Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Role Reversal

Originally posted on February 25, 2018

A e-colleague of mine, Barbara E. Johnson, wrote: “Over the years I’ve been introduced to variations of dream dialogue with symbols or characters within one’s dream and intra-psychic imagistic exploration, such as the writings of Carl Jung  and his writings on Active Imagination (developed 1913-1916) or Ira Progoff’s technique of Intensive Journaling (that he wrote about in the 1950’s), etc.  I see a correlation of Moreno’s technique of the psychodramatic “empty chair technique  as an organically derived concretization of an intra-psychic play with similarities to a sit-down session.

Imagine drawing a line down the center of the page with Self as Questioner on one side and Symbol or Whatever Else One Is Questioning on the other side. This is a utilization of the empty chair technique. (Rosemary Lippitt in the early 1940s used the term “Auxiliary Chair”—because Moreno used the term “auxiliary ego” to represent someone playing the part of someone else in a psychodrama.) Ms Johnson goes on: “When I work with clients, if I start with the technique of the “Empty Chair”—which lacks the awkward word “auxiliary.”

Ms Johnson writes, “I offer a demonstration of the empty chair, and note that the reversal of position is key to the technique.” (It’s all projection, you see. Some of it may actually be fairly valid!) She goes on: “If the person  cannot perform a psychodramatic empty chair technique for whatever reasons, we try a different approach. We let them use a journal or even just speaking to themselves sitting somewhere, to consciously shift one’s body from self-as-questioner to source of the answer—in the position of the other. It’s very important that the client can take home a method for self to use outside of the therapy room—an idea that Ms Johnson writes and I rather agree with.  It’s also very important that the person doing the technique “concretize” the dialogue by shifting her (or his) body between her own chair and the empty chair. This consciously artificial procedure makes the whole dialogue (oddly enough) more real.

Carl Jung himself researched indigenous approaches to image-istic material, Eastern philosophy, ancient alchemical practices, and so on…which he integrated into theory and practice.  Ms Johnson notes that there are cross-overs, equivalen-cies, among many types of therapy, and indeed the word, “therapy,” may be a misnomer. Progoff wrote his books about inner journeying, and the healthier one is the more one can utilize such techniques.


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