Dream Sociodrama is a group participation in a nightmare or dream, but in any case, in the life issues of a group member. However, instead of group members enacting a role from the subject’s dream or life issue, and speaking as if they were embedded in the context of the individual, each participant is told to be their own autonomous presence within that role. For example, in Rebecca’s nightmare below, bamboo stakes impale men and fasten them to the ground; if they move they will die! Group members answer questions in the IDL interviewing protocol as bamboo, in any way it wants to answer, not conditioned or subject to the circumstances of the nightmare. Then, after the subject has heard all of these answers, he or she becomes the interviewed perspective, in this instance, the stake, and answers the same questions. If the interviewed character chooses to transform, either for group members or the subject or both, the characters are interviewed as well. Afterward, first the subject and then the group as a whole process the event. A full description of Dream Sociodrama can be found here.
Each Dream Sociodrama begins as does every IDL interview or Dream Sociometric exploration, by the stating of three life issues. For Rebecca these are:
“How to move on with my personal growth; death and my own mortality; and the relationship with my husband.”
Here is Rebecca’s nightmare:
“I am in a big house with my family, but I do not recognize anyone in particular. There are male workers who are speaking a different language that I do not understand, perhaps Polish. I am skeptical towards them because they are strangers and I do not understand them, but I warm up to them and come to understand their language. They tell me they have to leave to fight for their country but they will return. One said to me, ‘You are a woman with a big heart but you are surrounded with meters of concrete!’ They advise me to close up my house, but that they will be back. When, in the dream, I wake up the next morning and open the jalousies of the windows of the house the men are lying in the garden with bamboo stakes through their hearts and throats! They are not dead but I know that if they move they will die!
I wake up and know I want to get away from this dream!
Being a student of IDL, Rebecca had already done some interviewing of the stakes before the Dream Sociodrama. This made the Dream Sociodrama very interesting – would it provide any clarification that the interviewing did not?
“As is often recommended for IDL, I chose the worst, or most antagonistic character to interview, in this case the stakes, which were the most horrible part of the dream. I have difficulty remembering the interview even now…Reading…The strengths of the stakes, as a group character, or stake, are its hardness, solidness and power to kill. Its weakness is that I am instrumentalized: I am not meant to kill anyone: I am helpless; I am being used to kill. When it was asked if it wanted to change it became a little bird and was happy to do so. I thought, “Maybe this is a bit too simple – to resolve a drama by turning into a bird. I wondered if it was not me wanting to avoid the drama…”
“I continued interviewing the bird: ‘I have high scores, a 9 in wisdom, 8 in witnessing…’ (“Sounds too good to be true!”) The steak brought up a feeling of nausea; with the bird the feeling was gone.
The bird said, “You have already made great changes in your life in personal growth. You need rest, to not to be distracted by stuff. Regarding your husband, what’s your problem? Stop trying to change him and work on changing yourself!”
“Regarding my own mortality, I want to live my life in such a way so that when I die I feel I have lived a good life. I don’t ponder my death so much, but instead I just enjoy every moment of life.”
“How do I better integrate meditative practice into my life? That has already led to me introducing mindfulness much more into my daily life than to beat myself up for not doing a daily practice.”
“I want to use the time while my mom is still alive to talk to her and get over my resentment of her. I was a desired child and I have a strong relationship with her. Nevertheless, when I come home to her and embrace her I always have the feeling of being put into a daughter, girlie role. I somehow can’t handle it. I still feel I cannot be as close to her as I wish to be, physically and internally; there is a distance between us. I know she is 84 and yet I cannot embrace her! Somehow I can’t handle it and when I leave I feel terribly bad about it.”
“The bird also said it is time I organize my home page.”
Is there anything that is slowly killing Rafaela, Stake?
“With that question, fear came up. I know that I am mortal but I have avoided dealing with death. My cancer is gone, but at times my fear of death comes up. I think I have lost my feeling of living for today.”
How is your relationship with your husband?
We have communication problems…He plays the most important role in my life besides my kids. We are extremely different people. My task is to accept him and respect him the way he is. I can’t change him. I also have fears that I will lose him. He lives at the limit and has stress. If I lose him, what will I do?”
Now let us hear from various stakes!
