Anger is a response most of us have when we feel our territory is being threatened. This is a primitive reaction from our days as cavemen (and cavewomen) when a wild animal was nearby! This reaction has not quite been removed by modern civilisation. When something threatens our security, the brain responds to it with a fight or flight reaction. The body releases adrenaline which causes changes in the body. The heart pumps faster, breathing gets faster, blood gets diverted to the legs and arms so we can run or fight back. The blood flow to the reasoning part of the brain is lessened so that thinking becomes difficult. Nowadays there are no saber tooth tigers coming out to attack us which require us to fight or flee. However the body’s response to a threat remains the same and, unless we find ways to discharge the energy or change our perceptions, the fight response will persist.
Powerless!! That’s the situation most people find themselves in at the moment during this Covid-19 Pandemic Circuit Breaker. From the home maker, who has to see her family all day long to the child who wants to have his friends over; teenagers who are restricted in their activities with peers to husbands who have to adjust to being at home with no break! Cabin fever is setting in and many are not coping well. Add to that mix an addiction that is running rampant in the household and you have a powder keg ready to blow!!!
What can family members do at this time to stay sane and not get embroiled in another power struggle or argument with the addict in the house. Anger that luxury during normal times is just magnified as all of us are forced to Stay Home. A simple request turns into a huge event; an innocent comment gets misinterpreted; and even demonstrations of concern become fuel for accusations of being manipulative or controlling. What to do??
Most family members of addicts or dysfunctional families (most of us can attest to being in this category), have resorted for a while now to manage, manoeuvre, save or guilt trip. This comes from a place of love and fear. However having time apart has always been a great diffuser of tension. Now faced with a Stay Home situation things can get stressful. Once free to go out, meet friends, go to the gym and pursue our life goals, we find ourselves having to don a mask and stay six feet away from each other, with frequent temperature checks thrown in! Yes we know it’s for our own good but just how do we go about removing that sense of irritation or frustration?? What’s wrong with me? I never used to get SO upset?? Being stuck at home we ‘step on the toes’ of others or they inadvertently step on ours.
So here are some possible ways to cope…..
1. Walk away and discharge the energy
Going for a walk, or a run and getting away from the source or trigger for our anger is one option. Moving away and giving vent to the energy is what we need to do. Digging in the garden, washing dishes, scrubbing the bathroom tiles or polishing the furniture is a great outlet for this energy. Shredding newspaper is another excellent technique. After which you could turn the strips into Papier Mache pulp and create an art project. One woman wrote that she would pull out weeds and imagine she was pulling out her husband’s hair! This is called Detaching.
2. Practice Deep Breathing and Self soothing
This taking in of deep breaths, helps bring more oxygen into the body and to the brain. Especially important is the frontal cortex where our reasoning happens. Improved brain function helps restore some calmer thinking. Follow this up with doing something good for yourself such as listening to some music you like, dancing, playing a game on your phone, doing a craft or even having a nap. Seld care is important when you have to deal with a loved one suffering from an addiction. We often say, “Put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to others.”
3. How Important Is It?
Ask yourself this question. After walking away and breathing for a bit, consider how the event figures in the larger scheme of things. Does this event require action right now or can it wait? Do I need to say what’s on my mind right now or can I pause and say it later. Often I ask myself these questions- Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said by me now?? By the time ive asked myself these questions, my good sense would have returned and I can leave it for another time.
4. Respond not react
After calming down, consider a way to communicate which is kind and thoughtful. Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. I’ve heard this said by someone- “Try to say it in ten words or less!” Haha! Most of us have communication patterns that escalate tension! So, try this for a change.
Another great tool is the acronym – T.H.I.N.K. Before I speak I need to THINK.
Is what I’m saying Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary or Kind. If not take a piece of Masking tape and place it nearby. This helps as a reminder to keep my mouth shut.
When all else fails, go talk to someone you trust and let it out. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Or seek one of many support groups or counsellors to help you cope. Whatever the case, we are all in this together! So don’t suffer alone. There are many helplines and people available to support you such as the ones listed below.
I am a self-confessed introvert. And I’m also an addict.
I was recently cajoled into attending a Psychodrama session. I’d heard things about it – years earlier, my then significant other lauded the raw emotional exploration her sessions afforded her. I encouraged her, it was good for her. Personally though, I found the idea of a group session’s ability to evoke genuine emotion alien. It was the antithesis of who I was.
