Written 2006. Last Updated April 2014.


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The following has been adapted from the Laceweb Book ‘Coming to One’s Senses – By the Way’, a book containing 130 stories from life woven together giving glimpse of Laceweb Way.

What follows is an example of Hypothetical Realplay using Cultural Healing Action.


This Realplay comes from a time when a Laceweb person was introducing these ways at a tertiary level certificate course in interpersonal relations. Some course workshops were held in a TV studio on campus and we were engaging in a series of hypothetical real-plays with two or more people in the hypothetical with around 24 in the audience.


This realplay occurred early in the course before Laceweb Way was introduced relating to experiencing ways for increasing wellness in social relating and exploring intersubjective experience and meaning – your inner experiencing of my inner experiencing of you.


A simple context was given. Examples:

o   Husband coming home late for a home-cooked tenth-anniversary dinner with wife

o   Mate arriving late in meeting with five of his mates going on a fishing trip

o   One person arriving late in meeting up with a Group of friends travelling together to a sporting final


The starting line in the hypothetical was:

            You’re two hours late….


From then on everything in the Realplay was spontaneous.


Typically, .as soon as the first line of the realplay is said people were judging, blaming, accusing, and attempting to impose their meanings on others. The blamed, accused person becomes engaged in justifying, rationalising, explaining and defending, with a consequent rapid breakdown in the quality of their relating.


The behaviour was typically saturated with what Bateson in his book, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972, 233-238) terms schizophrenic type double bind behaviours. This is where the person who has being waiting is disconfirming and disqualifying each successive contribution by the late person(s) who are continually being told that their contributions are not valid. Any attempt to refer to this disconfirming type behaviour is also disconfirmed.


The latecomer’s contributions:

a)    Tend to be received as if they are in some way different from what they thought they intended.

b)    Everything they say tends to be negated and distorted, and deletingly and discountingly generalised by those who have been waiting.


The latecomer(s) from their viewpoint tend to sense that they are endlessly being misinterpreted and disconfirmed.


The person who had been waiting endlessly endeavours to put the latecomer in the wrong by his or her interpreting of whatever the latecomer says or does.


The latecomer comes to expect that the person who has being waiting will misinterpret whatever the latecomer says or does next and so the bind tends to become mutual.


This stage in the relationships may slide to where neither person can ever afford to receive or emit communications about their communicating (meta-communicating) without distorting meaning, as invariably they begin engaging in the very same behaviours they are endeavouring to talk about in describing what they sense is going on


Any attempt to sort out what is going on is also interpreted by the other as being judging, blaming, misinterpreting, disconfirming,  justifying, and defending, so sustaining a profound and sustained denial of their reality.


This denying of their reality tends to invalidate their being, and in a very short time this tends to collapse their integrity. People tend to lose it - whatever ‘it’ is.


R.D. Laing refers to this dysfunction tangle as ‘knots’ in his book of the same name (1970).


So to explore some of the dynamics in these hypothetical real-plays - the person who was arriving late would invariably have his or her behaviour and internal state immediately altered by the manner and tone of delivery of that first line, as it tended to be strongly overlaid with innuendo – judgement and personal attack.


And the manner and tone of delivery of that first line also helped constitute the psycho-emotional state for the first speaker, and the rest of the group, and it tended to impose that person’s definition of the situation, and anything that the other person did, tended to be filtered through that state, and tended to escalate that state, or be sliding it into more intense states; for example, from irritation to annoyance, to anger, even towards fury. The first speaker tended to prejudge the person and or the context - to show prejudice.


They would rarely clarify the other’s context.


And another thing we did was to repeat the realplay and have the person say the opening line with a different manner and tone and with differing implication and innuendo, resulting in very different exchange.


And perhaps you have noticed that this hypothetical real-playing is creating experiential contexts where people actual experience real time feeling and emotional reactions, often intensely.