R: “I am a beautiful stake, fresh and green; drying out a bit: I am elastic and I am strong and in a good mood.”
“The wind can move me. I come from a good family.”
H: “I am lying around in a Home Depot market with a couple of others. I regret ending up here, being for sale. I prefer the time I was grounded and could move in the wind.”
“I am short and sharp. I’m not flexible…”
C: “I am a little green I could throw out roots. I help someone by being a door for elephants to pass through…”
What are your strengths, Stake?
R: “I am flexible and stable.”
N: “I am firmly grounded.”
H: I am easy to transport and good to sell..”
I: “You can use me as firewood but you don’t have to.”
Do you have any weaknesses, Stake?
“I am really dry, if you put a hammer on me I could crumble.”
“I am cut off from every life. I don’t like that at all.”
“I can spread and grow anywhere and grow anywhere. You can’t get rid of me! You might like to but I pop up everywhere! Maybe I can take up far more space than others can handle….”
R: – “My nature and usefulness is in the eye of the beholder…”
Would you like to change, Stake?
HJ: “I want to be connected to the earth, grow, not be on the shelf…”
Ro: “While I have a problem with the bamboo spreading but the bamboo itself does not want to change.”
C: “I might get bored of being a door…”
Stakes, If you found yourself in the situation of Rebecca’s stake, what would you do?
Ro: “I would feel helpless.”
R: “I would try to analyze if there is blood around me, if I am short, and have compassion toward the man who has me in his throat.”
HJ: “I really feel angry that I am being abused like this.”
C: “Why am I here? Could anybody have done anything to deserve this??”
A: “I almost feel nauseous. Before I felt that whatever I am used for was OK. Now I feel almost guilty that I felt that before.”
Rebecca, what have you heard the stakes say?
“They are flexible, useful, can grow… None of the stakes feel good being in their position in my dream.”
Rebecca’s Stake: “I am feeling abused. I am in a position I don’t want to be in. I do not cause hurt and pain by my nature. I hear my fellow soul bamboo speak when the stakes talk. What moved me very strongly when R said, “I am one of many and we stand here all together.” It is painful to be alone.” A recognition that as Stake she is cut off from her roots, her family and alone.
Why do you think Rafaela created a dream in which you are alone and abused, stake?
“This three year old girl alone in the bedroom is life threatening…” (This is an allusion to an early childhood experience Rebecca explains below…)
“I am cut off…It is life threatening… I am facing my own death slowly…I can witness…” Recognizing that both the man and Stake are mirroring the same predicament as victims. Witnessing is an attempt to move from dramatic immersion to lucid objectivity.
Stake, if you had something to tell Rebecca about her dream, her life, who you are, what would you say?
“The feeling of panic and being stiff with death comes up – I really don’t know!”
What kind of animal would you be?
“A black animal with big teeth and long claws!”
What is your relationship with Rebecca, animal?
“I would like to tear her apart…”
Tear her apart and tell us what that is like for you black animal…
“I can’t!..I am both me and her!”
So we will ask the others in the group to become monsters and tear themselves apart…(The purpose of this step is to desensitize Rebecca to her death while experiencing alternate ways to experience it.)
R: “I am like a big Panther! I take R by the neck and kill her! It’s cool! I am shaking her! She won’t listen to her characters anyway! I feel great!”
Do you think it’s done any good?
“Now the blood is running down her neck and she has a good reason to suffer!”
Why does she need to suffer?
“I don’t know! I have been asked to appear here and I have done my job!”
“R believes that she has been shaken and taken by the neck and she doesn’t even know what she’s talking about…”
A: “She taste’s nice but she’s also tough meat…Now I’m finished…all the bones are lying around…Are they being asked to be put together again??? I do a great job of killing and eating her!”
N: I am a lion that is too slow and lazy to eat N….”
HJ: “I have drool running out of my mouth…I went for his stomach and his intestines are hanging out…”
C: “My Panther can’t be motivated to get off the limb of his tree. It isn’t that he doesn’t have any moral scruples; he just can’t be bothered to go to the trouble of eating me…”
Rebecca: “Such brutality!!!”
What did you hear all these monsters say?
“I realized how big my monster is and I can’t fathom this monster.”
