The Wise Brain and the Moreno's Canon of Creativity
by Ann E. Hale, M.A., TEP and Donna Little, MSW, TEP
Dayton, Tian . “Neuroscience and Psychodrama Validating the
Mind/Body Approach of Psychodrama” The opening plenary speech at the
64th Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA, April 28, 2006.
Hale, Ann E. and Donna Little. Sociometric Processing of Action Events. 2 ed. Roanoke, VA, 2002. (Available from www.tcps.on.ca )
Lipton, Bruce H. The Biology of Belief. Carlsbad, CA, Hay House, 2005.
J. L. Moreno Who Shall Survive Beacon, NY, Beacon House, 1934,1953, 1978. (Especially page 47)
Nolte, John. “The Canon of Spontaneity - Creativity” in The Psychodrama Papers. Hartford, CT. Encounter Publications, 2008, p. 103-134.
Pert, Candace B. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. NY, Scibner, 1997.
Schultz, Mona Lisa. Awakening Intuition. NY, Three Rivers Press, 1998.
Siegel, Daniel J. The Mindful Brain: Reflections and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being. New York, WW Norton, 2007.
Siegel, Daniel J. The Developing Mind: How relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. NY, Guilford Press, 1999.
Williams, Rob. http://www.psych-k.com/pages/originator.php Introduction to Psych-K,
applied kinesiology to the superconscious mind.
A few remarks
We believe that Moreno would have rejoiced over the growing field of
interpersonal neurobiology and the linkages which have been made to
brain functioning and our understanding how well-being takes place in
day to day living and in psychotherapeutic practice. In his
professional life Moreno was a medical doctor, a social psychologist, a
psychiatrist, a philosopher, a writer and an innovator. His
approach to healing was focused on spontaneity, creativity and ways the
cultural conserves can be utilized or hamper growth and well-being.
This cornerstone of his life’s work is referred to as the Canon of
Spontaneity - Creativity and the Cultural Conserve. See Figure 1.
His view of the cultural conserve, the end-product of all creative
activity, that energetic aspect of the creative act which is
conservable, is that it is necessary to consider these end products as
malleable, able to be tweaked, improved upon...essentially created
anew. As an innovator he valued the notion of the
“springboard” and “play” as ways to build and re-frame constructs which
had lost their usefulness or needed superceding into something novel
and useful. Essential to this process is a “what if”
warm-up, an imagination which urges a man or a woman to depart the
conserved world and play with their idea, adding greater and greater
additions of spontaneity to the mix.
The block to creativity is fear. Moreno writes: ”If spontaneity
is such an important factor for man’s world why is it so little
developed? The answer is: man fears spontaneity, just like his ancestor
in the jungle feared fire; he feared fire until he learned how to make
it. Man will fear spontaneity until he will learn how to train it.”
Donna and I have developed over the years a series of professional
training we have called Sociometry and Healing. Initially it grew
out of discussions and evaluation of sociometry training, particularly
our frustrations related to there never seeming to be time enough to
teach sociometric methods due to personal issues which
surfaced. We switched to additional processing of personal
psychodramas and group process sessions, in order that group members in
training with us could understand the dynamics of the group and the
ways the intersecting stories of the participants impacted patterns of
relating...a sociometric set.
A sociometric set, for single individuals and for established groups,
is a particular way we organize our relationships and positions within
a group. It IS a cultural conserve. In our training we have
been able to encourage a way to depart from fixed positions to more
spontaneous choices and choice-making attitudes. We tackle fear.
And, we still hold to a conserve from psychodrama which states: “Do not
take anything away from a person until you are able to offer the person
something of equal or greater value.” To combat fear,
especially in interpersonal relating, we need to create an environment
where we make it safe for spontaneity, and where intimacy and conflict
are not only tolerated, but expected and valued. To combat fear we give
time and energy to developing a certain quality of curiosity about
varying our usual relating patterns. The very idea that we have
patterns, that these patterns are fluid, and vary depending on role
repertoire and situation further assists people in the belief of
managing their interpersonal choices. We also teach The Sociometric
Cycle (Hale) which can be used to track issues related to
belonging (attachment) and blocks to movement through role development
phases and stages of group connection.. See Figure 2 for the way the Canon of Creativity merges with The Sociometric Cycle (Hale).
The Wise Brain and the Canon of Creativity
Daniel J. Siegel in his book The Mindful Brain (2007)
offers nine “domains” of integration, ways a person understands their
experience and embodies both the experience and the beliefs they
hold related to the experience. “Researchers studying
aspects of mental life - from social psychology to the neurosciences -
have used the term “integration” to refer to the
collaborative, linking function that coordinates various levels of
processes within the mind and between people.” The third
domain of Siegel’s is Bilateral Integration, concerned primarily with
left and right brain processes:
"The right brain processes information is a holistic way with “a
dominance for the non-verbal aspects of empathy”. The left brain
functions in a logical, linear fashion, with more attention to the
verbal elements, the use of language.
“Creating coherence is a lifetime project.
