Psychodrama and Modified States of Consciousness

Seminar given at Fernando Pessoa University in Porto (18th July 2003)

Dr Bernard Auriol

(translated by Chantal Marty)

Emotional links within a group and between sub-groups: a socio-dynamic study taking into account potential non-conventional communication phenomena.

What is meant by a group?

To my mind, a group cannot be defined as simply a collection of individuals. It is a unit founded on the interaction of participants who, etymologically speaking, bind with one-another (Germanic origin: *kruppaz, rounded mass, knot).

Different types of group according to their size

The group displays characteristics, and no doubt laws, connected to the numbers of its participants. It can therefore be studied according to different categories:

Regular observations regarding groups

IV - 31 When they had prayed the place in which they were assembled shook; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they announced the word of God with assurance.

 IV - 32 The multitude of those who had believed were but one heart and one soul. None of them said that his belongings belonged to him but everything was common between them

Conglomerate or Union?

All this and may other considerations allow us to confirm that the group cannot be reduced to the additive juxtaposition of its constituents. They come together, organize themselves as an explicit, formal, or implicit unit, a unit that has no designated legislator, and is almost carnal.

Like the living organism to which communities have often been compared, the elements, the cells do not lose their individuality but contract styles of action together, exchange materials and information, congregate in the same places and adopt the same rhythms. They obtain the means of their survival from the collective and present themselves as humble servants of the whole!

Although the image comes to us from religions: the Sanga (community in which all Buddhists take refuge), the Mystic Body of Christ (which creates solidarity between the living and the dead), the Umma or matrix of believers who submit to the divine will, even the “International Song” for better tomorrows: how could we escape the metaphor of the organism in the age of liberal or regulated globalization? It concerns the traditional family as much as the small group, the village, the ethnic group, etc.

So the group whole appears as a new unit - potentially the new cell of a larger organism. This new unit, following a process yet to be defined, tends to give itself a boundary with regard to its environment, tends to install a hierarchy in its heart, works towards its own survival or even reproduction, seeks its own fulfillment, gives itself a territory which it seeks to expand, and competes with any similar ‘beings’ it may encounter.

Importance of the Boundary

The Boundary can precede the creation of the group, serving as a constituent mold, receptacle or matrix.

For the purpose of televisional entertainment, for example, a given number of individuals are brought together in a given location and under given conditions (Loft Story) to fulfill a need for action (a process of selection and ‘team building’ of individuals who do not know each other). They are then subjected to the (often economic) necessity which included them in the group (survival, earning a wage). They are also subjected to the fact that realization of this objective depends on a minimum of coherence between participants, who are then engaged in many inter-actions, even if the ‘colleagues’ are not especially attractive. It is this constitutive aspect of the group which has led us to speak of  ‘forced’ groups.

Another constitutive type may be based more on the spontaneous birth of reciprocal links based on attraction, similarity of interests, a shared passion, seduction, complimentary neuroses etc. Even if this apparent ideal conceals much that is illusory, we can legitimately refer to such cases as ‘chosen’ teams. Such a group tends to find its unity in a reciprocal identification, the pursuit of common goals, and the promotion of an efficiency that generates internal laws, hierarchies and above all a boundary determining who belongs to the group and who is an outside.

It is obvious that many ‘forced’ groups can  evolve and come to resemble elective groups., through evictions, co-options and. In the same way, the latter, being often the fruit of many projections between members and confronted with difficult external problems, will often tend to evolve, sometimes  violently, into 'forced' forms.

It is clear that although the frontier can  create the unity of a group, the  behavior of the latter, however fluid, leads to the creation or the reinforcing of a boundary. The advantage of the boundary is that it  allows the creation of external darkness: we can determine what is good and what isn't . 


Whether the group emerges from spontaneous interactions or is forged in the mould, it cannot be reduced to  the distinction between itself and its surroundings as defined by the boundary The interactions which take place within  the group are of diverse types: attraction, friendship, love, hatred, jealousy etc. It is here that all human feelings are exercised, here that all utterances are proclaimed or whispered, that all secrets are shared or are sealed. Relations of authority and submission, however, should be put aside. Whether these relations are merely temperamental ( of leaders or followers) ,or are better founded on  the relational necessity to organize the action , no group seems able to escape them. These relations are more than present, they constitute the skeleton  of the group and allow us  to oppose 'mollusk' groups, in which it is  the  boundary  that is essential , the hierarchy being reduced to its most simple expression ( like the tortoise with a large shell and a small head), to 'vertebrate' groups in which the boundary is just as marked but much more dynamic, and the hierarchy of which is much more present and some times weighty.

In his remarkable attempt to understand madness, Basaglia underlines the fact that it is not the only readable deviance within a group and within a large group such as ' society'. He arrives at the paradoxical idea that deviants are in fact in the majority! This is to say that the union of all groups of deviants almost coincides with the whole of society! By 'deviants' he essentially means those who are unproductive: the mad, the sick, inapt , the unemployed, women at home, children, the retired, etc.

