In Moreno’s psychodrama, “doubling” is a therapeutic technique that involves the use of a double, who is a participant or group member, to represent the inner thoughts, feelings, or conflicts of another participant, known as the protagonist.
The double speaks the inner life of the protagonist, bringing the material that is lodged in the background toward the foreground. The double gives voice to the interior reality of the protagonist.Dayton Ph.D., Tian. The Living Stage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy (pp. 36-37).
How Does Doubling Work?
In Psychodrama, the double takes on the role of mirroring and expressing the protagonist’s emotional and psychological experiences, providing a way for the protagonist to externalize and gain insights into their internal world. The process of doubling allows for a deeper exploration of the protagonist’s issues and facilitates catharsis and self-awareness.
What are the Different Kings of Doubles?
There are several different kinds of doubles that a psychodrama director may employ in a therapeutic group workshop:
- Mirror Double: This type of double directly reflects the emotions and body language of the protagonist. They mirror the protagonist’s feelings, attitudes, and gestures, allowing the protagonist to see their internal state projected outwardly.
Example: If the protagonist is expressing sadness, the mirror double would imitate the protagonist’s facial expressions and body posture to reflect that sadness.
- Amplification Double: An amplification double intensifies the emotions and experiences of the protagonist, bringing out the hidden or suppressed aspects of their feelings.
Example: If the protagonist is expressing mild frustration, the amplification double might exaggerate and escalate the frustration to help the protagonist connect with deeper underlying emotions.
- Substitution Double: This double serves as a substitute for a significant person in the protagonist’s life, representing a specific relationship or unresolved issue.
Example: If the protagonist has unresolved issues with their father, the substitution double would play the role of the father to facilitate exploration and resolution of those issues.
- Complementary Double: A complementary double embodies qualities or aspects that are missing in the protagonist, complementing their personality or emotional range.
Example: If the protagonist tends to be overly reserved, the complementary double might express a more outgoing and extroverted side to help the protagonist explore and integrate these qualities.
- Soliloquy Double: In this form of doubling, the double verbally expresses the unspoken thoughts and feelings of the protagonist.
Example: When the protagonist is unable to articulate their fears, the soliloquy double may verbalize those fears, providing a voice to the protagonist’s inner struggles.
- Dream Double: The dream double represents the symbolic and metaphorical aspects of the protagonist’s unconscious, helping them understand and decode their dreams or fantasies.
Example: If the protagonist has a recurring dream about being chased, the dream double could embody the pursuer, enabling the protagonist to explore the underlying meanings of the dream.
- Body Double: The body double involves a participant physically mimicking the movements, gestures, and actions of the protagonist. This type of doubling can help the protagonist observe their own body language from an external perspective, which may lead to insights into their emotional states and non-verbal communication.
Example: If the protagonist is recounting a distressing event, the body double might reenact the physical postures and movements associated with that experience. This external representation can allow the protagonist to better understand the impact of the event on their body and emotions.
- Containing Double: The containing double is a type of double that provides a sense of emotional containment and support for the protagonist during intense or overwhelming moments in the psychodrama. The containing double acts as a holding presence, offering a safe space for the protagonist to explore challenging emotions without feeling completely overwhelmed.
Example: If the protagonist is processing a traumatic memory, the containing double may offer physical touch (with the consent of the protagonist) or comforting gestures to convey a sense of safety and emotional containment. This can prevent the protagonist from becoming too overwhelmed by the emotions being explored.
A word of caution: it’s important to note that the use of body doubles and containing doubles requires careful consideration and sensitivity from the psychodrama director. Participants should always be given the option to decline these roles if they are uncomfortable or if they feel they may not be able to provide the necessary support. Additionally, boundaries and consent are crucial to ensure that the doubling process remains therapeutic and safe for all participants involved.
In her paper the Double Situation in psychodrama, Zerka Moreno refers to the double as “the invisible I.” She goes on to say that it is the double’s job to “stir up the subject to reach deeper layers of expression by peeling off the outer, socially visible ‘I’ of the subject and by reaching for those experiences and imageries which a person would reveal in talking to herself, alone, in the privacy of her own room…. The more the subject warms up to the double, the more he loses his fear. . . . In psychodrama no moral values are placed on the double, he is neither the better nor worse part of the self; he is merely there, at times the better, at times the worse part. Nor is there in psychodrama any clear-cut division between the subject and the double. They are fuse and separate and fused again…. The chief purpose of the psychodramatic double is to stimulate the subject, to help and retrain, not persecute.”Dayton Ph.D., Tian. The Living Stage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy (p. 37).
