Are you unable to move forward? You want to let go of something, but you can't?
Is internal quicksand holding you hostage from being who you're meant to be?
Experiential modalities, like psychodrama or Somatic Experiencing, work to renegotiate the responses in the nervous system. In this framework, to quote Peter Levine (creator of Somatic Experiencing) trauma can be understood as anything that gets held in the nervous system in the absence of an empathic witness. This trauma, or survival energy, gets trapped in our nervous system, which attempts to maintain homeostasis until the energy can be released. Feeling stuck is an indication of the latent survival energy in our nervous system. There are other ways our body attempts to maintain homeostasis with excess survival energy, such as difficulty sleeping, body image issues, trouble relating to others, high pain tolerance, emotionally numbing through technology/food/sex/drugs, impairment to memory, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and mood swings. These symptoms are a reflection of a person's ability to adapt to a particular emotional landscape and can be understood as somatic or emotional flashbacks.
Because we process information from the bottom of our brain (the survival part) to the top (the good thinking part), and the right hemisphere (emotional part) to the left (language part), information can get stuck in the lower right hand side of our brain as “body memories”, sometimes called “emotional memories”. Memories can exist completely separate from language no matter how old we are when the memory was created. This is because part of our natural animalistic survival defense of fight/flight/freeze is to also compartmentalize. If information never travels horizontally to our left hemisphere, then it can remain stuck as a body memory. This is why many people feel panic attacks in their chest, or nervousness in their stomachs, or stress in their heads. Usually this is a body memory trying to tell us something, but it doesn’t have the words because it was never horizontally integrated into the left hemisphere of our brain. With psychodrama, we use movement to address body memories and allow them to be expressed and finally healed.
What does healing with psychodrama look like?
Psychodrama was developed by Jacob Moreno, MD, a peer of Freud's, who was known to say that Freud analyzed his clients' dreams while Moreno helped his clients to live theirs. Through body movement and social connection, years of trauma that are implicitly stored in the body are allowed to tell a story that can't be done with words. In the therapy room, there is a designated stage, often represented by a carpet, for enactment of psychodramatic work. The client is referred to as the protagonist and the remainder of the participants either become members of the auxiliary (supporting players who are chosen by the protagonist to depict either a person, idea, emotion, or other important aspect of the drama), or the audience (the witnesses who provide a safe containment for the protagonist).
Psychodrama begins with warming up the participants by measuring and strengthening social connectedness. During this process, participants are dropping into their bodies, awakening implicit memories, and beginning to bypass the natural desire to intellectualize and analyze information. Social bonds and a feeling of containment and boundaries are being developed, which is imperative to feeling supported and safe. Also during this process, a protagonist is identified. In classical psychodrama, the therapist, referred to as the director, and the protagonist will walk and talk and set up the scene for the drama. Depending on time constraints and the protagonist's capacity for distress, there may be multiple scenes. This part is called "drama enactment". The protagonist will choose auxiliaries as part of the scene set up using his/her "tele" - the felt sense we have that tells us to do something. This body wisdom is one of the most powerful components to psychodrama, as most of us spend a lifetime trying to repress it when it is our natural healing force.
During enactment, the director may have the protagonist "reverse roles" with various auxiliaries to deepen his/her place of knowing and seeing through the eyes of the unconscious world. This is also a beneficial process for the auxiliary playing certain roles as they connect to dormant parts of themselves. The director may also "double" for the protagonist, offering a first person narrative for the unspeakable. This technique mimics the early developmental relationships between child and caregiver when caregiver attunes to child and offers the words that they are unable to yet speak. Once the conflict has been resolved, a "cool down" process follows the enactment, which strategically allows everyone to reconnect with their heads. The neurological processing and integration of psychodramatic work can continue to take place for weeks following the intervention. See "Retreats" tab for upcoming opportunities for psychodrama healing.