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Psychodramatic Bodywork and Primal

by Susan Aaron

As the keynote presenter at the IPA Convention 2000, I saw many similarities between the process of Primal therapy and Psychodramatic Bodywork¨. Rather than discuss the method you know best, I'd like to tell you about my area of expertise and let you draw the relevant comparisons.

Psychodrama was created by J.L. Moreno, who believed that all blocked spontaneity could be traced to earlier traumas. These traumas could be revisited and repaired and in this process, the blocked spontaneity could be unblocked.

We start with a moment in the present where there is pain, upset, frustration etc. This might look like a conversation with the boss where you fail to stand up for yourself; a headache that won't allow you to work; a relationship that you're unable to let go of. These are all examples of a situation in the present that you'd like to be different.

We put these situations into action by choosing people (auxiliary egos) to play roles for us. For example, you might pick someone to play your headache and have a dialogue with it to explore why it's there. This present day exploration leads us to a past trauma where our spontaneity was originally blocked. We then act out this scene using members of the audience, only this time we insert the repair experience that the protagonist would have liked to have happened. Moreno calls this surplus reality. Since the repair didn't really happen in life, we now experience an alternate reality. This repair could be a grandparent intervening and stopping abuse, or a parent saying they were sorry. The possibilities are limitless, and they are related directly to what the protagonist would have liked to have happened.

The last piece of the psychodrama is returning to the present, having had the repaired past experience, and seeing how we relate to the present day situation differently.

The bodywork that I use during a psychodrama is directly related to blocked meridians (shiatsu). If someone is feeling sad and unable to cry I would work on the lung and heart meridians in specific places to help unblock them and encourage the tears to flow. This helps greatly during a psychodrama. When someone is trying to receive a repair experience sometimes they're unable to let in the positive messages until they release the pain and grief from their body. By adding bodywork to the psychodrama, the healing can be fully on a body level as well as emotional, mental and spiritual.

Specific meridians help with the flow of anger, sadness and fear. There are also meridians that can help with suppression, blocking and dissociation. All physical interventions must be done with great sensitivity to the client and their needs. By unblocking the body, the person can have a very deep and powerful experience, therefore these techniques are to be employed with great respect.

In my demonstrations at the convention, the group chose facilitated encounters on both occasions. This is a slight adaptation from traditional psychodrama. In an encounter, each person deals with issues in the present that are concerning them. After the issues are aired each protagonist is encouraged to see the source of the issue within themselves and their history, i.e. earlier trauma or an earlier traumatic relationship. By looking for the transferences, and doing a small piece of psychodrama with the original person (usually a parent), the protagonists are able to lift the charge off the person in the present and see them more clearly. By watching the other protagonist do their transference work, it becomes clear to the co-protagonist how they triggered the other person. Co-protagonist work, or encounter, is much more delicate and exposing work to facilitate than psychodrama. In a psychodrama the client controls what issue they will explore. In an encounter, you have no control over what you may trigger in another person and what this will force you to look at in yourself. It is a growth process, but one that needs to be facilitated with great delicacy and respect for both parties. It is easy to trigger issues of it's not fair you love them better than me.

I hope this information is a useful elaboration of the experiential process many of you shared with me this summer. Feel free to contact me at or visit my website

This article appeared in the Winter 2001 IPA Newsletter.

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