I had never enjoyed group sessions. I hated them. The introvert in me screamed (silently) in indignation at being forced into a room with my peers, lorded over by therapists who would extol the heaven-sent power of vulnerability, hanging it over the heads of us sullen detainees. They would espouse connectedness with others, openness. To me, these were just unattainable states of being that I could never actualise. The years wore on, and I plodded along, entwined with my precious, thorny, addictions. Prison, pricey rehabs abroad. I took care to never bring my real self along to the banal group therapies – I merely presented them with an alter-ego. Faking it to get along. Or “faking it to make it”, in the parlance of addicts like myself who would say or do anything to achieve a discharge.
I was living an entirely unremarkable life, losing friends and embarrassing myself.
Then, I experienced a seismic shift in circumstances. To represent it as merely ‘mandated’ would be to deny gravity to what had happened. I had run afoul of the law again, and paid my penance with a 9 month long “drug rehab”. I got out, and three months later I was a year clean. Still, I wasn’t happy. I had done no soul searching, nor had I even begun to scratch the surface of my addiction, always lurking in the shadows. Of course, a large part of my reticence towards accepting sincere nudges in the direction of help could be attributed to personal and moral failings. But why was I the person that I was? That’s when I decided to attend a psychodrama workshop at the urgings of my boss, a sweet girl whose genuine concern had initially confounded me. Why did I acquiesce? To understand myself, I guess. So, I went in with an open mind.
Psychodrama is about exploring internal conflicts, by acting out emotions and interpersonal interactions. I wasn’t inclined to be the center of attention just yet, so I left other enthusiastic participants to play the protagonists. The director, a bubbly personality whose sharp wit was tempered by insightful, genuine empathy, herded a roomful of clueless attendees with a deft hand, schooling us in psychodrama’s basic concepts. I made myself small in the corner and watched as our director doubled volunteers, acting out scenes from their lives, giving voice to their unconscious. Revelatory perspicacity was the order of these moments. I watched as they were mirrored, experiencing themselves from the outside, drawing from a nonjudgmental pool of collective consciousness. I watched as roles reversed – mothers became their daughters, and wives their husbands. All of them seemed edified, comforted, even. Misty eyes and rivulet strewn faces, sighing into closures when none previously seemed possible. There was a woman pained by a frightful trauma, her repressed malefaction she seemed so sure she had committed driving her to seek expiation from whom had ceased to be able to give her any. From the outside looking in, I was sure her wound was self-inflicted – we all knew this, but one’s own guilt is deeply personal, often insidious. As her situation percolated in my mind, so did my own guilt. I hadn’t wept when I learned of my father’s and sister’s departures, I hadn’t wept at their funerals, I hadn’t wept at their memorials. I hadn’t needed to, because I had my addiction. Now, without the pernicious warmth of substances, these losses became some therapeutic cynosure of a starting point. I had begun to understand myself, through others. The cynic in me finally realised why, across addiction recovery literature, syllabuses are almost invariably characterised by the motif of benefits accrued by group therapy. I think it owes something to the collective experience of humanity, that no matter your guilt or your shame, there are people out there who have lived congruent experiences. It may seem cloying and mawkish for me to say that no-one is truly alone, but it’s true.
As I mentioned in my first article, the phrase,”reverse roles” was very much what I heard at my first psychodrama workshop. As this was uttered by the group leader, two people on the stage switched places and began playing the opposite role.
“This is it! “, I thought as I began to think of how I could use it in my work. Get people to reverse roles and voila! Well I was sorely mistaken those many years ago. As I began to explore this fascinating form of group work I discovered several techniques that are used in Psychodrama. Here are two key techniques used and an example of how I used them.
Here the Protagonist says a few words in the role of a particular ‘character’ or entity in their drama. The Auxiliary then says these lines to the Protagonist who is in the complimentary role.
In this technique, objects and people are used to represent the scenario the Protagonist wishes to explore.
A Drama using Role Reversal and Concretization
Ken is aged 19, and has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol which he has managed to stop, after going to the alcohol treatment centre. He had just come out of drug rehab in the United Kingdom and was brought to my practice by his concerned father. His father had tried very hard to help him over the years and has now brought Ken to us at Promises. Ken is worried about going out for dinner with his Father and a family Friend, whom we shall call Andy, because he might be tempted to drink again.
I encourage him to enact a scene at dinner with his father and Andy, playing out what he expects to happen. He sets out the chairs and chooses two people in the group to be his Father and Andy. As he greets the two older men rather lethargically, his shoulders slouch and he speaks in a flat voice.