Integration is thus a process, not a final accomplishment. It is a
verb, not a noun. This process perhaps is best seen as a form of
“resonance, “ defined as the mutually influencing interactions between
two or more relatively independent and differentiated entities. This
resonance allows two systems to amplify and co-regulate each other’s
activity. In the case of one mind, integration allows for the
spontaneous flow of energy and information within the whole brain. This
spontaneity does not mean random activation, but the flexible influence
of layers of processes upon each other. By contrast, insecure
attachment patterns produce incoherence, in that individuals’
adaptations to suboptimal parenting experiences have placed marked
restrictions on their capacity for resonance – both within
their own minds and with other minds.
Autobiographical narratives can reveal integration
or incoherence. A coherent narrative reveals a blending of left- and
right-hemispheric processes. The interpreting left hemisphere in driven
to weave a tale of what it knows. When access to the right
hemisphere’s representation processes is limited, such a tale is
incoherent. When the mentalizing, primary emotional, somatosensory, and
autobiographical processes of the right hemisphere can be drawn upon,
the left brain is able to “make sense” by integrating a coherent life
story. Bilateral integration promotes coherent narratives.”
Both Siegel and Moreno are investigators into the process of identity
formation. Moreno named this process the Canon of Creativity: "a
field of rotating operations” which is similar to what D. J. Siegel
describes as “flexible influences of layers of processes upon each
other.” If you conceive of the left-brain as the processing
plant for the “cultural conserve”, as the weaving of tales about what it
knows, and the right-brain as the prompter for the adventurous role
investigator who embodies the spontaneous explorer of personal
narrative, you have the basis for recognizing bilateral integration
when it occurs in psychodramatic enactments. An example may help
illustrate a way this is accomplished in a psychodrama session.
Example: A belief system is explored
A group session comes to a halt when one of the members has a near
anxiety attack when faced with exploring group members choices for a
partner for an exercise. Leslie (a fictitious name) is
chosen to explore her fear of choosing. She states, “I am a poor
chooser. I cannot trust my choices.” She agrees to set up the
situation where this belief about herself was formed.
Her inner dialogue about herself as a chooser is an example of a
cultural conserve, resulting from her experience, and ways she
integrated these thoughts into her interpersonal identity.
Leslie sets a scene from her first year of marriage when she discovers
her husband has resumed intimate relations with a former
girlfriend. “I have made the wrong choice for a husband and life
partner.” She weeps.
Director: “What did you do when you found out?
Leslie: “I told him to get out. I got a lawyer and filed for divorce.”
This scene is set on stage and a double for Leslie is asked to join the action.
Director: (to the double) “I want you to amplify Leslie’s belief that she makes poor choices.”
As the exploration into seeking divorce ensues, and Leslie states she
wants a divorce, the double states loudly, “See, there I am, once again
making a wrong choice.” This intervention is the beginning of
role playing, no longer just taking the role as supplied by the
protagonist, but amplifying it, exaggerating its application to all
choices Leslie makes. In this way the psychodrama brings the incoherent
dialogue to the surface. Leslie: ( becoming enraged) “No way am I going to stay married to someone who cheats on me!”
Director: “So Leslie, are you making a good choice now?”
Leslie: “Of course I am.”
Director: “Then I want you to take a moment here and consider that sometimes you make good choices.”
The director is joining the person in their incoherent narrative and
helping to provide an enactment which will stretch (neuronal
plasticity) the former narrative to include a more coherent statement
of the reality here in now that Leslie makes both good and bad
decisions. She is especially able to make decisions to protect herself
when she had information that is hurtful and causes suffering. In
Morenean terms Leslie is role creating, changing her identity as a poor
chooser, to a person who is able to make good choices on many occasions.
Critical to the process of Spontaneity - Creativity - Cultural Conserve
is the condition of receptivity, and specifically to have a response
when fear surfaces. It is required in a person who wants to answer
the ”call to adventure” and create oneself. And it is required of a
culture which receives the end product of creative acts. The
subject of many psychodramatic enactments is an exploration of
the range of coherence-to-incoherence in the personal narrative of the
individual’s journey to create oneself. What is explored are the
dynamics, internal and interpersonal, which contribute to a person’s
ongoing process of learning and becoming. Receptivity is central
for a process of transformation and integration. Moreno’s
system of Spontaneity - Creativity - Cultural Conserve supports
entirely the concept of co-regulation of “each other’s activity”
described by Siegel in the emerging field called “interpersonal
neurobiology.” Through these actions the wise brain emerges.
© Ann E. Hale and Donna Little, March 20, 2009.
1. Moreno, J.L., Who Shall Survive? Beacon , NY, Beacon House, 1978., p.47
2. Moreno, Zerka. “Psychodramatic Rules, Techniques, and Adjunctive Methods” Group Psychotherapy, 18, pp. 73-86.
3. Moreno, J.L. Words of the Father. Beacon, NY, Beacon House, 1971, p. 101. “What would you be if I were not? What would I be if you were not?”
4. Hale, Ann E. And Donna Little. Sociometric Processing of Action Events. 2 ed. Roanoke, VA, 2002.
5. Daniel J. Siegel. The Developing Mind. NY, Guilford Press, 1999, p. 301