Dr. Sergio Romano, Psychology Psychotherapy, Psychodrama



THE group process

Sergio Romano.

One of the basic factors to consider in groups composed of the children is the asymmetry that characterizes the relation of adults and children, that is experienced differently according to age. It seems clear, however, that all phenomena that arise in the life of a group of children do not necessarily correspond to the same found in the groups of adults.

Group relations are present during the evolution of the child's life and the tendency to the grouping has a specific character already from an early age, although the psychological needs and affective seem peculiar to oppose the notion of peer group in the early age. In fact, the conditions of development in the early years place the child in the household to which he is strongly linked, so that the separation seems impossible (especially by the mother from which the child will be long dependent for its very survival). Yet, the deepening of the work on the origin of socialization requires to go beyond the context of the only mother or father and child relationships. In fact, starting from kindergarten, witnessing numerous interactions among infants from which you can originate stable relationships.

In this regard, ethologists such as H. Montagner, have found among the smallest of the characteristics that differentiate completely the children's communication between them from that each other and adults. These interactions are not of the same type: between children alone, rather it highlights the discovery of the games and the common space, competition and some aggressive manifestations, that have the purpose of ensuring a predominant role or to test the reactions of the other. This communication space seems to be very important for learning and self-esteem and, when used in adulthood, can become an important support for the social life.

When the interactions are produced with the adult, predominant behaviors are what is called affiliate, such request for help, reassurance and protection. In the presence of the adult, children drop interactive attitudes that had produced when they were alone among peers and favor communication channels socialized and more specifically for the adult, which then generalize to the whole group of children. This implies a certain loss of the creative skills of the child who could not experience all the more so its potential.

In therapeutic groups, the adult-child relationship is mediated by group. The latter has a buffering effect and teamwork allows the preparation of this report, seeing, immediately, raises the question of generational difference, that, depending on the age, poses different problems.

At the beginning, as we will see, the group is perceived as a place not organized that endangers the identity of each, due to the loss of their usual points of reference. This first period is very distressing, the group experiments with archaic feelings of emptiness, of fragmentation and persecution. The adult is invested in a manner counter-phobic, as an object of possession of the qualities of which the ego feels private; is the beginning of a transference of narcissistic type. At this level, communication among peers is unusual.

If your child wants to establish a privileged contact with the adult, tends to exclude others, that denies the group in what he has to threatening. The conductor works for not colluding and its interventions groupal allow the emergence of a ghost that resonates in each: there is an imaginary group different from the juxtaposition of individuals, that could produce narcissistic gratification that the therapist must refuse. Children try to join the group, and this attempt results in the rejection of everything that seems to be opposed to its operation, thoughts, objects or people. A search for a scapegoat among them, Lastly, the therapist becomes the projection of everything that embarrasses them. The level of anxiety decreases, cohesion in the group benefits from. The conductors are, at the same time, inside and outside.

The unit is respected, following this specific operation: one part children, other, to right distance, conductors, that not only contain their projections, but allow, at the collective level, the divestment of the parent from the role of sexual object. The children thus express their need to protect themselves against any intrusion attempts or adult seduction, which might rekindle the oedipal conflict and open, again, narcissistic injury of the incompleteness. This issue of seduction, often the cause of massive defenses in individual psychotherapy, in this case strengthens the investment on the group. This movement of desexualization leads to the creation of a space broker, conducive to a real encounter identificatory. It allows, therefore, to find a right distance that leaves room for drive manifestations, without calling into question the narcissistic investments.

The group accesses, then, a new phase, all members are associated with the unit group. In a moment of group illusion, making the space group-conflict-free, children will deny, both in relation to the sexes, that the generational difference, any difference that could be felt as an attack narcissistic. This movement coincides with the group illusion. This state, that we can consider as a means of collective struggle against anxiety, allows the investment group as an object of narcissistic gratification bearer, as well as holder of omnipotence.

We can, in this respect, speaks to the transference on the group, experienced as a powerful mother, who gives to all the children in equal shares. The generational difference and the difference between the sexes are denied. This situation is perceived as ideal because it lacks any conflict and danger seems to be avoided.

The driver can, in a movement of controlled regression, let soak in a bath affective and emotional of the group that temporarily removes the barriers of difference; an essential stage of the therapeutic group-.

The children who make up the group in question, are placed on one side of neurotic pathology; Here the adult is charged with a task limiting and protective. He must be strong enough to protect themselves from the consequences of aggression that hamper the functioning of the group. He is the reference point of the instinctual fears of flooding and excessive excitation due to the rivalry, and the anxiety of abandonment, reactivated by groupality. Anyway, the work of dramatization of the story through the symbolization, as well as design, allow concrete processing and avoid acting out.