Monster: “I WOULD enjoy eating Rebecca!”
How could she so misunderstand your intentions monster?
Monster: “She is so naive!”
Monster, why is Rebecca so naive about you??
“She can’t imagine herself dead…”
Monster, did you eat her or not?
What if you did eat her?
“OK…I’ve done it. Now I’ll take a digestive nap,..Now I’m bored!…I’ll have to look for someone else to torment!”
How about these other people here in the room, monster?
“No, they aren’t tasty… Too old!”
“My monster has no problems eating me…” “When it finally does I finally became more the monster than my three year old self! And it wasn’t that bad at all!”So we learn that when confronted with fear of death Rebecca reverts to her three year old self. We also have seen that when she is given the opportunity to re-frame her fear of death by imposing a new type of encounter with it in the here and now she changes her fundamental relationship to her fear by switching from victimized child to persecuting monster. However, there is the knowledge that being the persecuting monster is merely playing a dramatic role; it does not have the reality of playing the role of fearful victim.
Now that the monster has eaten you, what is it going to do for a living? How is it going to justify its existence??
“That’s it’s own problem. It could have played with me instead of eating me.”
Monster, now that you have eaten Rebecca and the two of you can’t play this game any longer, what can Rebecca do for drama and to scare herself?
“I can come back! I can always eat her again!”
Great idea, Monster! Like Dracula! You can’t keep a good monster down!
Anyone have any questions for any stakes or monsters? For Rebecca? How are you now Rebecca?
Rebecca: “This nausea feeling comes back up…Same feeling as the nausea of seeing the Stakes through the men in the dream…”
If you could talk, nausea, what would you say to Rafaela?
“Maybe she needs to throw up more often…2
“It’s meant metaphorically…She needs to stand up for herself…”
If she were to do that, what would be different?
Nausea: “She has a drive for harmony… It doesn’t do any good to drive for harmony all the time. She shouldn’t be as afraid of conflict as I think she is.”
Why is she afraid of conflict?
“She feels unloved and alone…”
When was the first time in her life when she felt alone and abandoned?
Nausea: “Three…tied up in a hospital bed…”
She’s no longer three; if you were her, nausea, how would you deal with that now?
Nausea: “NO! There is no reason; it is a totally irrational fear! She even likes being alone! I would have torn the ties to the bed and run home!”
Nausea, you would have not sought harmony but fought for your freedom?
Rebecca, what did you hear nausea say?
“It is an energy that wants to feel trusted. Even if I experience it as a monster or nausea I need to trust it.”
Rebecca: “I think it keeps coming up like an ulcer. I feel like this energy will eat me up and stifle my life energy if I don’t listen to it and let it out…”
C: “Don’t trust anyone! Is that right? Os should you not trust your monsters and nausea?”
Rebecca and group, what do you make of all this?
Rebecca:” I listen selectively…I didn’t repeat everything that all these Stakes and Monsters said… Do we always listen selectively?”
Yes. We screen out things that do not reinforce our world view. That’s why we normally don’t go back and read past interviews.
How was it to interview a variety of other stakes?
Rebecca…”It took away from the drama to experience how other stakes looked at life. It defused the drama. It created space where I could deal with things in a less dreamatic way (objectivity). There was a strong feeling of resonance when others said “I do what I want to do. I do not stand alone.”
Group, did you like being stakes? Did you like being monsters? (After the interview is the time for the group to make interpretive comments.)
R: “I found it intense. Being a stake in someone’s throat was also intense. Being reduced to a dead wooden stake from being part of the entire bamboo family was intense…What I take for myself from this experience is that there may be parts of myself that are willing to do harm to me but they remain part of a larger family that will not and does not want to do harm to me.” Framing fears in a broader, supportive context does not deny the fear but makes it a legitimate part of a greater whole, like black threads in a tapestry…
HJ: “When I was the stake in her throat I was really uncomfortable and wanted to get away from it. Being the monster was fun! I could tear myself up and enjoy it! It was easier doing that than to have a nightmare and be my own monster and eat myself! When I interview others it is different than interviewing myself…”
Ro: “I had the feeling that my mind comes in strongly. I go between the person who is feeling helpless and the bamboo, which has some sort of neutral position. The person has that fear, not the bamboo. How can I trust myself and whatever I say?”
