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An Intercultural World

An Intercultural Ministry

An Intercultural Workplace

 Action Methods for an Intercultural World   

Intercultural WorldJ. L. Moreno  defined psychodrama as the science that explores the truth by dramatic methods. By “truth,” he meant the personal truth of the individual who, in a psychodrama session, becomes the subject, or protagonist, of his/her own life-drama. We all share the same physical world that is "out there" and agree that it is the same for each of us. Nevertheless we each experience it a little bit differently. In a sense, each of us lives in our own private world—not quite like that of any other person. Moreno’s “truth” refers to our unique perception of the world, our place in it and our relationships with others. In short, psychodrama is an action method that deals with the interpersonal relations in our private worlds.

We are not alone in our worlds. We interact with others and they with us. These interactions and relationships weave an intricate social web. Although invisible, this web, or "dynamic central structure," is critically important. These invisible strings influence every aspect of life. Sociometry is the science that that makes these threads visible, and psychodrama provides a vehicle to dramatize them.

Our Mission 

Today, more than ever before, people groups are rubbing shoulders and interacting with one anotheroften with disastrous consequences. Moreno believed that we are all interconnected and he took a moral position on this. He said "everyone is a potential genius and like the Supreme Being, co-responsible for all of mankind." He foresaw a response to our shrinking world when he said, "a truly therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of mankind." Spirituality and Culture takes up this response by facilitating relations between peoples and groups with entirely different worldviews. What I have termed "culture-drama," focuses on these relations and provides a vehicle for mobilizing them through action. 

In Moreno's view this "therapeutic procedure" requires an increase of spontaneity or the ability to break out of the mold, to see things with a fresh perspective and to arrive at creative, new and adequate solutions. This is achieved by mobilizing our emotions and gaining insight through action. 
Psychodrama resembles a play that is very personal. It makes visible the hidden internal world of the actors by externalizing their thoughts, experiences, perceptions, memories, emotions, fantasies and dreamseven their hallucinations and delusions. It makes these concrete and tangible, and this helps the group to grasp through physical, concrete forms, the protagonist’s, or main actor's, subjective experience. Similarly, culture-drama externalizes the perceptions, the collective memory and organized patterns of experience or cultural themes of cultures or people groups, making them accessible and open to change.

Our mission at Spirituality and Culture is a response to the need for more bridging between worlds and less ethnocentric division. This is a crucial task for our time. Without such bridging, the present clashes of religions, cultures and civilizations will increase and intensify. But developing the capacity to bridge different worlds of meaning and culture is more than a purely intellectual exercise. Just as one cannot come to really know another person without an inner experience of his/her life, one cannot know another culture without some experience of it from the inside. A holistic experience or full intellectual and emotional learning through action is needed. Psychodrama offers this to individuals, sociodrama to groups sharing the same worldview and, at a much broader level, culture-drama offers this to groups that do not share the same worldview. 

With the aid of the director and the assistance of members of the audience, psychodrama enables an individual protagonist to explore his/her relationships in a “lived way,” yet in a way that is more focused, safer and less stressful than would be available in the everyday world. Within his/her encapsulated life-drama the protagonist’s perceptions of themselves and others is explored and altered to nurture wholeness, wellness, maturation and growth. As the “why” behind their worries, problems, conflicts and their unworkable “solutions” becomes visible, the protagonist begins to make sense of what was up to this point inexplicable. The same applies to culture groups using culture-drama. But in culture-drama the cultural group is itself the protagonist. The structured patterns that don’t work become accessible, and new, more appropriate cultural patterns can be learned and practiced.  

Psychodrama offers a venue for exploring the world of our experience and for learning more about ourselves, our important others and our relationships with them. Culture-drama does the same for culture groups. Where psychodrama “deals with interpersonal relations and private worlds,” culture-drama deals with intercultural relations and cultural worlds or worldviews. Psychodrama uses various techniques to help us re-experience past events and experiences, examine present relationships, and explore our dreams and visions of the future. Culture-drama does the same for culture groups. The director encourages, guides, supports and acts as a midwife as the protagonist gives birth through dramatic action to his/her deep inner processes. Members of the audience join in as “auxiliary egos” by standing in for absent significant others, voicing the protagonist’s inner thoughts, and mirroring ineffective or inadequate behavior. But in the end, it is the protagonist who does the healing, growing and maturing. Zerka Moreno, who continued and expanded the work of her husband, J. L. Moreno, stopped thinking of herself as a psychotherapist because, as she says, "it became clear that I do not heal any psyches. Protagonists themselves do the healing. My task is to find and touch that autonomous healing center within, to assist and direct the protagonist to do the same." 

