Co-Creating Compassionate Communities

So, how do we co-create compassionate communities? Whenever we join with others to respectfully – and with care – explore, learn, and/or deepen what inspires, motivates, and calls us to more of who we really are, what we believe and feel, and how we can make a positive personal and collective difference in our areas of influence, we’re co-creating compassionate communities.

Whether a circle of family and/or friends, a community of faith, a gathering of neighbors, a collaboration of concerned citizens, or any other organic grouping of kindred spirits, sharing values that foster compassion personally and collectively – as a foundational core for whatever issues or topics have captured our mutual attention – can be an effective beginning for a co-created compassionate community initiative.

One of the most powerful and effective processes I have experienced and used is sociometry with psychodrama, sociodrama, sociatry, and/or other action methods. Sociometry provides methods for identifying, measuring, exploring, and understanding patterns in the way we make choices interpersonally – whether positive, negative, or neutral.

When facilitated by skilled practitioners, the process of surfacing these choices brings new information to group members about their connections. It also helps them clarify the rationales they and others have about those choices. Sociometry used with sensitivity and skill can create an environment of safety, trust, and respect – a place and space where group members can be their authentic selves.

This cohesion can develop, because sociometric methods clarify misperceptions, highlight connections between people, identify commonalities, surface information about access to roles, and provide opportunities to address conflict. Combined with psychodrama, sociodrama, or sociatry, people have the freedom to explore in action the personal or collective stories that might be preventing authentic connection. They also can help heal society and the world.

Psychodrama has several definitions, but the one I like most is from John Nolte, who trained extensively with J.L. Moreno, the father of psychodrama. John considers psychodrama an action method for telling a story. Whether dealing with unfinished business, sharing a meaningful experience, exploring a dream, working through a conflict, training for a new role, or imagining the future, psychodrama facilitates telling one’s story with the help of others in the group.

Sociodrama is another action method that surfaces collective social issues a group wants to explore, understand, and perhaps imagine differently. Though personal perspectives are shared, and group members connect with their own experiences, this method invites members to take not only their perspective on an issue, but to stand in the place of those who view the issue differently. This often shifts one’s awareness and lead to healing society and the world, which Moreno called sociatry.

Other action methods that promote healthy interpersonal relationships and/or help build a sense of community include Playback Theater, Family Reconstruction, Family Constellations, Theater of the Oppressed, and Essential Partners – Bold Explorations in Community, an organization that emerged to advance the work of the Public Conversations Project. All of these methods promote community in similar, yet different, ways.

Most of my training in action methods has been in psychodrama, sociometry, sociodrama, and group psychotherapy. In 2011, I was certified as a trainer of psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy through the American Board of Examiners.

However, I’ve also taken basic and advanced training in Family Reconstruction with Bill and Ann Nerin; core training in Playback Theatre with Jo Salas; and a couple of days training in Theater of the Oppressed with Augosto Boal and Doug Paterson. In addition, I’ve been part of some Family Constellation work, and I am anxious to attend some Essential Partners training sessions.

Finally, I have used sociometry and action methods in most workshops, retreats, and conferences I have facilitated for over twenty years. In 2015, I was delighted to teach a Summer School course on Enacting Personal and Collective Stories at the University of Edinburgh in 2015!

When I use these methods with other people, I usually find myself and them tapping into deeper understanding and greater connection with each other as group members. Personally, these methods, which are embodied well in Moreno’s Canon of Creativity, have been pivitol in helping me become ‘a recovering serious person’. Thank goodness!


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