Observation of group dynamics has shown that multiple, non constitutional although very constitutive, hierarchies can coexist  alongside the official leadership:

This mechanism  starts up independently of any intention to produce it; it is what is meant, in socio-analytical terminology, by "natural analyzer" ( Hess, 73 sq.), in turn  totem and taboo, as representation of the chief. It can be interesting to consider various avatars of the representative of rejection, of reproval, of exclusion : the "bête noire", the black sheep, the ugly duckling, the rotten apple,  the scapegoat , the outsider who is not from here, as goes the meridional expression that so struck George Hahn, the "métèque" (ó wog) from the greek metoikos, foreigner living in Athens and by extension any foreigner deemed undesirable.

The french "brebis galeuse"( literally a 'mangy ewe', nearest english equivalent ' rotten

 apple') : dangerous person, undesirable in the group (after the 'bestiaire au figuré'). Proverbially, it is said that it only takes one mangy ewe to infect a whole flock (one rotten apple to spoil a whole barrel), which is to say that one sinful individual is capable of corrupting an entire society (Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, Cinquième edition, 1798)

Scapegoat : "

He would take two goats , and he would place them before the Eternal , at the entrance of the tent of assignation .Aaron will cast a spell on the two goats, one spell for the eternal, and one spell for Azazel. Aaron will bring forward the goat upon which the spell for the Eternal  has been cast, and he will offer it in sacrifice of expiation. And the goat upon which the spell for Azazel has fallen will be placed alive before the Eternel so that it might serve as expiation and that it might be released into the desert for Azazel." Leviticus 16 : 7 - 10 in Hebrew "Azazel" means to remove. The goat for Azazel fulfilled  the function of taking away the sins of the people to purify the group.

Rémi Hess has long insisted on the - ever increasing - tendency towards a reinforcement of the power of an ever shrinking number of deciders. Today we still see that these deciders happen to  be essentially the possessors whose impact on the political, including within a democratic regime, is extremely heavy. The decisions are effectively a system of values, which are economic in nature. It is clear that the equilibrium could be broken , giving way to excessive success of those who succeed.

Evaluation of the centrality of group  members.  

Evaluation of dyadic bonds .

To evaluate the situation between members of a group and to define their respective role, it seems to me to be very useful, and even indispensable, to measure the distance ( or its opposite, the proximity) between individual s taken in pairs . This evaluation  has been the object of research in certain particular fields ( in particular emotional links within  the family ) but we  lack standard instruments of evaluation which could be adjusted and applied to any pair of individuals. Sociometric evaluation in close to our needs , however it does not have the desirable generality because it is applied within the framework of a defined group and the measurement of the link between two individuals cannot be transposed to a group distinct from that in which the measurement was obtained .

We have written 'standard instruments of evaluation' in the plural so  as to emphasize the multiplicity of conceivable measurements : emotional links, the degree of knowledge of one an other, power relation( differentiating manifest institutional power and real power which can be differently distributed and can collaborate or oppose ), frequency and average duration of contacts, average narrowness of contacts, common fields of interest, of preoccupation, nature of activities during contacts (work, entertainment, sport, culture, etc)...  We will explore the duality of these links: channel of the link and the flows which run through it : for example, a motorway can be built willfully to connect the north and the south of Portugal. It will then be necessary, once the channel in place, to measure the flow of cars and lorries ; that is to say that the existence of a path between two elements of the group does not prejudice the real exchanges  which will use it.

The centrality of an individual is linked to the proximity of the others to him, symbolized by arrows pointing towards the individual. Institutively, all the subordinates know the chief, even if the chief does not know all his subordinates. We can therefore take into consideration two distinct measurements to evaluate dAB: {d (A=>B)} et {d (B=>A)}

We can therefore distinguish between d AB and d BA

In cases of proximity defined by symmetrical exchanges, we can use a distance that is independent of the direction of the relation (dAB = dBA)

We find this notion in graph theory under the term "degree of agent" : entering degree , leaving degree and total degree. In an oriented graph, the entering degree of an agent measures the number of arcs for which it is a destination. The leaving degree measures the number of arcs for which it is an emitter. The total degree is the sum of these two degrees. These measures allow us to account for the internal structures of communities, notably by revealing the existence of central and peripheral agents.

We envisage a proximity defined by calibration on a fairly large population and retested on  different populations. We might in this way obtain for any pair of individuals a value which might be carried over to the statistically calibrated reference population ; it would be an example of a prosody  in terms of deviations (as sigmas) regarding an average or  we could make use of  a comparison to the 'quantiles' of the reference population.

