Friday, September 6, 2013

Formulation of "Through-Lines" and "Dramaturgical Pattern"

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 
Søren Kierkegaard

"The appropriate size of the unit for conceptualizing a person is not a behavior but a life history."

Peter Ossorio

"You do not know that your intentions will be carried out but you can suppose that they will be. Then you must have an idea about the rest of your day. Don't you feel that solid line as it stretches out into the future, fraught with cares, responsibilities, joys, and griefs? In looking ahead there is a certain movement, and where there is movement a line begins."  
Constantin Stanislavski

"I spoke of performers and audiences; of routines and parts; of performances coming off or falling flat; of cues, stage settings and backstage; of dramaturgical needs, dramaturgical skills, and dramaturgical strategies. Now it should be admitted that this attempt to press a mere analogy so far was in part a rhetoric and a maneuver." 

Erving Goffman

Further thoughts on "Through-Lines and the Dramaturgical Pattern"  A Reformulation for Descriptive Psychology

"Through-Lines", a type of linked  Dramaturgical Pattern, is a conceptual tool for Descriptive Psychology's Dramaturgical Model. A more precise formulation:

Descriptive Psychology has:

Four components of the Person Concept:  Individual Person, Behavior, Language, and World

The Person as Actor, Observer and Critic

A Dramaturgical Model

"In the Dramaturgical Model, behavior is intrinsically and fundamentally a matter of creating and realizing personal and social dramas. Human lives are intrinsically and fundamentally dramatic in form."

"... a drama is a structured behavioral episode or series of episodes which makes sense to Us." (p. 290, The Behavior of Persons)

The Dramaturgical Pattern:  An Individual Person behaving as a Deliberate Actor, engaged in specific Social Practices based on their Significance, constructs a Real World that makes sense and can be represented using Language (“Essence is expressed by grammar” Wittgenstein).

Through-lines are significance-implementation-achievement patterns of social practices. Through-lines are the observed patterns of choice made by a person that reflect what the person finds intrinsic. Linked intrinsic social practices are through-lines. A set of temporally co-occuring through-lines, a "bundle", constitute some of the intentional aspects of the overall Dramaturgical Pattern for any meaningful duration up to and including a person's entire life span. (The word "world" derives from an old Anglo-Saxon locution that meant "the course of a man's life").  

Nothing necessarily ties the bundle together except that the varied  through-lines express the person's significant concerns enacted in the same life-interval. Sequential and co-occurring through-lines may be relatively independent, or have a dynamic relationship of interdependence, conflict, complementarity, inhibition, and so on. 

The overall Dramaturgical Pattern with its constituent through-lines involve a person's response to sought-after and unsought circumstances.  Accidents and the passage of time are the not chosen features of life that necessarily shape a person's history. A person's life also includes average expected challenges that follow from age, sex, gender, class, culture, appearance, etc. 

The overall Dramaturgical Pattern involves social practices independent from what an observer classifies as a through-line.  Some challenges and opportunities might happen infrequently resulting in "one-off" behavior hard to classify. The observer may be noncommittal about assigning such behavior as in or out of character for the person. Some social practices may not be part of a discernible through-line.  

A person creates his world in the wake of his progress. The observer-critic notes the quality and significance of how the actor's implementations create, change and maintain the actor's real world.

From a Observer's perspective, a through-line is a set of social practices, extended over time, that constitute the enactment of a status that is a significant aspect of a person's identity.  The Observer can be oneself or another.  

A person's self-knowledge of engaging in what she finds intrinsically significant will correspond to what she can acknowledge as in-character. Observers may differ about the adequacy or accuracy of such self-status assignments. 

Given continued relevance and opportunity, a through-line can appear, disappear and reappear. Significant changes in what a person finds intrinsically significant correspond to where a through-line may start and end.

There are as many through-lines as an Observer can potentially identify. 

Identification and Knowledge of Through-Lines:

To say that a Person "A"  knows one of Person "B's" Through-Lines, she would have observed that

A) "B" engaged in a series of social practices that

B) Share a common significance 

C) The specific implementation/performance of the practices

D) What the implementations achieved in "B's" world

E) What "B" knows regarding what the implementations achieved

F) How "B" appraised the consequences of the achievement

G) How "B" did or did not correct his course of action based on his appraisal of the consequences.

And produce

H) A significance description that encompasses A) through G) and names this particular through-line. (Reduce the details until a workable encompassing significance description is offered)

The through-line will describe improvisational creative engagements with the circumstances of a person's world in which a person's relevant personal characteristics are identified as making understandable the way the person acts given their opportunities and dilemmas. 

To the extent that an Observer identifies linked intrinsic social practices germane to the actor's identity, she will have identified a through-line.  She could just as well be commenting on the actor's world since she will be offering a commentary that links the actor's personal characteristics to the sort of world he finds, creates and maintains. 

The Descriptive Psychological concept "through-lines" resides in an intermediate zone between social practices and ways of life. People know how they expect to live their lives; looking back, their observer-critics can understand what they actually did.

Incomplete descriptions of through-lines that lack information regarding their Significance correspond to Dispositional descriptions of traits, attitudes, interests and styles. 

Examples can be found in the posting, "Examples of Through-Lines".