Psychodrama is usually associated with psychotherapy and has been most widely applied in the mental health fields. But this is only one of its many functions—and not the original. Moreno pressed for what he called “sociatry” –a tool for social evolution, i.e. when sociometry is used to cure social tensions. He wanted to see psychodrama spread "not only as a therapy but as a way of life, to make all human lives more meaningful." He insisted we take charge of our destiny. "The expansion of the self from the plane of the individual to the cosmic planwill be a realization process of, by and through the self, a movement from the lower plane to the superior plane, the time for each movement equaling that of a historical epoch." But it is only in our epoch that this spiritual evolutionary aspect has come to the fore. Indeed, with the world’s 7000 cultures at each other’s doorsteps, and with the ecological problems of global warming and the possibility of nuclear annihilation constantly before us, the urgency to nurture intercultural, ecological and technological relations on a global scale has become critical. Here culture-drama assumes its rightful place.  

If each of us experiences the world a little differently from our neighbor of the same culture, how much greater is the experiential gap between persons of different cultures! The need for an interculturally competent world now means extending Moreno’s notion of “truth” to the world’s linguistic/culture groups. Thoreau thought it miraculous to glimpse the world through the eyes of the other. Psychodrama has made this miracle possible for individuals and culture-drama has made it possible for culture groups. Through the art of culture-drama we are now able to fulfill Moreno's dream: to snatch out the eyes of the other culture and fix them in place of our own, and they can snatch out our eyes and fix them in place of theirs, so that we might each see and enter each other’s worlds, and walk the mile in each other’s shoes. 


 Action Methods for Intercultural Ministry     

A fellow missionary in Africa once told me “All you need is love! If you are kind and show it, the people will understand. You don’t need to learn their language and culture for this. Love is universal!” Love is, indeed, universal but the way it is expressed is not. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is only “golden” in your own culture. Outside one’s culture it has been a powerful motive for forced "conversions," religious wars and grossly African Danceinappropriate “development” efforts under the theme—I am going to “develop” you into another version of me!

Whose needs are we really responding to? If it is our own needs, how can we call it God’s mission? The Incarnational event confirms boundary crossing as the heart of God's mission. Thus, in today's multi-cultural world all ministry is mission.  

The special skills to cross these boundaries, which were once needed for "overseas mission work," are now necessary for every ministry. It is impossible to learn every language and culture, but crossings are made possible by learning how to elicit the silent expectations of the other and respond accordingly. Doing this requires special intercultural skills which need to be learned and practiced. Being able to reach out to others who are living in different worlds with different mindsets and expectations than our own, requires a holistic and participatory learning process, yet one within a safe and secure environment, one which allows for appropriate risk-taking, but which doesn't allow fear or embarrassment to shut down the learning process.

Regardless of one's work or particular ministry, with ever increasingly frequency these days, we are required to take on new roles. It takes lots of practice to learn new roles, and we do not always have the opportunity to learn them well. On-the-job training is slow, it retards production and it hardly touches the most important parts of the new roles, i.e. knowing how to communicate and interact well with our colleagues and co-workersand yet this is essential right from the start. The learning task is made even more daunting by the great cultural diversity that now affects every aspect of our lives. When ministries involve many different languages and cultures, the challenges are multiplied geometrically. How does one prepare for this?

The answer is “action methods” such as psychodrama, sociodrama and especially culture-drama. Action techniques involve skills-training and problem-solving through role-exploration, rehearsal and expansion. In role-training one can learn and practice new behavior in a supportive learning environment. Through action methods we can master communication skills and improve our ministerial outreach dramatically. Participants can gain greater confidence in themselves which will be communicated to those they minister to and will further strengthen their relationship, setting in motion a positive feedback spiral.

Culture-drama is a special action method that takes this process a step further to deal with cultural diversity issues. Action methods, especially culture-drama, not only offer an excellent way to learn and practice ministerial roles in different cultural contexts, they also help to uncover the silent cultural expectations of those ministered to. Studies have shown that when priests, pastoral assistants, special ministers and church members communicate in ways that meet the cultural expectations of others, relationships improve and church life thrives. Words and actions that meet each other’s silent expectations enable church members to feel they are heard, understood and treated with dignity and respect. This launches an interactive positive feedback spiral. The interior life of the church improves, membership increases, contributions and community involvement increase. But, most importantly, diversity moves from being a burden to a rich resource fostering greater interdependence and unity. The whole assembly, though culturally diverse, becomes a true people of God, a genuine witness to the Pentecost event and a powerhouse for God’s mission. All of this can be achieved through culture-drama where role-training, rehearsal and expansion produce hands-on interactive skills for living and ministering in a culturally diverse "World Church". 

