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Doubling: Listening With The Third Ear

November 27, 2011

In a continuing effort to share information on psychodrama and the tools trial lawyers use most often to work with clients, prepare for and present their cases at trial, what follows is the next installment on this topic.

Doubling

A double is an auxiliary (a group member asked to play a role in the drama or re-enactment) who speaks the inner life of the protagonist, in whatever role he happens to inhabit in that moment. The job of the double is to tune in to the protagonist’s unexpressed thoughts and feelings and express them, bringing material lodged in the background to the foreground.

The double is the hidden voice, the truest self, the one who helps the protagonist realize and acknowledge what she is thinking and feeling. The double gives voice to the protagonist’s interior reality, helping the protagonist go deeper, strip off the outer socially visible layers, and reach the deeper layers of expression. The double speaks in the first person, as the inner voice of the protagonist, but does not engage in conversation with the protagonist. In essence, the double assists the protagonist in expressing herself more fully. Using a double facilitates expressing a protagonist’s deepest emotions, and is one of the most effective techniques to bring out unexpressed emotions. J. L. Moreno, the creator of psychodrama, described the double as the protagonist’s inside.[1]

As the double expresses the protagonist’s inner thoughts or feelings, it is extremely important to give the protagonist an opportunity to accept, reject, or correct the statements which the double makes, and if accepted, to put them in her own words. For example:

Protagonist: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wish she would talk to me.

Double: I feel helpless and all alone.

Protagonist: I do feel helpless. I just don’t understand why she won’t talk to me.

Double: I feel angry at her.

Protagonist: [Has a puzzled look on his face.]

Double: If that is right, put it in your own words. If it is wrong, correct it.

Protagonist: It isn’t right. I’m not angry. I am hurt, and I feel betrayed.

Double: I trusted her to talk to me, to tell me what was going on.

Protagonist: Yes, that’s it. I did trust her to talk to me. To let me in. And she betrayed my trust.

Even an incorrect statement is helpful to the protagonist, for in correcting the statement, the protagonist clarifies what is going on inside her.

A good double helps the protagonist to feel seen and understood, and, at the same time, to move into deeper levels of feeling. Often during a traumatic life event, we dissociate or freeze, and may feel helpless or powerless. Through psychodramatic reenactment, a protagonist can revisit that moment in her life and, through the use of a double, stay in her body, and express thoughts and feelings she was too overwhelmed to express at the time. This can be very beneficial to a protagonist as it facilitates feeling and integration of emotions that she split from her consciousness.

A double can also provide support for the protagonist. This helps him take more risks and enter the action more completely. In addition, a double can provide suggestions and interpretations to the protagonist through the role. For example, if your client is having a difficult time expressing sadness over the changes in his life because of an accident, you may want to double by uttering words he cannot: “I am sad. I can no longer lift my little boy to his high chair. I can no longer have sex with my wife. I feel useless and less of a man.” Make sure you give your client the opportunity to accept or reject this doubling statement. If he accepts it, ask him to put it in his own words.

When you wish to act as a double for someone, (for example, a friend, spouse, client, or witness) the process generally is to stand slightly behind and to the side of the protagonist. It is extremely important to abandon your own agenda, to set aside your need to ask questions or solve problems, and tune in and listen without judgment. Listen with your heart, not your head. Let the feelings that come up reverberate in you. You should be aware of the protagonist’s non-verbal communication, and imitate her body language. When you mirror the protagonist’s gestures, posture, body positions, and tone of voice, you will begin to experience the same kinds of body sensations as the protagonist.

Neuroscientists have recently discovered mirror neurons, a class of brain cells that operate similar to radio waves. They explain why we pick up on the feelings and moods of people we are with.

                       Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, move-

                        ment and even intentions of the person we are

                        with, and replicate this sensed state in our own

                        brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active

                        in the other person. Mirror neurons offer a neu-

                        ral mechanism that explains emotional contagion,

                        the tendency of one person to catch the feelings

                        of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This

                        brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings

                        of rapport, which research finds depend in part on

                        extremely rapid synchronization of peoples’ pos-

                        ture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact.

                        In short, these brain cells seem to allow the inter-

                        personal orchestration of shifts in physiology.[2]

A double should not, however, overwhelm or take over for the protagonist. Instead, the double should feel into the protagonist, becoming attuned to the protagonist’s moods, feelings, and rhythm. The double needs to let go of any prior perception she may have had of the protagonist and trust her intuition, being open to the feelings that arise. When the double speaks for the protagonist, the double should speak in the first person: “I feel really angry that . . .”

Learning to be a good double, setting aside your own agenda and tuning in to another person is a powerful experience, not only for the double but for the person being doubled as well. Doubling is essentially the skill of active listening on a very deep level, and connecting to the emotions, the inner life, of the other person.

The skill of listening is one of the most important skills for you to have; you use it in all phases of trial, and you should actively develop it. When a speaker and his double participate in a listening/doubling exercise, the exercise creates a bond between them. The person being doubled feels seen, heard, and most importantly, validated. Validation results in connection and trust.

Once you have significant experience with this tool, you can begin to use it without standing slightly behind and to the side of the person you wish to double, without imitating their non- verbal communication, and without speaking in first person as if an inner voice. You can double jurors as you conduct voir dire, double witnesses in deposition, and even double the judge. This tool can also be used during direct examination to help the witness go deeper and fully express their feelings to the jury. You can use this tool when meeting with clients to ensure your relationship starts out on a good note and to demonstrate that you care about them as people.

You can learn more about psychodrama and how trial lawyers use this method by reading the book – Trial In Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, (2010 Trial Guides) available at http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

[1] Moreno, Blomkvist and Rutzel, Psychodrama, 69.

[2] Daniel Goleman, Essay—Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing (2006).

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