When there is no direct detectable relation (distance tending apparently towards infinity, proximity tending apparently towards 0), we can and should nonetheless evaluate their distance by using other individuals constituting intermediary points between them. For example if A is in relation with B, B with C, and C with D and that there is no more direct path between A and D, the distance from A to D will be the sum of the distances AB, BC, and CD:

dAD = dAB+dBC+dCD

Only the difference from the individual to himself can be equal to zero, the proximity between to individuals is never zero. It could be expedient - depending on experimental observations - to set aside this type of indirect link (here dAD of  a corrective coefficient depending on the context and the number of intermediaries, which will be fixed empirically).

Centrality of points of a graph applicable to individuals of a group

We can define an index of centrality Ci for each of the points i of a graph:

The index of centrality allows us to give each individual i a weight determined by the distance from each of the others to himself and to thus evaluate the proximity of the others to the whole with regard to him. We hypothesize that the individual is all the more central to the group as this distance from each of the members is weak.

Other authors have reached a quasi-identical formula, if only because they subtract one from the value of k, under the disputable hypothesis that the relation of an individual to himself does not intervene. I think it preferable to consider that in certain contexts, this distance from i to i can not be considered as nil : either because it is necessary to take into account this or that mode of ‘spaltung’ within the subject (in which case we must consider next to i an i' , 'virtual' in nature), or because we must consider a path from the subject towards himself via another (the mother, the partner, etc). Furthermore, we have underlined the insufficiency of taking into account the distances based on proximity (closeness centrality) and we have proposed to mitigate for it by taking into account the 'betweeness centrality', which is measured by the number of geodysics passing through the point considered. The way we evaluate the distance to the considered point from all the other points of the graph  following the shortest path, even if this path must follow arcs already counted for other points, seems to me to combine the advantages of the different proposed types of centrality. Closeness Centrality (Freemen 1979)

We can evaluate an equivalent index by inverting the arrows in cases of dissymmetrical relations. This would then be more an index of accessibility than of centrality (we re-encounter here the notions of incoming and outgoing degree.)

We have defined this index, many years ago, to overcome the difficulties associated with Bavelas' index of centrality. There is currently an increase in interest in the notion of centrality. Betweenness (interconnectivity, sunexity) is  an indicator which measures the number of pathways between two agents passing through another ( third) agent. An agent with high sunexity can be seen as a bridge, a obligatory passage in relations between other agents.

The sunnexity of a summit j represents the number of geodysics from i to k passing through j, that is to say the number of 'times' that any knot of the network needs the knot considered to reach one of the other knots by the shortest route.

More precisely, if gij is the number of geodesic paths from i to j and if gikj is the number of paths from i to j that pass through k , then gikj/gij will be the proportion of geodesic paths from i to j which pass through k. The sum ck=gikj/gij for any pair i, j is called "betweenness centrality" or Centrality of sunexity.

It is clear that  "betweenness centrality" has a definition close to that which we have given to centrality. This measurement indicates to what extent an actor is 'between' the other actors of the network ("betweenness centrality") : an actor is central if he is the obligatory point of passage ("broker", or "gatekeeper") for the junction between a large number of actors; he disposes therefore of this a potential of control over the other actors (Scott, 1997). The "Gatekeeper" could be well translated in French as the 'guardian of the threshold', ‘gate keeper’, 'usher', 'security guard' or 'customs officer'. This function , considered in the framework of the intra-systemic human function, leads back to the idea of 'censure' proposed by Freud between the conscious and the repressed unconscious. The instance of the super-ego is also mentioned. If the brain is considered as a network  the graph of which is composed of grains answering to the individualized formations of grey matter and of connections answering to the cluster of white matter, the term 'security guard' could be used instead of gatekeeper notably to designate a formation resembling cerebral tonsils.

The calculation of "Betweenness centrality" can be based on the Kruskal algorithm.

The indexes of centrality and of accessibility defined here above, allow us to characterize  group typologies.

·                    "pyramidality", hierarchization" graduated with many  or with very few rungs (or 'levels' ?) , ( to be put together with the notion of socio-analytic and  micro  economic verticality.)

Near vertical integration network                                Cluster network

        .............                                                                            ...........

Graduated organization                                             'cooperative'  organization                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                Two types of network ( G. Parmentier, 2003 )

                        A sociological example of cephality can be obtained by comparing the (monocephalic) roman  catholic church  to autocephalic churches which constitute the orthodox church.

Relations with another group and its elements.