The children during chaotic, ignore the proposal of the adult and find themselves struggling as indistinct in violent melee. Out of chaos, the conductors are tempted to use their authority of adults to restore calm, with the risk of playing maybe the conduct habitually repressive adults with whom these children are confronted daily. The drivers feel unprepared, helpless and confused. But if they will not try to figure out more and let you invade by a vague feeling of abandonment, so then chaos will arise in their head, to then leave the place empty.

This regression allows to relate the child part of the conductors with the problems of children. For this reason, You must accept that you are in front of the formal regression of thought, of the unknown, even in front of elements disorganized. It should hold the chaos. Living the moment, without defending themselves too, you can bring the experience of living children.

It 'clear to conductors groups such as the group situation produces regressive effects, regardless of the type of group and the task of the group. Pichon-Riviere notes as well as the defense mechanisms used by the members of the group become more archaic.

In practice, the groupality is associated with the primary group, Family. You will enter into an archaic dimension, characterized essentially by two fears: fear of loss and fear of attack.

Fear of loss

Becoming part of a group lose their certainties, their references, is perceived as threatening. If the perceived threat à grande, fear dela loss increases and prevents the group to stay in the task.

Fear of attack:

changes, the new can be experienced as an attack and then here is that the group becomes threatening. At this point it is hard to stay in the task.

Although the sense of threat characterizes all groups, when it becomes too large the group is no longer working; The same applies if there is too much tranquility.

In the group in question was can also check out the conception of the role that the previous consideration, do arise.

The sense of threat comes from the fact that bringing in pieces of the other, create or modify our internal group, then changes the self and this is felt as a great threat. The need to reduce the sense of threat leads the individual members of the group to label others quickly to try to reduce anxiety.

The role here becomes something not related to the individual, his decision, but the result of a need group-.

It takes a certain role for those personal history is the most suitable for that role.

Having this in mind we try to understand why he or she is saying and what the group at that time, if an instance is the bearer of personal or group-.

P.R. detects 4 fundamental roles: the leader, one who helps the group to integrate cognitive and emotional; Spokesman, that speaks of desires and fantasies groupal and is considerable, an ally of the therapist; the scapegoat, which expresses the conflicts and difficulties groupal taking the blame projected and implements.

The primitives, si liberavano della violenza che cresceva nella loro comunità trasferendola attraverso riti di tipo sacrificale sul capro espiatorio: the sacrificial victim, once magnetized upon himself the widespread violence between the various members of the group, I permatteva purification through his own sacrifice. This figure is vital that it is always present, that continues to exist because he is the catalyst for the sins. In the case go away, shall immediately identify the group to another, attuatre to this kind of catharsis magic. Interesting to assist the assignment of this role by the group to a person who did not intend to accept: the group forced him exerting enormous pressure until, in this case Loris, is clearly entered in the role.

The last role considered by P.R. is The Saboteur, whose task is to remove the group from the task, put the spanner in the works. Embodies the resistance to change of the group and also serves as a warning when the sense of threat grows.

Nel corso di un lavoro con un gruppo di bambini, per alcuni incontri ha partecipato al gruppo una bambina microcefalica; in a short time, has been labeled as a scapegoat. Accomplice probably his physical diversity, its way to move beyond the rules, his frequent provocations.

Fatto stà che nel giro di un paio di incontri la nuova arrivata è diventata il ricettacolo delle ansie, delle inadeguatezze, the parties rule out, several of the group.

The group began to attribute the blame for every problem and isolate it, Despite the attempts of the conductors to normalize the situation.

Appena la nuova entrata ha abbandonato il gruppo, ecco che il gruppo ha individuato un altro bambino come sostituto. Da quel momento non è stato più possibile levargli questa etichetta, despite attempts also very direct part of the drivers.

At some point in the path, during a meeting in which the group was particularly heavily against him, I decided to speak clearly of what was happening in the group and I proposed to dramatize the situation.

This proposal has surprised all the kids out of the scheme as, non prevista ma ci ha consentito di interrompere un angoscioso crescendo di veri e propri insulti nei confronti del capro espiatorio.

We have identified a significant moment and we staged.

E 'was surprising to note first the competence with which psychodrama has been addressed. Their ability to take on different roles is remarkable. This made me reflect on how and when the inter-subjective dimension proposed by psychodrama a natural and never the land suitable to deal with the problems presented by these children, which, regardless of whether the diagnostic label, are located on a hillside neurotic, to a level affective-relational.

