O God, what strange powers
are here at work.
You bring together two people,
reared oceans apart
and make them meet
in a moment of their great need.
Both are strong,
both are weak,
supporting and clinging,
happy to find themselves back
in each other.
From Love Songs to Life
Zerka T. Moreno
Role Analysis and Audience Structure
Toeman, Z. (1944) Sociometry, A Journal of Inter-Personal Relations VII, 2: 205–221
Wartime was my world at the time this article was written. Although we were pacifists, we knew the war had to be won “or else,” and everything was geared toward the war effort. The hospital at Beacon was profoundly affected. The staff was swallowed up. Moreno’s secretary, Joe, became a soldier. There was a shortage of nurses and aides, as they went off to the front or to work in factories. We did whatever we could to scrape by. I remember a young woman patient and I shoveling a path in the snow from the road to the house so that Sunday visitors could come up the hill.
These associations with the military, although unfortunate in the global sense, were important for us because psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy became better known. They were using group psychotherapy with soldiers at the time at Saint Elizabeths because they couldn’t treat thousands of soldiers individually.1
The phenomenon of sheer numbers of military personnel who had mental health needs sent professionals searching for solutions. Still, recognition for group psychotherapy, and for Moreno as its pioneer, was slow. While there was no question as to who developed sociometry, it is quite astonishing today that few group psychotherapists agreed concerning group psychotherapy. One example of how prevalent this position was occurred in 1944 during the Second World War when, dining with a group of military men at the American Psychiatric Association convention in Philadelphia, one captain proclaimed: “I just received a directive from Washington that we must practice group psychotherapy with mentally ill soldiers. What the hell is group psychotherapy? I was never trained in that.” Moreno and I looked at each other. He shrugged his shoulders as if to communicate, “It’s hopeless to start teaching them here under these conditions. That’s just the way it is.” But it represented an oversight that in some ways has continued to the present day.
We wanted to help with the mental health of the military personnel. In 1948 we were invited by a professor at the University of Maryland to see “sociograms of life and death.” He had been part of a group of psychologists sent to the South Pacific to study morale on two military air carriers. They realized that all their psychological tests yielded only individual profiles. They had nothing that could tell them about groups and give them a definition of high morale. Evidently one of the participants (we never found out who) suggested looking at “Moreno’s sociometry.” I remember wrapping up eight copies of
Who Shall Survive? and sending them to the War Department in Washington
A major from the British War Office Selection Boards came incognito to the New York City Institute to study with Moreno, spending long hours in discussion. The major’s report was the basis for subsequent implementation of certain strategies adopted by the military in organizing their troops. J.D. Sutherland and G.A. Fitzpatrick described this work in their paper, “Some Approaches to Group Problems in the British Army” (Sutherland and Fitzpatrick 1945).
During the war we continued to have open sessions in New York City twice a week, and that is where this research was conducted. “Role Analysis and Audience Structure” was inspired by the case of a young woman client whose fiancé was pulled in two directions – between marriage and family and his military career. After the session, J.L. remarked that it was an interesting phenomenon and said to me, “Why don’t you do an article on it? Why don’t we do some research?” That was the first time he suggested that I write something on my own, although I wasn’t surprised that he did. After all, we were building a system. The more we explored and wrote, the better.
Moreno saw young people as who they could become. That is why he encouraged us to write up the experiments, the ideas – everything. There was so much to say, and he couldn’t possibly do it all, and moreover he believed in us. I credit Moreno with giving myself to me.
The session material for this paper was gathered by the author during 1942, and was announced among the Sociometric Researches in Progress under the title “Composition of a Psychodramatic Audience,” Sociometry, volume 5, number 2, May 1942, p. xlvii. Director of the psychodramatic sessions was J.L. Moreno, MD. Role analysis of a psychodramatic production was undertaken as well as an analysis of the vote structure of three audiences.
The psychodramatic method has an important contribution to make in the education and training of military personnel. Thousands of men are returning from the fronts affected by mental disorders. These men were at the time of their induction apparently well adjusted and able to maintain themselves at a satisfactory level of performance in civilian life. But the rigidity of military service, apart from the scene of battle, calls for a profound readjustment for the individual. It throws him into unfamiliar situations, the cumulative effects of which frequently lead to a breakdown
of his morale. The thesis we wish to present is that psychodramatic procedure can educate him to a better adaptation to military life.
The psychodrama stage presents a unique opportunity for studying the human being in dimensions hitherto chained to verbal expression. The prime importance of the motor sense in military training makes psychodrama the treatment par excellence. It enables the director to move with the subject into as close a mirroring of his life situation – without actually infringing upon it – as objectification permits. There are no limits to the possibilities of expression upon the psychodrama stage. It is an exploring into new dimensions of realization, the realization of action, and into new dimensions of analysis, the analysis of action. Here the subject can project his conflicts without barriers. He may choose the auxiliary egos to represent absentee persons related to his problem. He may pick the situation, the time, the place, and the persons with whom to paint the picture of his life. The director is given a comprehensive statement of the syndrome of the subject while he presents his problems and initiates the auxiliary egos into their roles. Diagnosis and guidance can thus go hand in hand. By throwing the subject into action, warming him up to the maximum of spontaneity and analyzing the performance immediately after completion, the subject is given insight into his reactions. Once he has gained a certain amount of objective understanding, a program of re-training can be undertaken.
