Healing Common Spaces: Psychodrama in Gavdos

Written by Nikolaos-Ioannis Kanavaris, architect, MSc “design, space, culture” NTUA

Psychodrama in Gavdos is a workshop that takes place almost 15 years in which over 100 people participate. The target of this seminar, as it is expressed by the coordinator Mr A. Liodakis, is to create a therapeutic com­munity based on solidarity and empathy. This community emerges from the dwelling of the island of Gavdos for a week every summer.

Towards a phenomenology of the commons

Commons are perceived as relational aspects, internal codes, the manner power is dispersed. “Commoning” is the main concept (LINEBAUGH, 2010) that shows the action-based approach in “here and now” where commons are shaped.

«A phenomenological understanding of the commons forces us to move beyond the reductionist opposition of “subject-object,” which produces the commodification of both (…)They express a qualitative relation.(…) the subject is part of the object. For this reason commons are inseparably related and link individuals, communities, and the ecosystem itself» (Mattei, 2016 σσ. 83-84)

Theoretical bases of psychodrama | spatial approach

Psychodrama was developed by J. Moreno as a technique which could help-heal people. The target was to create a context in which punishment doesn’t exist so people can perform different behaviors. The concept of “communicative space” by Vesely can describe the intention of psychodrama to imply spatial qualities of freedom, safety and healing. The structure of Psychodrama Psychodrama is a technique which combines art and therapy. It is influenced by the ancient Greek drama and Stanislavski’s method. The scene in psychodrama follows the rules of the ancient Greek drama, in terms of the chorus and the actors.

The structure of psychodrama is based on the three phases:

  1. 1.Warm-up (group space)
  2. 2.Enactment (scene)
  3. 3.Catharsis (group space)

The “theory of the scene” developed by Bouquet reveals the different spaces created during psychodrama. This theory is based on Winnicott’s theory of “transitional space”.

Psychodrama in Gavdos | a shared healing space

Psychodrama in Gavdos doesn’t follow the strict structure of the Morenian psychodrama. It is a seminar which is linked with the everyday life of the participants:

Gavdos is a liminal place in the border of society. The dominant force is nature. In symbolic terms Ga­vdos os the «arche, the timeless origin: that is more essential” (Harries, 1998 p. 271) .

Facetious atmosphere. “Marabou” is the most important game in which each participant has to take care and taken care by another person for the whole seminar.

Sense of celebration. Every night in Gavdos the community does fiestas in a Dionysian way. These fiestas have the role of catharsis from the emotional pressure of the day.

«there is a continuing need for the creation of festal places on the ground of everyday dwellings, places where individuals come together and affirm themselves as members of the community, as they join in public reenactments of the essential: celebrations of those central aspects of our life that maintain and give meaning to existence.» (Harries, 1998 σ. 365)

The seminar is consisted of daily meetings; one in the morning (psychodrama) and one in the evening (so­ciodrama). The places of these meetings can be perceived as “the sacred placed of the community” (Harries, 1998). In these spaces personal stories are shared, emotions are expressed, community is formed. Different types of gazes (deep, glance), of sounds (speaking, singing, screaming) and body moves (touch, stability, move­ment) are performed.

Warm up. Through games gaze is coordinated with a touch or a sound.

Enactment. Hearing the other metaphorically means the importance in coming closer to the other in a symbol­ic way. «…sound creates an experience of interiority (…) Hearing structures and articulates the experience and understanding of space. We are not normally aware of the significance of hearing in spatial experience, although sound often provides the temporal continuum in which visual impressions are embedded» (Pallasmaa, 2005 σ. 53).

Catharsis. Touching brings the subject in the “here and now”. The proximity of touch gives space for relax­ation. Pallasmaa mentions that «smell, taste and touch continue to have collective importance in behavior and communication. The roles of the senses in the utilisation of collective and personal space» (Pallasmaa, 2005 σ. 25).

Conclusion | Threshold experience as healing space

Space is re-interpreted as a result of meaningful actions. These actions consist of visual, auditory and haptic phe­nomena that reform individual and collective perception. The whole seminar appears like a ritual. Psychodrama’s method, as a relation between different subjects and as a relation between different fragments of personality, broadens the experience of space. Healing space could be described as intensive transitional space (Winnicott, 2019) or as a spectrum of threshold spatialities (Σταυρίδης, 2018).

I would like to thanks Mr Antonis Liodakis and the Greek Psychodrama Center which organize the seminar. I would like also to thans the Psychodrama-in-Gavdos’s community

(for more details https://www.greekpsychodrama.gr)


Bouquet, Carlos Maria Martinez. 1982. The Theory Of the Scene. [συγγρ. βιβλίου] Malcom Pines. The Individual and the Group | Boundaries and Interrelations Volume 2: Practice. 1982.

Butler, Adam. 2007. Meta-theoretical perspectives on psychodrama. Psychodrama, Advances in Theory and Practice. s.l. : Rout­ledge, 2007.

Harries, Karsten. 1998. The Ethical Function of Architecture. s.l. : The MIT Press, 1998.

LINEBAUGH, PETER. 2010. Some Principles of the Commons. Counterpunh, 2010, Τόμ. Weekend Edition January 8 – 10.

Mattei, Ugo. 2016. First Thoughts for a Phenomenology of the Commons. Socialisation and Commons in Europe: Constructing an Alternative Project. Transformnetwork.net, 2016.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2005. The Eyes of the Skin, Architecture and the Senses. s.l. : John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2005.

Stavrides Stavros. 2016 Common Space: The City as Commons, Zed Books

Vesely, Dalibor. 2004. Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation. s.l. : The MIT Press, 2004.

Winnicott, W. Donald. 2019. Το παιχνίδι και η πραγματικότητα (Playing and reality). s.l. : ΑΡΜΟΣ, 2019.

Λιοδάκης, Αντώνης, Τζανάκης, Μανώλης και Τσούρτου, Βίκυ. 2007. Τέχνης και Ψυχιατρική. Αθήνα-Χανιά : Focus on Health Ε.Π.Ε., 2007.

Tsergas Nikolaos. 2014. Θεραπευτικές προσεγγίσεις μέσω της τέχνης. s.l. : ΜΟΤΙΒΟ, 2014.

March 21, 2021

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