Liberation through Role Training – an Essay

Author: Sue Daniel

The essence of role training involves mirroring, role reversal and concretisation. We can develop new responses to old situations and novel responses to new ones, through an invigorating process of learning through action. Role training can be applied when surprising or unexpected events occur; is ideal in debriefing or where repetitive patterns of behaviour and stuck systems are preventing new growth and heathy relationships.  It is recommended for people working in organisations, for those experiencing conflict in their personal, work, or social relationships, if you simply want or need to get out of a mental rut and refresh or enhance your life, and your relationships, or, for those who just want to live life.

The key to constructive role training is to increase spontaneity and from there things flow.

While Consedine (ANZPA Journal 15 December 2006, pp.61-76) maintained that “role training is a psychodramatic intervention, which enables progress in many situations where classical enactment would be unthinkable”, role training in fact, is a method of ‘Psychodrama’[1], just as is sociometry, sociodrama (axiodrama, hypnodrama, and so forth).

Role training is psychodrama.  There is a clear structure and process in a formal or classical role training session (Consedine, Clayton, Daniel), yet with room for spontaneity to be the dominant attribute, however each time we enact a situation or event, and each time we role reverse, concretise, or experience clear mirroring, we are in fact developing, maintaining or enhancing our roles and role relationships.  Using an example portrayed by Mike Consedine, in his article, ‘Accessing spontaneity in a role training session’, closer inspection reveals a role training of ‘self with self’ (p.63), an enrichment of the auto tele of the protagonist with themselves;  In that instance their self today (grown person) with their 8 year old self (a psychological entity or psychodramatic role).  While Consedine stated that the result was positive, with new roles emerging, he didn’t describe what new roles emerged.  This would have been very useful, clarifying, and given food for thought for the discerning reader. We just have to take his word for it that new roles emerged. The interaction he described is role training.  Role training goes on naturally in any ‘psychodrama’[2] .  That’s the beauty of the psychodrama method; Role development, role enhancement, or role diminishment, in the case of old roles not being useful anymore, is at the core.  Mike, as supervisor of a director in role training session used his spontaneity in making the intervention with the protagonist so that she was able to have a significant interaction with herself (as a young child).  

The cicada

Talking about ‘young child’, prompted my memory. Someone recently wrote to me saying “Where do you get the energy?” This was in relation to the work I was doing and the travelling I was undertaking.  I replied, “I have loads of energy, that’s true.  Must be all that tree climbing I did as a young gal.” Whilst my comment was flip, there is something in that.  As a tree climber, I developed a different perspective on the world.  Seeing things from above, getting a completely different aspect on life was inspiring.  My imagination soared, ripened and I felt good, and very present to the moment. I also grew very strong physically, became daring, trusted my judgement and taught myself to balance and invent new ways to climb higher. I felt the wind, heard the birds; the clear resonant cry of the currawong, and the soothing humming orchestra of cicadas, letting me know that it was summertime. 

Would you say a natural role training was occurring?  Perhaps the role of Lover of Nature was being fostered during my early childhood.
Click to hear the sounds of cicadas in the summer heat.

[1] ‘Psychodrama’ with a capitol ‘P’ is used throughout this essay except for at the start of a paragraph, or a title, to denote that it is the overarching discipline.  Branches of this discipline include role training, sociometry, sociodrama, role training, role theory and sociatry and many other concepts and approaches of J.L. Moreno and of those coming after him (souldrama, vedadrama, therapeutic spiral, and even playback theatre is a branch.  It is similar to Mathematics, with its branches of arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, algebra and calculus.   

[2] ‘psychodrama’ meaning an enactment with scenes, or concretisation of some kind.  People sometimes like to call these ‘vignettes’, or refer to full psychodramas as their ‘psychodrama’, or even their ‘drama’. These latter two terms are often used interchangeably.