The Double Should Not Engage in Projection or Transference When Doubling
In psychodrama, doubling is a valuable therapeutic technique that allows the protagonist to gain insights into their inner world by having another participant, known as the double, mirror or represent their thoughts and feelings. However, it is essential for the double to be mindful of avoiding transference and projection during the doubling process to maintain the therapeutic integrity of the psychodrama.
Transference occurs when the protagonist unconsciously projects their emotions, feelings, or past experiences onto the double. This can happen when the double resembles someone from the protagonist’s past or reminds them of significant figures in their life. If the double engages in transference, they may unintentionally adopt the role of the projected person, potentially leading the protagonist to reenact unresolved issues or emotional dynamics from their past.
Projection, on the other hand, occurs when the protagonist attributes their own emotions, desires, or characteristics to the double. If the double participates in projection, they may embody the projected traits or feelings, which can skew the authenticity of the doubling process and prevent the protagonist from exploring their genuine emotions.
To avoid transference and projection during doubling, the double should:
- Stay Present: The double needs to maintain a state of presence and awareness, focusing on accurately reflecting the protagonist’s emotions rather than incorporating their own experiences or feelings.
- Avoid Personalizing: The double should refrain from taking the protagonist’s emotions personally or internalizing them as their own.
- Use Clear Communication: If the double is uncertain about how to accurately represent the protagonist’s emotions, they should ask for clarification or guidance from the protagonist or the psychodrama director.
- Maintain Boundaries: The double should remember that their role is to support the protagonist’s exploration, not to act out their own issues or conflicts.
- Reflect and Not Interpret: The double’s role is to reflect the protagonist’s emotions and experiences, not to interpret or analyze them. Interpretation is best left to the protagonist, the director, or the therapeutic process as a whole.
By adhering to these principles, the double can facilitate a more accurate and effective doubling process, enabling the protagonist to gain deeper insights into their emotions, conflicts, and inner world without the interference of transference and projection.
The psychodrama director plays a vital role in ensuring that the doubling process remains therapeutic and focused. They should closely monitor the interactions between the protagonist and the double, offering guidance and support as needed. If transference or projection becomes evident, the director may intervene to help the protagonist explore the underlying dynamics and gain a clearer understanding of their emotions and reactions.
When Should Doubling Not be Used?
However, there are situations where doubling might be inappropriate or even harmful:
- Lack of Safety: If a participant feels uncomfortable or unsafe with the idea of being doubled, it should not be forced upon them. Doubling should always be voluntary and consensual.
- Emotional Vulnerability: Doubling can bring out intense emotions, and if a participant is not emotionally stable or able to handle the heightened feelings, it may not be suitable for them.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Cultural differences and norms should be considered. Some participants may not be comfortable with physical touch or direct emotional expression, making doubling inappropriate for them.
- Trauma Triggers: If a participant has a history of trauma, doubling might unintentionally trigger traumatic memories or responses, leading to emotional distress.
What Are the Limits When Doubling?
Limits placed by the director on the protagonist’s double can help maintain the therapeutic nature of the process:
- Time Limit: The director can set a time limit for doubling sessions to prevent emotional exhaustion for both the double and the protagonist.
- Debriefing: After the doubling experience, the director should provide a debriefing session to process the emotions and insights that emerged during the psychodrama.
- Consent: The director should ensure that the protagonist is comfortable with the double and the approach being used, and they should have the right to change or stop doubling if they wish.
- Boundaries: The director should emphasize clear boundaries for both the double and the protagonist to ensure that the therapeutic context is maintained.
Overall, doubling in psychodrama is a powerful technique that can promote self-awareness, emotional expression, and healing. However, it should be employed with sensitivity, respect for participants’ boundaries, and an awareness of potential risks. A skilled and ethical psychodrama director can create a safe and transformative environment for participants to explore and process their inner world.