Some comments to the group and here regarding this interview:
Multiperspectivalism allows you to have trust because you know that the abusive parts of yourself are only some of the perspectives within a much broader range of perspectives.
Dream Sociodrama helps students deal with the common fear that they will expose too much of themselves in an interview by switching the character identification to someone else and let them model how they would respond as that character, thereby giving the student alternatives ways of framing their response to the same situation.
Note that there is a false awakening within the dream: “They advise me to close up my house, but that they will be back. When, in the dream, I wake up the next morning.” This is a step toward lucidity, toward waking up and realizing one is dreaming, or in a state of self-created delusion. In this case, it reflects a growing awareness of the self-created, optional nature of the fear Rebecca unnecessarily subjects herself to in her life.
The question, “Is there anything that is slowly killing Rafaela, Stake?” was designed to move from the Bird back to the reality of what was going on in the dream. The fact that the question brought up fear implies that indeed, the Bird was in part a harmonious distraction from the abuse Rebecca was inflicting on herself.
Rebecca is also lucid regarding her motivations within the interview. When the stake was asked if it wanted to change it became a little bird and was happy to do so. Rebecca thought, “Maybe this is a bit too simple – to resolve a drama by turning into a bird. I wondered if it was not me wanting to avoid the drama…” This is a question that is well to ask the original character if you have suspicions the transformation is a form of avoidance: “Character, are you happy about changing? Have you said everything you want to change? Or is this the dreamer changing because s/he is uncomfortable with you?”
However, the bird proves itself useful. It is an antidote for a physical symptom, nausea, and therefore provides an example of concrete physiological changes from doing IDL. It also demonstrates that even if the bird is something of an avoidance of the issues Stake presents, it has positive effects.
Part of the function of group members being their own version of the character is to enhance the awakening of the entire group. In this case, when HJ, as stake says, “I really feel angry that I am being abused like this,” the result is a powerful awakening to the innate abusiveness of the situation for all concerned.
Becoming the Stake for Rebecca generates a recognition that as Stake she is cut off from her roots, her family and alone. Notice that she not only can recognize that as her choice, but as only one option available to her within her Bamboo family: “I am feeling abused. I am in a position I don’t want to be in. I do not cause hurt and pain by my nature. I hear my fellow soul bamboo speak when the stakes talk. What moved me very strongly when R said, “I am one of many and we stand here all together.” It is painful to be alone.”
When the Stake says, “I am cut off…It is life threatening… I am facing my own death slowly…I can witness…,” Rebecca is recognizing that in the dream both the man and Stake are mirroring the same predicament as victims. Witnessing is an attempt to move from dramatic immersion to lucid objectivity, a basic function of IDL dream yoga.
Asking group members to become monsters and tear themselves apart desensitizes Rebecca to her death while experiencing alternate ways to experience it. At the same time, the same function is practiced by other group members and they become merged in their ability to confront their fears and transcend them.
When Rebecca finally gets past her fear of being eaten by her monster she shifts from a life-long subliminal identification with her tied up, powerless three-year old self who does not trust people: “My monster has no problems eating me…” “When it finally does I finally became more the monster than my three year old self! And it wasn’t that bad at all!” We learn that when confronted with fear of powerlessness, abandonment or death Rebecca reverts to her three year old self. We also learn that when Rebecca is given the opportunity to re-frame her fear of death by imposing a new type of encounter with it in the here and now she changes her fundamental relationship to her fear by switching from victimized child to persecuting monster. However, there is the knowledge that being the persecuting monster is merely playing a dramatic role; it does not have the reality of playing the role of fearful victim. This is also a form of lucidity and clarity, in the form of detachment from identification with life drama.
Framing fears in a broader, supportive context does not deny the fear but makes it a legitimate part of a greater whole, like black threads in a tapestry: “I take for myself from this experience is that there may be parts of myself that are willing to do harm to me but they remain part of a larger family that will not and does not want to do harm to me.”
We mentioned an analogy to a light house: Our job is to shine our light, not to worry about who comes into our port or who goes elsewhere.
Please share your questions and comments so we can learn from one another!