About roles, the conception of the role to which I refer is essentially that proposed by Gasca in his theory of roles.

During the drama, you can see how the group assign roles prevalent; groups of adults, This fact offers a possibility to become aware with each of the roles prevalent that takes in life, enticing the individual to take on other roles.

Gasca, highlights, in his theory of the roles project, the relevance of the matrix transpersonal and family. He suggests that the contents of the virtual scenes are not memories of events that happened to the subject, but already structured images induced by maternal stories, by expectations of significant adults; in general, from the atmosphere in which the child is immersed. The child, according to him, it creates a sort of myth of its origins until you get to change the memories to fit the myth, transpersonal content that obviously has a family. I propose to consider the virtual scenes such as scenes from the stories told by the children and I think the result does not change.

This is why the stories of everyone not only take on the meaning of desires, fears, difficulties but we can try to read them also in terms of family myth.

Returning to the group, we observed that in the early stages is characterized by chaos: cubic unlined, chairs launched, objects thrown on the ground, screams, swear words are the tangible manifestation of the internal chaos.

The human being feels the need to move from the Khaos to Kosmos, from confusion to order; it is this innate drive, this natural tendency that I consider to be our best ally.

The inner world of the individual members is positioned in the space to manifest group-.

The fear of fragmentation in which they feel they meet the children takes shape. It is natural to leading the group and seeing this event happen emphasize the analogy between the outer and inner, for example, with phrases like "I think we are all very scared" or "certain that this wolf is really scary," etc.. This results in everyone the opportunity to seize links between the happening in the here and now and his own experiences.

During the work of the group, the room lights are often off, typically in the moments that some child feels like the most critical: attempt to leave the wires in the dark, to take away power? Or, come sottolinea uno dei bambini del gruppo, "Because in the dark it is easier to meet the monsters"?

The two, at least apparently antithetical, reasons to stay in the dark well represent the difficulties of interpretation to which it is able to observe the behavior of individual members within the group.

It should be very careful in distinguishing those that can be defined as Enactment, riattualizzazioni of experiences, by acting out, aimed in kind to produce a break, a stop all'accadere.

Sordano(Fairy Tale, dream and intersubjectivity) reminds us that the enactment is the re-enactment of a part of himself unconscious mind the acting is an acting out of the constitutive rules.

Both of these dimensions require special listening and tolerance. In particular, with small children and the play of the design heating are tools that facilitate the control of these two dimensions.

Distinguish between the two events can still be very difficult. Take, for example, an incident with one of the children in the group, Loris: one day it was presented in the session with a figurine that was keen to show me just entered. According to the contract, children can not bring anything into the room.

Acting out or enactment?

In hindsight, I would say an enactment but at the time the act was experienced by me as an acting out and not questioned, or maybe not questioned as it should. And My?

Was not an acting? What have I ridden in going straight to take the figurine and place it on the cabinet with a promise to give it back at the end of meeting? The rule or my rigidity that made me short-sighted and arrogant?

Hilmman (referring to the picture drawn by children or dreamed) says:”A snake, which is a snake, instead becomes a problem; a snake instead was carefully observed and which had to be answered, instead becomes an anxiety. And so now it is a dead snake, padded psychological concepts ".

Treat an enactment as acting out means, as minimum, miss an opportunity, then one place that one notices. We must not forget that a snake is first of all a snake.

Unfortunately we are always at the center of adults report, with our concrete thinking, addressed. The world is watching the children through a polarized filter, as you watch the sun during eclipses. We want to be able to carefully observe without being dazzled, but in doing so we look at the details and we lose together.

Then the day breaks and the eclipse has passed. An opportunity is lost.

Tornando al bambino-caproespiatorio, thanks to what I consider an error, But I was able to understand his difficulties inform me of things, in the say of himself. He for the duration of the group, take as inseparable companions of the dinosaurs, no longer figurine, descrivendomi but their behavior, their habits and their salient features, especially physical strength and grandeur. Quella grandiosità che non è riuscito a tradurre in competenza relazionale, resulting group unpleasant and becoming the sacrificial object.

The analysis of the mistakes is made easier (from the technical point of view, certainly not on the narcissistic ..) by the fact that every single meeting was filmed, that led to a revision rather objective of the event.

