- Philosophers, Carers, and Psychodramatic Games
Dear Jonathan D. Moreno,
Thank you for the honor of taking the time to comment on the work we do. It is very meaningful for us to be able to talk with you.
We, too, see a big difference between philosophers and carers (in the broadest sense) who deal with the suffering of patients and try to find methods to help them. But, if theory is at the service of the clinic, it becomes a formidable asset to refine our therapeutic methods and better understand what is happening to our patients.
Indeed, patients suffering from psychosis, severe neurosis … are difficult to accompany and “recalcitrant to therapy by word alone” to use your terms. It is on this point that Ludwig Binswanger distanced himself from psychoanalysis. Binswanger ran a sanatorium in Switzerland (the Bellevue Clinic) and took in patients suffering from this type of psychological pathology. Aware that “the divan” and the analysis of the transference (unconscious) made little progress, he sought other ways of understanding his patients. The work of Edmund Husserl, the founder of the phenomenological movement, and then the work of Martin Heidegger1 fascinated him because they attempted to answer fundamental questions about being. The patients we work with ask themselves and us the same question: What is being? How can we feel existence within ourselves? Binswanger then created daseinsanalysis as an analysis of existence in which he was able to develop, among other dimensions, what he called “artists’ gestures,” including the possibility of (physical) contact with the patients. The body regained existential importance in the therapy.
There are also strong similarities between psychiatric phenomenology and the work of Jacob Levy Moreno (2014, p. 214). We would like to quote your work: “ Nonetheless, there were links between them. Heidegger and J.L. shared preoccupation with personal authenticity and meaning [End Page 230] just enough to be considered part of the trends that led to postwar existentialism and fueled the new humanistic psychology, NTL, and encounter groups.”
Jacob Levy Moreno’s working methods are much more powerful, allowing us to work as closely as possible with bodily feelings, since the body involved in the action is so present in psychodrama. Because, to this question of being posed by our patients, is linked the body as a felt, sensing body: the body that I am (which differs from the object body). Schizophrenic patients often express, and this is a terrible suffering, that they no longer feel anything, that they no longer feel they exist, that they no longer feel emotions or feelings. They do not know how to be in the world and with others. For us it is a fundamental symptom, as much as hallucinations. We link it to the loss of natural evidence (Blankenburg, 1991), the loss of contact with reality (Minkowski, 1929). Most of the time, in psychodrama, we “externalize” what the patients feel in different roles played by players, which allows us to work at the heart of each person’s difficulties in interaction. Trained in psychodrama by Anne Ancelin Schützenberger, we have to our credit a set of techniques to support the expression of psychodramatic play, a sort of “toolbox.” Depending on the context, the moment of the patient, our own state, we open our toolbox and try to choose and use the technique that best fits the needs of the game, of what we understand about the difficulty of the protagonist or the group. We do not do anything systematic, we are craftsmen. We have chosen to present a very simple game, without any technique used, except for the initial soliloquy, with a stabilized patient suffering from paucisymptomatic forms of schizophrenia. This is to demonstrate how the possibility of encounter, constitutive of existence, is a fundamental dimension of psychodrama.
We thank you for the examples you have given us, they will be a source of inspiration and will fill our toolbox.
To John Nolte:
We thank you very much for your comments which honor us.
The aim of the article was to present how the encounter in...