Reversing roles, Ken now plays the part of Andy. He perks up now, smiling and full of energy. ‘Andy’ says, “The last time I saw you Ken, you were a small boy. My how you’ve grown!” Playing the role of his tempter, he urges Ken to “have a drink now as a real man” holding a glass towards him.
Back to being himself after another role reversal Ken’s face reddens and he clenches his fists in agitation. He speaks to me as the Director, saying that he is afraid he might have a relapse. I immediately ask him to take on the role of his father.
As his father, he sits with his arms crossed and says through clenched teeth, “It’s okay, you don’t have to drink. I don’t want to cause a relapse.” As himself, Ken is at a loss for words. I ask the other audience members to do some modeling and try different responses in the role of Ken as he watches.
Ken cheers up as he sees the other group members rising to the occasion. Everyone is animated as they get a chance to act the part and try to tell Andy off. There is much laughter and hilarity as people do and say whatever they think might work. A sort of role training session is underway.
Ken is noticeably inspired by the group and he chooses one response. He stands tall with a cheeky smile and says to Andy, “I’m not drinking today, and I wonder why you are so determined to force alcohol on me!” In role reversal as Andy, he changes the subject and backs down, no longer the magnanimous host. The drama ends. Ken is no longer a deflated doomsday worry wart. Instead he is positive about going out for dinner and knows what he can do later that night at dinner. The group has come to his aid and I once again marvel at the magic of Psychodrama.
In future articles, I shall illustrate more psychodrama techniques with dramas I have directed. It continues to be a privilege to be allowed into the lives of group members and I am continually amazed at the transformations that happen.
At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.
This is a series of article about the Action Method of Psychodrama by Sharmini Winslow.
“Reverse roles!”, the group leader shouted, and two people switched roles on stage and began enacting the opposite part. I was in the middle of my first Psychodrama workshop and all seemed chaotic and yet pleasantly therapeutic. What was going on? My desire to explore psychodrama had brought me here to a large room with a group leader and several very friendly people. Soon I was learning the ropes and I tried to make sense of things. 7 years later, I am still held captive by the magic of psychodrama.
Often people ask me,”what is Psychodrama?”, and I ask if they have 10 minutes to listen. It is a therapeutic action method that usually is done in groups. So here is a short description that will suffice for now.
Psychodrama, is the brainchild of Dr J.L. Moreno. It comes from two words, Psycho and drama. Psycho (not like in the movie where someone slashes you in the shower with a knife), is derived from the word ‘psyche’ which means the mental or psychological structure of a person. Drama refers to the enactment or action that happens in the session.
There are 5 instruments in Psychodrama
In the group, the therapist or group leader takes on this role and keeps the action flowing and gives structure to what evolves on the stage.
This can be any space set aside for the enactments to occur. In a group, the stage is the space apart from where group members are seated. Moreno built a stage in New York specifically for psychodrama which had the audience seated at a different level. I had the privilege of directing a drama on the original stage.
These are the group members who are not involved in the drama but who act as witnesses and can respond to the action on stage as a normal audience would, often yelling encouragement to the protagonist.
This is the person who represents the main concerns of the group. Usually chosen by the group, the Protagonist gets to put into action a concern, a challenge or an event that they would like to have turned out differently. In psychodrama, past, future and present can coexist in the Here and Now.
The Auxiliary or sometimes called the Auxiliary Ego is the group member chosen to be a certain element or person in the drama, for example the protagonist’s Sister or maybe their addiction.
Each session has a warm up, an enactment phase and time for sharing. In the sharing segment, group members get to share something about their own lives that is connected to the drama.
So in Psychodrama the protagonist’s inner world gets “‘concretized” or made real, and the Director helps the Protagonist explore and work spontaneously to create new ways of being that are more helpful in living with whatever challenge was enacted. New perspectives are discovered; insights and conclusions made that bring healing and newness. The Protagonist and group members experience the wonder of being spontaneous and are positively energized!
*Psychodrama is used in group sessions run by Sharmini as part of her practice at Promises.
At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. Please contact our clinic today if you or someone you know needs mental health support.
For those of us who experience life as monotonous and rather soul-sucking there’s good news!
Through accessing your spontaneity and creativity you can feel ALIVE.
Our psychodrama and sociodrama workshops assist the return of playfulness and fun.
One of the participants, Geralidine, commented “In my first workshop, I didn’t know what was going on, but the positive energy drew me in and soon I was participating in a positive way, I lead workshops today to help others find their inner visionary self-lover. This theatre of spontaneity is both rejuvenating and healing”