And after a time the real-play would be stopped and the opening speaker (who had delivered the ‘you’re two hours late’ line) as well as the others who had been waiting are given the added challenge of commencing the real-play yet again. This time they were also challenged to comprehensively find out firstly, the context(s) that the other person had been involved in, and secondly, all of the myriad aspects involved - so that those who had been waiting are able to begin to more fully enter into the world of the late-comer.


This provides scope for those who had been waiting begin to understand the late-comer and then for the late-comer to begin to understand the world of those who are waiting. For example, time seems to slow down when you’re waiting.


This repeat real-play would take a very different course, although there was still the tendency to slide into judging, blaming and the like.


Then some of the other class members would be given the same opening line with a different context. Not-withstanding the processing we had done, typically new real-players would immediately go into judging, blaming, accusing, and attempting to impose their meanings on others, and the blamed person would begin engaging in justifying and defending - again with a consequent rapid breakdown in the quality of relating.


These forms of responding tend to be habitual. That which we know the most is typically unconscious and hence not noticed. Initially the group had no awareness of the process being used in dysfunctional habitual responding.


After each hypothetical there was discussion amongst the real-players, and the audience would become involved in the discussion.


Later in the evening the class came up with a brief context scenario for a realplay involving six realplayers. Personalities were created for the six different people in the real-play that would commence with the same opening line, ‘You’re two hours late!’.


All of the people in the class were 18-24 year-olds except one mature-age woman named Christine who was amongst the audience for the next hypothetical. Christine becomes very agitated during the hypothetical. When the realplay is stopped the audience is asked if anyone has anything to say.


Immediately Christine yells at Mario, one of the real-players and says:

You made me extremely annoyed and angry. You were just goofing off as you always do and you did not engage in the personality that we gave you.


A signal was given for Mario not to respond. Others in the audience were immediately asked what they felt about Mario.

o   One said:

o    Mario made me laugh

o   The following are examples said by different members of the audience:

o   Mario lightened the emotional energy in the group

o   I never noticed Mario

o   Mario played a valuable role in the exchange

o   Mario was the peacemaker with his funny antics

o   Mario made me think

o   Mario reminded me of my best mate


It turned out every person in the audience had a different reaction to Mario!


Then the following was said to Christine:

o   Christine, notice this. Mario made you extremely annoyed and angry, and

o   Mario made Louise laugh

o   Mario impressed Fred in how he lightened up the group

o   Mario made Charlie not notice him

o   Mario made Suzy notice his valuable role

o   Mario impressed Peter with how he used his humour

o   Mario made Jane think

o   And Mario reminded Jack of his best mate

All of the differing responses to Mario were repeated to Christine in this ‘Mario made’ format.


And Christine, isn’t Mario a flexible fellow? Seems that he has the ability to ‘make’ everyone in the audience think and feel something very different, or is there more going on than, ‘Mario making’?


Perhaps this is not so much about Mario per se, more about Mario-and-each-person-in-the-real-play-and-each-person-in-the-audience, and the myriad inter-connecting, inter-relating, inter-depending aspects of each of them in their relating with Mario including the moods of people prior to arrival in the class on the day, their conditioned ways of responding to various tones and personalities, associated memories, their various ways of looking-at-the-world, and being-in-the-world at this moment; it’s about many things, including response-ability - that is, our ability to respond, and our meaning making, .and our defining of the situation.


Later in the evening we commenced showing the video recordings of the Hypothetical Realplays so the Realplayers and the Audience could experience being in a third-party observer position.


Typically people are very poor observers of process. They tend to attend, and often attend poorly, to aspects of what’s happening. They tend not to notice how things are happening. Also typically very few people can cope with noticing and attending to processes about process, what is termed ‘meta-communicative’ (metaprocesses).


Slowly some of the dynamics mentioned above starts to be noticed by some in the audience. Others made little change. Unconscious dysfunctional habits may respond to specific action. Refer Flexibility and Habit.


During the ten months of the course, the above process would be repeated towards establishing mutual understanding and respecting, and connecting, and mutual caring, and negotiating of meaning with some exploring of aspects of relational mediating and negotiating of meaning.


Related Links:


Globalocal Realplay

Cultural Healing Action.


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