On this point, however, I want to add two things: the first, è che personalmente ritengo gli errori parte integrante ed importante della relazione terapeutica: I believe in fact that they contribute, when limited and acceptable, to generate a situation capable of promoting a possible and desirable climate of possible serendipity, goal last but not least in my vision of the therapeutic group with children. The second, is about the movies. As they there may be useful to objectify behaviors, situations, better understanding of certain events, I am deeply convinced that it is never possible to effectively objectified a report. The report is something that happens in the here and now, and does not lend itself to interpretation in retrospect, is a breath of life, a perfume, or a fetid odor, that can not be captured and breathed a posteriori.

Serendipity: I would like to say a few words about this important concetto.Non is a very common term in our language; is a term of Anglo-Saxon italianismo serendipity, which derives from Serendip, the ancient Persian name for Sri Lanka. The term was coined by the writer Horace Walpole 28 January 1754 who used it in a letter to Horace Mann, his English friend who lived in Florence.

About fairy tales, Horace Walpol was inspired by the reading of the tale Persian “Three Principles of Serendippo” of Cristoforo Armeno story in which the three main characters in their path a series of clues, who saved them on more than one occasion. The story describes the findings of the three principles as yes insights due to chance, but also to the spirit acute and their observation capacity (wikipedia).

Serendipity is therefore, from the point of fista philosophical, I discover something unsought and unexpected as he is looking for another. But the term does not indicate just luck: to seize the clue that will lead to the discovery necessary to be open to research and careful to recognize the value of experiences that do not correspond to the original expectations.

Just to mention a few examples of Serendipity, think of the discovery of America, the discovery of penicillin, the creation of the prozac or the discovery of mirror neurons.

None of this would have been possible if the researcher had not had an opening, a willingness and a capacity for observation as to enable him to grasp what was happening in front of him.

The reason for this lies not only in short-depth explanation of a term very dutiful obsolete, but in the fact that to have an attitude that contributes to some extent to promote events nameable as events of serendipity, you will probably assume an attitude of availability, Opening in this sense. I believe that such an attitude is accompanied by a good dose of courage and humility. Virtue today a significant decrease.

Returning to the group, we note that as the internal chaos decreases and takes shape, the motor discharges and the use of concrete objects fall, giving way to symbolic play and the feel of each one begins to find the way of the word and not acting out. This step takes time and is indicative of the achievement of an evolutionary stage as important as the ability to symbolize. Piaget, places the appearance of such a capacity between two and 7/8 years.

The child then passes from the so-called game of the year, characteristic of the sensorimotor period(from birth to two years, about), to the symbolic play. Here is the added dimension of the exercise of symbolization, the ability to represent a reality not through gestures current. We speak here of the emergence of the "as if".

For Piaget, through symbolic play the child's thinking is organized.

Subsequently, after 7/8 years appear in the games rules, that characterize the child's socialization.

Whether we consider the point of view of Piaget is that we refer to other, what seems clear is that the observation of children's play offers enormous possibilities for assessment of his stage of evolution and its current state.

The play of children is considerable in its own right a litmus test: place of screenings of fantasy life, it becomes: unstable or chaotic in front of ghosts too invasive; calm and quiet if and when the child can hold off his drives; very aggressive when the child is unable to accept the rules of the game and with them the symbolic dimension of the game. Anyway you look at it, a child who does not play is a child who is not well.

Caillois, that divided the game 4 fundamental components, The competition, The case, The dizziness and the like, points out that in psychotic children appear to be virtually absent both the competition(because they involve the social dimension) that the case(because it is rejected, there is stereo).

These considerations have allowed us to evaluate as possible to participate in group un altro bambino, che chiameremo Mario. This having decided a priori, although I personally do not agree, that the group could not take care of children diagnosed as psychotic. Mario, did not interact with other children; competition, present and tangible in all other different degrees, was virtually absent. He wandered around the room and played alone, glia as if there were no other children in a sort of closed path that left no room for any disruptive.

The homogeneity of the group so it is here in the absence of overt psychotic pathology.

I'm still pondering whether or not to accept children in the group with a diagnosis of psychosis. Undoubtedly, I realized more than once of what it means to the presence of a subject that polarizes the conductors and the group itself; e della fatica che i conduttori devono fare per cercare di mantenere saldo il gruppo.

Così come ho preso coscienza del fatto che la presenza di Mario, così come quella della bambina con sindrome microcefalica, created in the group strong anxiety and excessive polarization. However, I remain skeptical and doubtful about the goodness of the choice, by virtue of the fact that this scheme, though certainly not aimed at preventing the progression opportunities for these children, in fact proves that.