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Walter Logeman

Role Reversal

One of the essentials of psychological resolution is the ability to reverse roles. It means to step into the shoes of another person and see the world through their eyes, and feel their feelings. A person who can do this will find it easier to relate to others and will be able to have more satisfying relationships. J.L. Moreno who developed the idea put it this way:

"A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face. And when you are near I will tear your eyes out and place them instead of mine, and you will tear my eyes out and will place them instead of yours then I will look at you with your eyes .. and you will look at me with mine."

This is from the originator of the idea of encounter as a psychological force. His imagery here is not pleasant or sentimental, but it reflects the intensity of the process.

Psychodrama is a technique developed by J.L. Moreno using a stage and people to enact various roles. In the consulting room I sometimes encourage clients to use chairs and cushions and objects to facilite the naming of roles and guide them to be in the various role by changing places. Sometimes shifting through the roles can be done in the imagination.

When doing psychotherapy online role reversal can be developed using a Psychotherapy Space and writing. Here I describe how it can be done using a script writing approach.

Full role reversal is to come to terms with something in your own humanity as well as with another person. When role reversal becomes possible with any entity - when you can let your self BE that entity in an imaginal space - then you have dealt with it, dealt to it even, and dealt with it as something in your own psyche.

You can face people in the real world more fully once you can role reverse with them psychologically. Then you can treat them as they are, not as a projection of your self.

It is uncanny that by stepping into the shoes of another "walking a mile in another's moccasins" allows one to actually learn things about the other. I have watched new insight emerge many times in my practice. After sitting in another chair being a parent or spouse or some significant other, people come up with such insights as:

"I did not realise how young my mother was when she had me"

"I did not know how scared he was."

"I now know why he wanted to die."

Moreno postulated role reversal as one of three stages of child development. The first is the stage of the double, the second, the stage of the mirror. The last stage and one that continues into full maturity is the stage of role reversal. It is a stage we need to master to develop good connections, and which we pray others around us will master, as it is most frustrating to be with someone who can't step into your shoes.

Two important items on how to develop role reversal while doing psychotherapy online:

The Psychotherapy Space

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Last updated: Thursday, 19 July, 2012