Mama Drama: Invitation to an Encounter
I stayed seated on the couch as my mother. That was it! I accused her of blaming others, yet I had been blaming her instead of taking responsibility for myself. I went back to sitting in my red chair to make this clear.
“So, you’re saying it’s my anger, my resentment, and my lack of tolerance—and that I’m afraid I’ll handle them in the same way you did. That’s what scares me.”
The answer came so fast I barely got up from my chair. “Right,” was all she said.
“So, what I have to do is take responsibility for my own negative feelings,” I continued. “Acknowledge them, and then realize I have a choice in how I deal with them. I don’t have to react to them the same way you did.”
“No one ever taught me how to deal with my feelings,” she said. “When I got angry at someone I just curled up into a ball.”
“A ball with spikes,” I added.
“You could put it that way,” she smiled.
This was the other side of her. When I made a good point she could sense it and acknowledge it.
“If I let myself really feel all those negative feelings, they would destroy me,” I said.
“That’s because they did destroy me, but they don’t have to do that to you. You are trying to find a way of coping with them. That’s something I never did. I always blamed someone or something else for what I was feeling. It was Roxanne’s fault, or your father’s fault, or Donna’s fault, or your fault. I never let myself try to get to the pain underneath the anger. That’s why I never dealt with it. It was never mine. It was always someone else’s doing. I was being victimized, and I had a right to be angry.”
Moving back to my seat, I nodded. “So, I’m afraid I’ll do the same thing.”
“I think you are doing the same thing right now,” she said, “and that’s what scares you. You’ve been trying very hard to point the finger at me, but the better part of you knows that won’t work.”
“So, if I keep blaming my angry feelings on you,” I said, “I don’t have to acknowledge that they’re my negative feelings. I can keep feeling victimized by you and your negativity, instead of realizing I have to deal with these feelings myself.”
“Sounds right,” she said.
“You know, Mom, I really wish we could have had one of these talks when you were alive.”
I sat looking at the empty space near the end of the couch. It was as though I could feel her, sense her hair, her white blouse, and beige shoes. Our relationship felt softer somehow after this talk. I changed seats for the last time and sat on the end of the couch.
“So do I, Danny. So do I.”
If you would like to try one of these monodrama there are a few guidelines:
- Don’t push yourself. Don’t do anything that is too uncomfortable. The goal of these is to help with insight and integration of feelings. If you feel too anxious about doing one of these you may want to bring the idea up with your therapist to see if he or she would be willing to be there to support you through the role-play.
- If you do decide to go forward set up two chairs and arrange them in a way that reflects the relationship. Are the two chairs facing each other, but far apart? Are they next to one another? Does one chair have its back to the other? Arrange the chairs so you will be able to move back and forth between the two easily.
- Always begin and end in your chair. This is your drama and it is important for you to have a home base.
- In order for the best effect to happen you should literally reverse roles with the other person. Don’t just imagine this in your mind. Begin the encounter in your chair, then get up and move to the other chair to answer. You may be very surprised at what you find there.
- Always end the role in your chair saying the last things that you would want to say to the person for the moment. Following the encounter you may want to write down your reactions. You may even wish to use a tape recorder as these spontaneous role-plays often reveal information we may be surprised at.
Dr. Tomasulo is a psychologist, psychodrama trainer and writer on faculty at New Jersey City University. He was formerly a visiting faculty member on fellowship at Princeton. His website is at www.FormerChild.com. You can also read our review of his book, Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir.
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Mama Drama: Invitation to an Encounter. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/mama-drama-invitation-to-an-encounter/