Drama Therapy

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Improvisation, Personality and Drama therapy

When the concepts of Personality, Improvisation and Drama Therapy are brought to the table it may seem like they are three completely different ideas, but in fact they are interconnected. The objective of this paper would be to find how improvisation and drama therapy can dialogue with a specific theory of personality. There is a wide variety of approaches to explain where the personality comes from. Before choosing the one I wanted to explore, I had to literally revisit my old theories of personality’s book and after hours and hours of thinking and analyzing I decided that I should walk this path with Erik Erikson and his Developmental Theory. According to Alloy et al. (1999), “To Erikson, the major drama of development is the formation of the ego identity, an integrated, unique, and autonomous sense of self” (p.102). Unlike Freud, Erikson’s theory proposes that the personality is a process which extends from birth to death and it doesn’t take place just in a specific stage of life but on the contrary, is a formative process. According to Erikson, psychosocial development involves changes in our interactions and mutual understanding as well as in our knowledge and understanding of us as members of society. Erikson’s idea of personality is based in the social influence, not in the individual psyche as Freud proposes. As Alloy et al. (1999) states, “ Erikson saw personality development as deeply affected not only by the family but also by teachers, friends, spouses, and many other social agents” (p.103). To understand Erikson’s theory it is always helpful to make a contrast between his theory and Freud’s. For Freud, it wasn’t the ego but the challenges to the id that would determine the personality. However, for Erikson the role of the ego is central in the developmental progression and it takes place on different stages. As Johnson and Emunah (2009) state, “…with each stage of life there are specific themes that manifest and individual’s way of viewing and interacting in the world, requiring defined roles for that person and significant others to enact” (p.252). Erikson proposes eight different stages with different needs in each one of them; in fact four of these stages take place during childhood. Also his theory explains that in each of these stages there is a crisis or conflict that needs to be resolve. ( Feldman, 2006, p.359) It is important to mention that for Erikson the failure in one of these stages does not necessarily represents that the person is going to fail in the following stages. The stages that Erikson describes through the psychosocial development theory are: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation and Ego Integrity vs. Despair. According to Erikson and as cited in Johnson and Emunah (2009), “Dysfunction and pathology emerge when these theme-based stages have been unsuccessfully integrated due to role deviation or dysfunctional environment” (p.252). This is why it is important to resolve the “conflicts” that each stage presents in order to be prepared for the demands of the next one. However, when one of these stages is not nurtured and accomplished, the mental health of that individual is jeopardize and it is very probable that this person is going to be held in that specific stage. (Johnson & Emunah, 2009) This is where drama therapy appears to help the individual overcome these crises. According to the National Association of Drama Therapist (NADT), drama therapy is “An active, experiential approach to facilitating change. Through storytelling, projective play, purposeful improvisation, and performance, participants are invited to rehearse desired behaviors….. [as they] perform the change they wish to be and see in the world” This definition provides very specific utilities and goals of drama therapy while...
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