According to Moreno the founder of psychodrama, the Self emerges from the roles we take in our life, and not vice versa.
When the baby is born, he does not have a distinguished sense of self. The Self is formless and not integrated. The different roles he will take during his life will help him “deliver” his Self. A sense of self is being established in relation to others, to the society in which he lives in.
To achieve this development the baby/child/ human being will be on an on-going journey in which he will explore himself through his interaction with the people around him, through the roles he plays.
The different roles we play are being learned from the moment we are born.
Role according to Moreno has somatic, psychodramatic and social components.
In Moreno’s philosophical perception, each role is being learned and developed in a context of relationship with the environment.
Learning a role starts at birth-and sometime before.
Moreno divides the roles we learn into 3 major groups/clusters:
- Somatic roles: these are pre-verbal roles, which help the baby build his perception of his body-self.
- Psychodramatic roles: these roles help the child develop his psyche
- Social roles: these roles help develop the “social” aspect of self.
The somatic roles – describes the function of the physical roles of the baby: the eater, the sleeper, the crier, the breather, the crawler, etc.
In this stage the baby does not differentiate between himself and others, he and the world are one; however, unconsciously he starts to internalize roles. For example, the role of Mother. His brain will take unconscious note of his mother’s role towards him, and when he will grow up and become a parent himself, it is more likely that at the beginning he will act according to the essence of mother role that his brain captured and noted unconsciously, that is all the feelings, thoughts, and behavior patterns of the role.
The social roles are the next stage in development and require reciprocity in relations:
Son-Parent, brother-sister, Student-Teacher, Employee- employer, lover-lover, etc.
Through the reciprocal relationships with the other and the socialization process the child learns more roles. Each role is attached to another cluster of feelings-thoughts-and behavior (actions) that define the role and built further the Self. (What kind of a mother is my mother/ what kind of a brother am I? and so forth).
The psychodramatic roles are more imaginary roles and express an inner dimension of the self. Exploring the psychodramatic roles enables to give form to inner dimension of the self, to concretize them, to role reverse with them, (The big mother, the dreamer, the actor, the queen, the princess, etc.)
It is clearly a developmental process from birth to adulthood when in every stage of this process the individual learns a set of roles, and those roles help develop and build the sense of self.
The roles according to Moreno are the tangible form the Self takes.