In action training the psychodrama offers many advantages compared with other methods of personality guidance. It is possible to stimulate the subject into action and to stop him, right there, to point out where his action is inadequate. It is possible to make him start again, to warm him up along a different track, to make him realize that his old warming up process would lead to the same conflicts that brought him to the psychodrama laboratory. He is given records of his past actions, and is able to analyze his present performance on the stage in the light of what he has learned. The subject is given fresh opportunities to warm up into a different spontaneous state that would permit him to live as a more fully integrated, better-adjusted person.
Spontaneity is frequently understood in folklore as anarchistic behavior, “doing whatever one pleases whenever and wherever one pleases,” or as impulsive, uncontrollable action leading to emotional and social instability. But according to Moreno spontaneity training opens the way for a flexible and systematic process of learning, providing a more reliable foundation for the absorbing of discipline than authoritarian methods. Anchoring discipline upon obedience does not give it as deep a root as can be provided by the spontaneous matrix of the individual, as the individual can be directed sua sponte (“from within the self”).
We see an interesting parallel in the conserve-spontaneity conflict in the drama. The dilemma of the actor of the conserved drama is that of the actor-creator. Torn between the conserved role – lines, emotions and
gestures long rehearsed – and the desire to create a new
one, to live a new Hamlet experienced only in this moment, the conserved role becomes meaningless to him. The division within him is a torment. It makes his performance unconvincing. Our culture demands a specific rendering of Hamlet. Yet, does our actor really feel these words rehearsed so thoroughly that he no longer searches for their meaning? Is this then, the great Hamlet he has desired to enact? Or is not there, deep down in him a pain for that other Hamlet who had to die before he was born? This dichotomy may eventually interfere with our actor’s performance, and often does, to a degree that makes performance in any conserved role impossible for him.
The spontaneity actor knows no such dilemma. His is the privilege of creating a Hamlet of the moment. True, spontaneity acting needs training; nurturing of the creative elements within the actor. It needs guidance in order that his Hamlet is not only spontaneous, but esthetically acceptable, blending harmoniously with the roles of other actors on the stage. But his training does not consist in learning lines and emotions set down for him. It is a training on the level of the actor’s own creativity so that the spontaneity will be ready, stored away for an occasion when it will be called upon to carry him over danger zones. His is not the fear that tomorrow night at the same time these same emotions, the same words, have to be repeated, the same inflection of his voice used, in order to rouse his audience. His is a creation of and for the moment, valueless upon repetition, complete in itself-however imperfect it may be from the point of view of the conserved drama. His values have unified to the point where his creative ego is not at pains to prove itself at the price of the conserved self, that self which is expected of him.
Mock warfare as applied to our combatants is a true reproduction of the conserved form of the drama. The men follow a rigorously set pattern. Every step is designed so that not a single man is left without a definite set of instructions. Every moment is timed for the next step, which must be equally well prepared, and the next and the one after that, until the enemy is annihilated or surrenders. No amount of mock-warfare training, however carefully constructed its every detail might be, however frequently a soldier is subjected to it, can prepare him for the unknown, for that moment when he will be at a loss because of some unprepared-for surprise tactic on the part of the enemy, or because his equipment fails him. In the latter case his technical skill will help him, but the emergency may be outside the realm of technical knowledge. It is then that his spontaneity, his initiative, his ingenuity for making decisions on the spur of the moment has to come to the rescue.
There is a source of untrained spontaneity in every individual. Everyone is called upon, unknown times a day, to exert spontaneity in situations for which they know no suitable precedent. Obviously, many things depend upon split-second reaction of the soldier in battle. He has been carefully
“drilled.” He knows his weapons, what to expect from them and how to use them to his own and his fellow soldier’s advantage. But he will face situations that demand immediate action of a kind unrelated to his previous training. There is a great need for some training that bridges the gap in the personality adjustment of the soldier-actor
. That bridge we believe is to be found in the application of psychodramatic methods.
Presentation of a Typical Problem
The case presented was chosen from among fifteen others dealing with problems of military trainees, because it revolves around one shared by many of them and is thus of great public interest. The problem defined is: Should a soldier marry while in the armed forces, or should he wait until the end of the war?
The subject, let’s call him Jack Roberts, was referred to us by a superior officer. He introduced himself when coming up on the stage. He was 25 years old, a second lieutenant, and came from a small town in Ohio. He was the youngest of three. His parents were alive and well-adjusted. He was college-educated and stated that he had been an average student. The interview with the director disclosed that it was his work situation that was first affected by this problem and that it came to the notice of one of his superiors. Thus, the first scene to be portrayed was the work situation. The subject was prepared by the director. Only crucial parts of the material are herewith presented. Many psychodramatic sessions have been combined into one. Lack of space prevents going into details that the case history revealed previous to the subject’s appearance in the theater.
Jack is backstage with the auxiliary ego who will represent his superior officer. Jack is warming up the auxiliary ego to his role.2
Director: When Jack first started to talk about his problem he was bashful. He said he did not think he would do well on the stage. “I am not an actor.” The director explained to him that a psychodramatic subject does not have to be an actor. As long as he is honest and has a problem that is burning within him, he will be able to warm up to an adequate presentation of the conflict. Let us see how Jack’s problem came to the attention of an officer, and what his conflict consists of.
Jack returns to the stage with auxiliary ego.