but takes on the role of someone “different”, who has explored other ways of living the human experience. The encounter with the other becomes an occasion for exploring enriching experiences that we would have never been able to discover by ourselves.
5) The new individual identity and a new identity of belonging.
The last phase of the process is found in the construction of a new group identity (family, therapeutic, political, national group, human group) where being a member does not mean suffocating individual identity, nor does the individual identity need to deny belonging to a larger group to be able to exist.
This type of belonging to a larger group can not follow a model that proposes totalising, but rather must arise from a new model that is created through new types of relationships established between the individual and the group.
One example of this can be the “European project”, in its attempt to respect the individuality of the various nations and to build a type of belonging on a higher level, that includes all of the Nations that are taking part in the process.
If we apply these passages to society, we can affirm that if there is only a totalised type of original Identity, it is not possible for different cultures to encounter each other. For example, we cannot welcome the migratory masses if our identity remains stuck in a totalised original identity. In these cases, the dominant culture uses its political, economic and cultural power to subjugate other cultures.
We believe that these processes (individual, group and global) can come about in a healthy manner if two functions are chosen as a reference point:
a) a function that we call the SELF
b) a function that we call the EGO PERSON.
The Self: Individuality, group consciousness, globalisation
The Self is the wise part (Sophia) of each one of us and it contains our existential purpose and the energy to bring it forth.
According to Sophia-Analysis, the Self creates a relationship between the person and his/her purpose and life and the purpose of the universe (the Self’s transcendental dimension). The Self, in fact, expresses itself in an individual manner (individual Self), in a choral manner through the group (choral or group Self) and in an universal manner (transcendental Self).
What is, practically speaking, the Self’s function, and how is it expressed? We will describe how it is activated in psychodrama, so we can have a means of comprehending how it can express itself also on an extra-personal and global level.
In psychodrama, when a scene is being acted out and a critical phase takes place, the action is stopped by the conductor. This is the moment in which the group listens to the Self (formally represented by those who are not acting and who are observing the scene). By offering indications and suggestions, those who are observing offer awareness and support to the actors. The suggestions offered by the Self are not specific indications, rather they are existential ones regarding basic purpose and the means of possible transformation. They invite the players to contact more profound parts of their being and they indicate one or more paths that can be followed. They express the various possibilities offered in life.
After the Self has been listened to, the action starts up again, with new possibilities and perspectives available. The function, that is activated in the scene, after the Self has been heard, is called the Ego Person. We attribute the functions of freedom, decision-making, choices, transformation and creativity to the Ego Person. After having listened to the Self’s suggestions, those who are taking part in the scene’s action freely decide (Ego Person) whether or not to follow them.
The synergy between the functions of the Self and the Ego Person has an essential value and importance with regards to transformational and creative action.
In psychodrama, we can see that only if each player manages to fully become the part they play (expressing their desires, emotions, needs, projects…), can both each personal purpose and the group purpose come forth. This seems to be an essential indication in an attempt to outline those principles which can lead towards healthy globalisation: each individual and each populace must fully acquire, express and develop their own identity. This is an indispensable condition for the achievement of a global purpose. In this context, diversity is not synonymous to conflict, but rather to enrichment.
Perhaps, the great task and challenge of contemporary psychotherapy is to affirm the centrality of the Person, in his/her existence, identity and purpose, according to an individual, choral and global perspective.