God’s mission involves all the people of God. Besides pastors and those in ministry learning how to bridge across cultures, all the church membership, including the different ethnic, racial and cultural groups in our churches, also need to learn how to accept and work with each other. The similarities and differences in God’s people need to be understood and honored. The diversity in our congregations, at meetings, in committees, in our schools, in our special ministries, and between culturally or racially mixed couples needs to be bridged. Individuals and groups need to learn and practice how to perceive and interact in new ways.

Training not only needs to be adapted to our ministerial situations, it also needs to be adapted to our individual natures and abilities, social strata and culture. Because we are different at several levelsindividually, socially and culturallywe need training that adapts to the differences at each of these and helps us to build new skill sets that become part of ‘who we are’. Action methods do this by focusing on each person’s or group’s story. 

Working in culturally diverse ministries can be extremely taxing, and without proper self-care stress and burnout can occur. Our group sessions are designed to help identify causes of stress, build support networks and reduce tension by building confidence in using new skills for more effective and appropriate intercultural ministries. Culture-drama group sessions enhance the Trinitarian life of the Church which unifies without losing the precious gift of diversity. Culture-drama groups facilitate intercultural understanding so that the diverse membership of these groups will gain insight into their intercultural patterns and relations, and learn new, more interculturally appropriate and productive behavior. Church ministers, and congregations in general, will get the help they need from culture-drama. The Catholic Church, especially with regard to the project of "New Evangelization," will get the help it needs to foster effective inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue through culture-drama. 



 Action Methods for an Intercultural Workplace 

Why do some teams work well together while others do not? Why are some groups vigorous, creative and spontaneous? They respect each other. They get along well together and they get the job done. They go beyond the call of duty and produce results where others fail. What makes them different?  

The deep taproot answer can be found through sociometry. Most work teams are formed without any thought of how well they can work together. Once someone qualifies for the job it is assumed that the work will go on without a hitch. But filling a job description isn’t everything. We aren’t Intercultural Workplace“nuts” or “bolts” which when put in place will make the machine work properly. Even if a person has the right qualifications, what about how he/she fits in with the group?

We are much more complicated than machines. Besides our distinctive personalities, we are also products of different social groups and cultures. This should lead us to ask some deeper questions. Is the work style or the value system of the candidate similar to that of the team? Is his/her style of communication similar? Is his/her backgroundrace, social class, religion or culturethe same? Does the organization know and trust him/her? Is he/she a “good” manager? What are the team's expectations regarding "a good manager" or "good employee"? Does the candidate fit them? 

Sociometry is a science, developed by Dr. J.L. Moreno through his work with refugees and prisoners, that examines the inner workings of groups. It exposes the hidden, underlying connections and disconnections that are present in groups, whether they are in the workplace, churches, schools, prisons, clinics, the public arena, or at home. These inner dynamics have a powerful influence on a group’s positive or negative outlook, state of health or illness, harmonious or conflicting relations, rates of success or failure, and productivity or decline. Once the connections are identified we can begin to eliminate the negative and strengthen the positive. Sociometry can help us reorganize working teams, communities or church groups for greater harmony, an increase in morale, greater satisfaction and productivity, and better results all around—for the individual, the team, the business or organization and the larger community. 

Role-Training 

New jobs require much more than simply what is asked for in job descriptions. Yet when an employee takes on a new position or is promoted to a higher posting he/she is not usually given any coaching or guidance on how to do his/her new job. Besides new skills, the new job may require a different way of relating to people, or new social or cultural roles and other skills that require professional help.

In addition to this, studies have shown that our relationship with our boss matters more than we think. When it comes to job satisfaction, it matters even more than the size of one’s paycheck. Furthermore, in the case of ministerial and church work, pro-bono jobs, charitable agencies and NGOs, it matters more than anything else. According to studies, workers with unsupportive supervisors are twice as likely to feel unhappy and helpless. The outcomes for professionals in business may be lower production and profits, but with religious workers it can be far worse for it can result in burnout which affects all concernedthe personnel, the organization and the people served. If they don’t get the support they need from up top they are at much greater risk than others. But how does an employee get the help he/she needs? How does he/she learn the new roles and address growth boundaries without jeopardizing his/her position and the stability of the firm or organization?