  1. That looks good. I might want to talk through some things, but only because I'm not quite sure what you mean and would want to be sure you are conveying the concepts in the better way.

    Conceptually sound, and it reflects what I think is probably the case. What's the use? How does this increase our behavior potential as person scientists?

  2. Wynn: I think that you are really beginning to make sense of what through-lines add to dramaturgical patterns to elaborate this more.

  3. A classic dramatic case of the through-line: P has dedicated a large portion of life to discovering/learning/stopping Q. Then it turns out there-never-was-a/P-already-knows-about/dead-n-buried-is Q. But this is only a PORTION of P's life, so it can't be P's whole dramaturgical pattern.

    Certainly, we do have the dramas in which it IS all of P's life, and those are usually styled as tragedies. DP's image for this is the Demon Businessman.

    Spiderman is one of Peter Parker's through-lines. The other is Peter Parker. A third is "penance for killing Uncle May, by whatever means, including Spiderman and Peter Parker (as implementations of the penance significance)." Iron Man and Batman don't have the first problem, Batman has the third one for his parents. Iron Man has the "drunken genius" through-line, which is so beautifully spelled out as Tony Stark watches the film of his father. Superman has those problems a little, but not much. He says, "Superman is something I do. Clark Kent is who I am." In the past, his trouble was competing with himself for Lois Lane. No penance involved.

    And so on. Those dramas wouldn't make sense to us UNLESS we had a grasp of through-lines already. Thespians are not naturally constructing their characters' lives from what is around them. They must be Critics of the information available so they can make the character's "living life forward" appear natural, as if the character IS creating, authoring, living life forward--like a real Actor, like One of Us Real Persons.

    Of course, drama is life with the dull parts cut out, so in real life, the through-lines will not be so obvious or obviously-driving. That doesn't mean they aren't there. It means life has dull parts, and we must cut them out to see the through-lines. Not that we're good at that, no guarantee of success, etc., but it's what we must do.

  4. Dr. Schwartz, I particularly appreciate the following comment: "The overall Dramaturgical Pattern with its constituent through-lines involve the actor's response to sought and unsought circumstances. Accidents and the passage of time are non chosen features of life that necessarily shape a person's history. A person's life also includes average expected challenges that follow from age, sex, gender, class, culture, appearance, etc.". Such "Dramaturgical Pattern" is what I think allows for an osmosis-like fluidity in our behavior. Again, it comes back to the concepts of reversibility, self observations, and appropriateness you discussed in lecture.

    ~G. Cruz

  5. Hi Doc,
    Each time I have read or thought about through lines this week specific song lyrics come to mind...
    "See here how everything lead up to this day. And it's just like any other day that's ever been.” -Grateful Dead, Black Peter

    At any rate...After reading and re-reading these blogs, I will try to capture my thoughts as eloquently as possible. (Good luck hahaha)

    When I think about the use of through lines within the dramaturgical pattern, some concepts keep running to the forefront of my mind.
    Within the drama, we are who we are and we are understood by how we are within a certain setting, or context. We are understood (by actor, observer and critic alike) by our behavior given (x) opportunity/opportunities and it is our reaction to the world in which we have lived, our decisions (good and bad) that have landed us where we are but those decisions are all based on, as discussed in Behavior of Persons, achieving a "wanted state of affairs." This state can be individually sought but understood by others through our ability to explain or describe our intrinsic motivations.
    Could intrinsic motivations possibly be considered somewhat of a "foundation" on which a throughline is formed?
    And now for something completely different???
    The line that I most recently keep revisiting is,
    “Through-lines are significance-implementation-achievement patterns of social practices. Through-lines are the Observed patterns of choice made by the actor that reflect what the actor finds intrinsically significant. Linked intrinsic social practices are through-lines. A set of temporally co-occuring through-lines, a "bundle", constitute some of the intentional aspects of the overall Dramaturgical Pattern for any meaningful duration up to and including a person's entire life span. (The word "world" derives from an old Anglo-Saxon word that meant "the course of a man's life').” (Schwartz, 2013)
    and makes me think…
    The course of a man's life consists of life colliding with another. It is the manageability or better yet, the consistent manageability of these collisions that help define individual throughlines. Perhaps it is with a clearer explanation or definition of individual performance, want, competence, etc. within each collision that allows for a more in depth, adequate description or understanding of what the motivational factors are that assist with manageability of theses collisions?
    This particular section of reminds me of what we discussed about the possible relationship between throughlines and repetition compulsion and leads me to think about how adequately understanding the etiology of an individual can play such an integral role in defining not their current difficulties. In addition, we can also better understand, in relation to others, who we are, where we are going, what's important to us, etc. All of these things are what I try to take into account when working with a client (especially these kiddos) but also when evaluating my "status" which given the context I am existing in, can change. And those changes that occur are based on my past experiences wherein I was somewhat successful (or at least thought so) at accomplishing what I set out to do. How I manage at any given time is based on my past experiences of being "successful" in achieving what I want and what I want is based on some intrinsic motivating factors which I understand to be the throughline of my life which at times (more often than not) is "bundled" with the throughlines of another. Is it the effect one may have on those other throughlines that motivates persons behavior or intrinsic goals or, as I am more prone to believe, a combination of the two?
    Just some thoughts sort of jumbled but I guess somewhat coherent. Long week. See you Saturday. mk