The group being constituted, it has been able to identify itself, to look at itself, and recognize  outside itself entities which resemble it. The relation to these others is often established on the grounds of territorial competition or of  prestige. It can also allow the associative relation and lead to the constitution of  units of larger size. Whatever the case, the existence and necessity of the boundary would lead to the smothering of the group if were not somewhat porous. Groups, as shown above, tend to manage this permeability, in the same way as a biological cell. The coming in and going  out of individuals, material, information, are not uncontrolled; groups unconsciously appoint " intercourse agents", a body for "foreign affairs", simultaneously diplomat and warrior, according to the need. Specialists within the group have appointed these individuals as "gate-keepers", threshold keepers, custom officers. Within a network, each member receives flows  and sends them on in turn. Each one necessarily alters the flow, slowing it down, manifesting a form of "resistance" in the electrical  sense of the word, the passing flow, then, will be all the greater when  the

resistance is low, when the source is insistent and the  receivers avid. Analogical notions of  capacity and self induction could probably also be applied.

The Agape experiment on extra-sensory perception between groups gave extremely disappointing results from the parapsychological point of view. This experiment confirms many  former studies which suggest that group work seems to be a determining obstacle  to the manifestation of  ESP communications. The question of  'why ' remains to be determined. It might be that the survival of the group as such depends on it being closed in on itself, except for such competitive or concerted actions as are organized  towards explicit common objectives.

Evaluation of the degree of cohesion of a group: the index of centration

We can define the Centration CGR of a graph as the Average centrality of the points of the graph.

The stronger this concentration, the further we move from a group with very poor inter-individual links towards a compact ideal where each member is at a short distance from the others. This is indeed an index measuring the cohesion of the group. We carry out a summation simultaneously for Centrality and for Accessibility, and devise by k or by 2k.

 When the group contains two cliques which are only  connected by a restrained number of "gate-keepers", Centration is much weakened and notably inferior to each of the centration of the two component sub-groups. This is the situation which we find in the realization of the Sybil project, if we constitute two sub-groups with few links between them.

If we admit that the distance between two individuals can evolve, it follows that the individual Centralities are endowed with a certain evolutionariness, and the same goes for the Centration of the group and  its cohesion.

Socioanalysis, Psychodrama, Sociodrama

In group psychoanalysis we above all to the imbalances considered from the point of view of the whole. Jacob Levi Moreno has proposed the term socioanalysis; which he defines as an instrument for evaluating the consequences of the entrance of a new element into the group : to what extent this element will be a unifying or disintegrating factor.

"Although group analysis, on the therapeutic level, frequently uses psychodrama, it is to sociodrama that it should usually lead; the latter may be considered as a technique of identification   and of demystification of  collective ideologies . Practically, we imperceptibly go from psychodrama to sociodrama ; However, whereas the main advantage of psychodrama is that it allows the self  to put itself in the place of the other, sociodrama, based on deciphering interactions, can only  express itself in terms of group."

Pr Jean Poirier goes on, " Each group entity can have a collective subconscious, in the same way as it can have a collective consciousness : from lineage to village , from town to nation.

An unlimited field of exploration is hence opened (...) group phenomena irreducible to consciousness have long been shown ; such is the case after wars, when we can observe ( or 'notice'?) an evolution of birth rates , on one hand towards an increase in number , on other hand towards an alteration, over several years, of sex-ratio at birth , in favor of  the male element ( approximatively 105 boys against 100 girls).We could also raise the question of  demographic decline in some archaic groups (Marquisians, Bochiman, Pygmees...), decline that manifested itself not through an increase in child birth rates, but through an unexplained fall in birthrate.

More  generally, socioanalysis might allow a reformulation of certain problems arising

From the history of morality and ethics, by the transmission of value systems and by the sociology  of knowledge. We have too often forgotten that , according to Freud, the Masses psyche, "in which the same psychic processes as those that reside in the individual soul, take place "does not reside at the level of the conscious mind”.(Totem and Taboo).

Socio-analysis might help understand better the genesis ( or: 'origin' )of the epistemes that subtend the whole of social life.  It might shed a light on action (and interaction) processes  of infrastructures and super structures. The genesis of ideologies opens for it a huge field of research : whether in matter of secondary rationalizations and reinterpretations, or in matters of mechanisms that impose alienations and mystifications and allow power manipulations .(1998 Encyclopedia Universalis.)

Notes taken from "Center and periphery" by R. Hess

as early as 1978, Hess mentions the increasing centralization of decision making locations and uses such current word as "mondialisation". He points out  that institutional analysis is as much an action  as the construction of a knowledge; it is all about recognizing the separations that are created by the State and giving rise to "counter-synthesis" on peripheral locations where "social actors" are to be found.

The institutional system is constituted with one (of the) centre(s)which most obvious realization is that of political power and a periphery, more or less peripheral, and even marginalized which gathers all those who are, for a reason or other, excluded from decisions concerning them. Remy Hess suggests a typology  of reactions of the institutional power when asked, by a non official  centre, for a socio-analytical intervention .

(to follow)


Psychosonique Yogathérapie Psychanalyse & Psychothérapie Dynamique des groupes Eléments Personnels

© Copyright Bernard AURIOL (email : )

dernière mise à jour le

11 Décembre 2003