We are often told not to make a drama out of a crisis, not to let the emotional aspects of ourselves muddy the situation or inflame the crisis some more.
We often speak after an event about what we could or should have done in that situation. How often does it happen that we wish we could have been able to say this or we should have done something else but were afraid to do it, acted in a way that helped the situation and dealt with it better?
In schools and other educational settings, the drama of life gets played out on a daily basis between peers, teachers and peers, and the influence of others through social media. Many times, issues, interactions, and altercations take place. Sometimes we are aware of the cause and more often than not we are left not fully understanding why this happened.
Psychodrama and other action-based methods such as sociodrama can be helpful to look at these situations in an unthreatening and empowering way.
Over the last 15 years, I have used many of Dr Jacob Moreno’s methods from psychodrama to help young people safely explore issues that are important to them – which could range from bullying or feeling isolated to global issues such as the migrant crisis or to the potential for world conflict between nations.
Many times, I have used a specific technique called the ‘living newspaper‘, whereby newspaper articles are placed around the floor and the group are asked to identify and agree on an article they would like to explore in action. The story is read out and then roles are identified, which might include main protagonists, bystanders, politicians, communities, media, and unheard voices.
Before we start, we spend time warming up to each other with physical drama games and also a verbal check-in. It gives the group a chance to become a cohesive unit that is ready to work and be in action together.
As a group, we then set up a scene that represents this news article and then start to encourage each person to take on a role and start the action. Sometimes the person in the role only wants to make a quick statement, sometimes longer, and other times they want an extended dialogue with the other.
It might, at this point, be useful for the person to role-reverse in this situation to get a better and deeper understanding of the interaction and also at times to watch the action unfold in an observer role or as though watching it in a mirror – giving distance but also some perspective to the scene.
As the action unfolds, the scene may come to some resolution or it might feel stuck and this is noted by all with a clear statement from the role. This might, in fact, move the action on again and they discover new ways of seeing how the dynamic might unfold.
Finally, we share the role we have held and then how this relates to our personal lives. It helps to give perspective, see things in a new way, and make connections with each other and the wider world we are in.
Making a drama out of a crisis can help to explore the different aspects of it in a safe space with time to explore, be creative, take a risk, notice, connect, and learn on an emotional, psychological, and social level.
Carl Dutton is a psychodrama psychotherapist working in the NHS in FRESH CAMHS at Alderhey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.