Ever meet someone and immediately like her? Or in contrast, ever meet someone and immediately want to get as far away from her as possible?
Whether we’re aware of it or not, every time we encounter a new person or situation, our brains are scanning the room to see who and what is there and unconsciously are asking ourselves the question: “Am I safe here?”
“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” ~ “The Walrus” by Lennon and McCartney
When we feel that energy with another person – that sense of wanting to move towards or away, we can call it trusting our gut or trusting our intuition. JL Moreno, the creator of psychodrama and sociometry, called it tele.
The word tele, from the Greek, literally means “to or at a distance”. It’s an unspoken connection that we feel with another person – a deep knowing – a vibe – an energy. It’s what draws us towards or away from someone in this moment, and even though we can feel it, we don’t typically acknowledge it out loud. In a psychodrama group, however, it’ s not only talked about, it’s actively explored.
Case in point, years ago, I was at a psychodrama conference with a colleague – a former dentist – who just knew he was going to be chosen to play a part in a role play exercise at a workshop. There as no outward information that had been shared to lead him to that thought, he didn’t know the star of the piece (the protagonist), didn’t know what the role play was going to be about, and didn’t know why he knew what he knew, but in his gut, he knew it. And out of 45 people in the room that the protagonist had to choose from, she chose him to play her father, who was a dentist. Now THAT’S tele!
So what is sociometry? It’s a series of exercises to help tease out the covert structure of the group – the unspoken connections and disconnections that exist that aren’t typically revealed. In talk therapy groups, it could take months or even years to reveal the kind of information that gets revealed within the first meeting of a group using sociometry.
Because sociometric exercises are designed to move from periphery to center – that is, from less threatening to more intimate – a group can move much more quickly from not knowing each other to feeling like they’ve known each other for decades. In less than an hour, we can move from group members standing on a continuum asking them to share how anxious or comfortable they feel to be at this workshop to asking them to place their hand on the shoulder of someone in the room in answer questions such as, “Who could best understand a vision that you have for your life moving forward?” Who could best understand a struggle you’ve walked through in your life? Who could play the role of a favorite teacher from your childhood? Who could play your grandmother? “Who best understands a feeling you walk around with every day?
By using our tele and participating in sociometric exercises, we can more quickly find the people who “get” us, which allows us to feel safer, more connected, and ready to move into action. We find out that, despite our histories, we are each other, and on deep, unconsicous levels. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”
Understanding and being able to facilitate sociometry takes a great deal of training and practice. Action Institute of California offers twice-yearly Sociometry Weekends devoted to learning a multitude of sociometric exercises to help you better understand the covert structure of a group, and be able to work with it to build safety, lower anxiety, increase transparency and intimacy, resulting in greater cohesion and connection for all.
In addition, we provide team building, conflict resolution and staff training workshops in business, clinical and medical settings that are tailored to the needs of your organization. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 310-909-9780.