Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Consciousness-Raising through Sociometry

Originally posted on November 8, 2013

Sociometry is a method developed by Jacob L. Moreno, M.D. (1889-1974), a genius who made significant contributions to role theory in psychology, creativity theory, and other approaches in addition to inventing the methods of psychodrama and sociodrama. Sociometry is his name for an approach in which people are helped to become more explicitly conscious of the nature of their own interpersonal preferences in the various social networks they interact with. My emphasis is to note that although sociometry is often used with psychodrama, its basic principles need to be brought into the mainstream: It’s time folks began to become aware of noticing these patterns as much as it’s important for them to notice the prevalence of other frequently unconscious dynamics. This is because, as the late Fred Rogers of the children’s program, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” once observed, “The unmentionable is un-manageable.” This is strangely reminiscent of Freud’s dictum, “Where id was, there shall ego be.”

Sociometry is thought of as a form of assessment, which it is; but more important, this note focuses on the activity of bringing people to appreciate the importance of bringing interpersonal dynamics into explicit awareness. There they may evoke uncomfortable feelings, but these can be supported and people then can think out the realities of their social predicament. Unrealistic expectations can be dissolved and interpersonal patterns that are problematic addressed. None of this can be done unless people become aware of the basic dynamics.

Saying it another way: If a dynamic is given words, it can be managed: People can refer to the phenomena and relate it to the complex. The dynamic of interpersonal preference is very primal and emotionally loaded. If we let people know that they are not preferred by us, they’ll be so hurt! If we find out how many people do not we are tempted to be “hurt,” to give in to feelings of rejection. From this we’ll be plagued with self-doubts and feelings of betrayal.

That we don’t prefer most folks is irrelevant, in another compartment of the mind. People have an unconscious tendency to take things personally. If one isn’t preferred by someone wants to be preferred by,  people tend to feel deeply hurt, a little betrayed, vaguely offended. With the exceptions of enemies, we want to avoid subjecting friends, co-workers, neighbors, to such stress. Pre project this vulnerability on others, and for the most part—not completely, but a lot—this avoidance is rational. Most folks can’t handle the truth in this way.

But in truth, this is an expansion of consciousness: People need to grow up a bit, not take things so personally, not assume it’s a crushing “narcissistic blow.” The truth is that there are lots of people, not just our family; we can’t handle being preferred by too many people, at least in the ordinary sense. Nor can they. It’s really okay that everyone doesn’t love you, need you.

Moreover, it’s okay to recognize that folks like each other differently depending on the role they’re involved in, or the number of roles. Some folks we can relate to in 3 roles but not two others that get called into play—and filled by others who play complementary roles. In summary, this is a vast field that deserves more attention, but the bottom line is that if people can be helped to become explicitly consciousness of the issues involved and helped to engage in open discussion, the consciousness of the culture as a whole will advance a notch or two. 

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