“A myth is only reality seen with imagination and some poetry”.
I recently went on a cruise around the Mediterranean, leaving my brave husband behind with both young children, and a puppy. This was the first time I had been apart from the girls for more than a couple of nights, and was a big step in both separating myself for so long, and getting some parts of myself back.
The wonderful quote above was a phrase that my tour guide in Sicily used when he was guiding us to Mount Etna. In the back drop of the Roman Theatre at Taormina and Pompeii, I was reminded of Dramatherapy’s use of myths and stories to explore the roles we play.
Development of using drama as therapy has been dated back to the 18th century around Europe but we know that dance, rhythm, storytelling, and rituals were used long before that in the Greek and Roman traditions.
One of the techniques used in Dramatherapy is dramatic distancing, where emotional and psychological problems are accessed more easily through metaphor. By creating distance to problems it can make them easier to tolerate and to work with.
The offering of this style of therapy is its ability to move out of the spoken word into a creative language, a language we all possess even if forgotten or hidden. This is achieved through physical movement and embodiment, sensory exploration, use of archetypes, understanding the meaning of resonant images and cultural significance as much as storytelling. It is working with what is unspoken, what is held in the body, what we learn from sharing experiences.
The use of metaphor and working with distance in Gareth Morgan’s “Images of Organisation” holds some parallels. Johnson and Scholes Cultural Web, Business Constellations, Embodied Coaching, and of course Storytelling, which has been expedited as an effective business tool owing in large part to TED Talks.
A myth, a story, builds trust, cultivates norms, transfers tacit knowledge, facilitates unlearning, and generates emotional connections. It’s a smart way of exchanging knowledge in organisations and is regularly used by leaders in managing change and influencing others.
I am wondering how Dramatherapy techniques can be used more regularly in OD and business? How far can this be taken? What would we better understand about our organisations if we were to improvise and enact a play about what’s happening there? The roles we play? What can we glean from it’s contextual significance? What Myths it reminds us of? To ask questions of images? To explore what is held in our bodies, in how we embody a character, in accessing new data sources that are part of us and yet ignored?
Do you know anywhere this is already happening to solve a problem, delve into truths about the self or leadership, understanding culture or transcend personal patterns of behavior and interpersonal interaction?
I wonder to what extent the ancient knowledge from the Mediterranean coast holds fundamental truths that build organisations now. After all, then and now, organisations are made of people, with all of our complexities, idiosyncrasies and history.