Without choice, we are born into a genetic construct that provides us with the foundational structure of who we are and to a large degree, who we can become. I have already suggested that to the degree we are lucky enough to engage experiences that support that structure the more likely we are to feel a fulfillment in our lives. Doesn’t it make sense to think about fulfillment as making the best use of our genetic construct.
In my years in real estate, the common phrase for what to build in a given location, was to try to have the property meet it’s highest and best use. Since this was an urban area, a quiet ten acre garden never came up for consideration.
That said, we do have to determine how to measure our own "highest and best use”.
So, we start with our inherent structure. Then there are our parents, sibs, extended family etc. Much of what we learn in those relationships stays with us and finds a sort of rhythmic repetition in some of our relationships throughout our life.
In the language of Psychodrama our family is called the Model Group. It is in the experience of growing up in a family that we learn those role that seem to come naturally, and those that don’t fit. We also lean, without ever having it put into words, that we are the protagonists (star) of our own life drama, and at the same time take “supporting” roles in the lives of the people around us.
The word “supporting” requires more explanation. In a drama, the supporting roles may be those of friend, or lovers, teammates, mentors etc. They are supporting of the protagonist in the usual meaning of the word.
But what makes the film a drama are the “villains”, the enemies, those whose purpose is to thwart the storyline arc of the protagonist. When they succeed, the film is called a tragedy; when they are defeated, its simply a drama, or perhaps a melodrama. When silliness undergirds the show, the film is a comedy, and the “villains” are buffoon like and defeated.
The major observational difference between a film or a play and our lives is this: in a film the function of the supporting roles is to move the protagonist’s story line. The story lines of the supporting characters are only glimpsed or hinted at. They are created to be seen primarily in terms of their relationship to the protagonist.
Our current interest in sequels and prequels demonstrates our attachment to the protagonist and his or her story line. We never get to shift the focus to any of the supporting characters. Imagine how interesting it would be to see a sequel that focuses on one of them.
One purpose of this book is to help us transform the way we think about our lives by using the dramas we see on T.V. or in the theater as references to the way we live our own lives. But of course that is what draws us to those fictions, isn’t it? Don’t we go looking not just for entertainment, but for new insights about ourselves and the world we live in?
So, growing up can be understood as learning the roles we need to learn to get along with each other and to succeed. In the same way we learn the rules of the games we play, and the skills to play them, from board games to sports and dance, we learn the steps to the promise of accomplishment.
What we don’t learn is a framework for the dramatic reality of life. We are in it, and we try to make some kind of sense of it, one way or another, but we do that without a framework to understand the simultaneity that governs each of us.
We all are always, and in ALL WAYS, *simultaneously* the protagonist of own life drama, and a supporting actor in the life dramas of the people around us. We live it, and learn our roles in the model group, but we do not learn to think about it this way.
I began to understand my life within this context on the psychodrama stage at St. Elisabeth’s Hospital many years ago.
We need to spend a little time looking at how a psychodrama works, and what happens when it is working well.
we will begin doing that, next time