The answer is through skills-training or role-training groups and workshops that emphasize participatory action. Employees are helped to work through their sense of alienation, loss or tension, and guided through a process of practicing specific work-related skills that help them to master the new position, role or problem. An example in the business world could be managers learning how to coach employees, or customer service learning how to speak with irate customers. Among church workers it could be a deacon learning how to uplift and support religious workers—especially those of other cultures, or a minister learning how to respond to the standard or intercultural challenges of a new assignment. In all of these situations, skills training through action gives both employer and employee opportunities to try out different responses in a safe learning environment. When the right patterns are discovered, they can begin to learn them through role-training. Once an employee has worked out the difficulties in this safe “laboratory”, he/she will be prepared to handle difficulties, and will feel confident and empowered when he/she gets into the job. 

Planning

Companies and organizations these days are encouraged to “think outside the box.” Most would agree that the effectiveness of future planning requires a great deal of creativity and spontaneity. Yet, when a company is planning its future, the very methods it uses often dampen creativity. Companies tend to gather the key members around a conference table and open the floor for ideas. Nothing freezes creativity faster than this.

What is lacking is action. Einstein said he literally needed to get up and walk around to work out a new idea. Action methods use the same principle. They are quite versatile. For example, if a company wants to prepare a five-year plan, the group could go beyond simply “talking about it” to actually experiencing a future projection of the outcomes. Through action methods they can step into a dramatized future five years down the line, and speak and act from that place. Getting out of your head and into action, makes all the difference. This process encourages spontaneity and creativity, which elicits ideas that are truly “outside the box”. It also increases excitement for the future of the organization, and in this way builds morale and a sense of teamwork.

Crisis Intervention

In times of crisis, businesses often expect their employees simply to carry on as usual, as though nothing has happened. Common types of crisis in businesses include serious illness, a death, a downsizing, a sudden move in leadership, the termination of a key employee, loss of a major client, or any a number of scenarios. If the group’s anxiety and loss are not attended to, productivity and morale fall sharply. Employees lose enthusiasm and start slacking. They use up their sick days and take more personal days off. Lower productivity means lower profits and harms the organization as a whole. Therefore, it is in a company’s best interests to encourage their personnel to work out their anxieties and feelings of loss so that they can gradually return to normal. 

What is true for businesses is also true for religious organizations and churches. There is no lack of crises in churches today—the increase in secularism, the "culture wars", politically conservative vs. liberal divisions, the emptying of the pews, decline in contributions, the closing of schools and services due lack of funds, the lack of priests and ministers, the aging of the clergy and the overwhelming increase in cultural diversity. Ministers, priests and religious personnel are overworked and many feel they are not supported by their leadership or congregations. Church personnel also need help working through the losses, stress and, in many cases, neglect.

How are they to work through these stressful situations and changes? The answer is action methods like sociometry, sociodrama and culture-drama. Through these techniques they can reduce stress levels, work through crisis and adjust to new circumstances. 

Conflict Transformation

Conflicts big and small, especially those rooted in cultural diversity, can remain undetected and unresolved, lying just beneath the surface in work environments, communities, churches and organizations for years. There the conflict sits without even being mentionedmuch less processed. Managers in business or in religious organizations are not usually trained to resolve these types of conflicts, or worse, they may even be involved in one of them with an employee or underling. This proverbial “elephant in the room” strains relationships, disrupts concentration and generally interferes with the work; and this affects productivity at all levels.

Moreno held that such conflicts remain unresolved because of a lack of “spontaneity”. Here it is not rashness or impulsiveness that is meant, but the impetus to act creatively and adequately to the situation at hand. Anxiety disrupts this. The more anxious a person is, the less spontaneous he/she is. Whenever there is conflict, poor communication, or a crisis of some kind within an organization, everyone’s spontaneity and creativity suffers. Group morale plummets, people are afraid to take creative risks, they feel disconnected from each other, and soon they begin to feel they are working towards different goals.

The anxiety itself is a central issue because it blocks spontaneity. Wherever it exists—between the manager and employees, or at any level in the organization—the anxiety itself is a core problem. It is like an airborne disease that is highly contagious and affects everyone it touches.

Anxiety can be dispelled through a directed encounter or confrontation using action methods—especially sociodrama or culture-drama. Employees can be helped to state their concerns in a mutually-respectful way and work through them productively. This will release tension and have a cathartic effect on all who have been influenced by its black cloud. The group will also benefit from role-training to learn more about their situation and how to communicate more effectively, e.g., how to be more assertive or less aggressive. All of these help the group to build a work environment of mutual respect and affirmation.