Vassia Sarantopoulou: For me, one of the most challenging moments as an entrepreneur has been the moment of the pitch. If you had a 30-sec/1-min pitch to talk about yourself and your company, what would you say?
Joana Moreira: I have a master degree in Social Psychology and a certification as a Psychodramatist. I speak 5 languages and have more than 10 years of broad professional experience in two different countries.
My last project as a counsellor and trainer focuses on the use of action methods such as spontaneous dramatization, role play and dramatic self-presentation to raise the energy of the participants and boost their inspiration. This increases their commitment in the search and development of their own potentialities.
Being able to help others, either as a counsellor, a trainer or a volunteer, is every time very gratifying, both personally and professionally. And this is one of the many reasons I consider myself a happy person.
(You can find out more about Joana at her website and her Facebook page)
VS: Joana, how difficult is it to express yourself through acting/playing/drama? And what can un-block your way to self-expression?
JM: It's funny that you ask that, because a couple of years ago, my answer would be “I can't do that!” :)
Most people think they don't have the needed skills or don't feel at ease to be on a stage. But the truth is that we can learn pretty much everything in life, and expressing ourselves through drama is a skill that we all have as children. Every child can play at pretending. They are not as self-aware as we are, they do not have as many rules to follow was we do, they do not fear judgment and failure as much as we do.
Following rules and social norms does not leave much space for imagination, for pretending to be a different person or in a different world.
I used to think I was not able to be creative because I always follow the rules. Psychodrama changed that in my life. I learned that following rules does not mean that you have only one option for each situation. You can be creative and try out several ways of dealing with a situation. And this several options do not have to stay only in your mind until you decide for one of them. You can try them out, rehearse them, express the feelings that come with it and see how does it work for you. How much further can you go? How much further would you like to risk going? What's the worse that can happen? Is it really so bad?? No, right? :)
Whether at an improv theatre, playback theatre, psychodrama, knowing that there are no limits on stage is what allows me to unlock my creativity and be spontaneous. And even then, I have the social rules and guidelines in the back of my head. We can't liberate ourselves from them, as if they weren't part of us, but we can see them as flexible boundaries.
VS: What are people's most common reactions when they hear about psychodrama? What makes them change their mind?
JM: Mainly, I get a lot of interest! Being able to express your thoughts through more than language is seen as almost revolutionary! A lot of people are not good with words. Being able to show your feelings, to have your group mates trying them out themselves and relating to you in a higher, more sensitive level, makes you feel understood and supported. As social beings, that's what we need most: understanding and support. That makes us feel integrated, part of a group and, therefore, able to relate with others.
VS: You mention in your blog that helping someone can be as simple as meeting him/her for coffee. Do you see people eager to help someone in need? What are the main reasons that people hesitate in helping others?
JM: I'm glad that you mention this subject because it is something easy to address and yet, so much in need in this moment.
I see 2 main reasons why people hesitate helping others. The first is that people are too busy and self-involved. I think we've never been so busy as individuals. We want to do so many things, everytime more, but our days don't stretch, so we have to set priorities. Helping others, especially if it's someone we don't know, will drop to the bottom of our priority list. Secondly, lack of information. There is a lot of prejudice and tabooes around homeless people, substance abusers, mentally ill people, trauma victims… Due to lack of information, people don't know how to deal with the victims of this issues. Also, people are not aware of the importance that social relations and support can have in someone's life. We are social beings and, therefore, highly dependent on social relations. If the few social relations an individual has are unhealthy, destructive or co-dependent, this puts the individual at risk. On the other hand, having someone to relate to in a healthy way, have a coffee and chat once a week can be life-changing for someone who is depressed at home or struggling to keep away from their addiction.
De Regenboog is only one of the many institutions that help socially segregated people. Their goal is to (re-)integrate everyone in our society, because everyone is entitled to a dignifying existence.
VS: I love the workshop "I am enough". Tell me what is the idea behind it.
JM: This workshop is all about being able to overcome challenges. And the very first challenge is to admit that we need help believing that we are enough! Does it make sense?
We all doubt about ourselves sometimes, about our capabilities, potential, limits… But admitting that our doubts are actually holding us back, stopping us from trying out something new, overcoming an obstacle or even pursuing our dream… That is hard! It's so much easier to find an excuse and say “I don't do it because it's not the best timing” or “I won't make it anyway, why even give it try? I know my limits!”.
"I am enough" helps you believe in your potential and skills and to see challenges as possibilities instead of threats. The only way you actually get to achieve something good and meaningful is if you give it a try. It doesn't matter if you perfectly match those job application requirements or if there's a risk of failure when investing in a dream. Nothing is ever certain in life and we don't need to be perfect to live it. We just need to embrace who we are and believe that that is just enough to reach the sky. Believe you are enough!
VS: Have your training, your studies and your experience on psychodrama helped you in your personal life, your struggles and your goals and how?
JM: Yes, of course! We all are who we are because of our life experiences. In my particular case, studying psychology and then later psychodrama has made me aware of how my upbringing and social interactions shaped my personality. I use this knowledge as a tool to develop my strengths and act on my weaknesses.
Psychodrama in particular, has a great power into this self-learning process because of its techniques: when we re-enact a life situation, we have the possibility to step out of it and see it as a spectator, or we can see and feel it from someone else's point of view (through role-reversal). These and other techniques are extremely enlightening and give us the possibility to change or act on something right there and then. We have the opportunity to create new, healthy memories in a safe environment, so then we can repeat them in real life.
Psychodrama has helped me to grow personally and professionally. It made me see that there are no limits when we have a passion and we are driven by it. It made me realize that we can be as creative as children and spontaneity is not so scary after all.
VS: And now, I would like to learn some more things about you:
What motivates you daily?
JM: Motivation is circumstantial and is not always there for us when we need it. I motivate myself by keeping myself positive. And this can happen in different ways. It can be the beautiful sunshine outside, the warm goodmorning hug my boyfriend gives me when we wake up, the thought that I'm doing something good for others, or remembering that a friend is coming to visit me very soon. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it makes me happy.
VS: Who is your role model and why?
JM: David Fonseca. He is a Portuguese artist, photographer, musician, singer and song-writer. Of course I like him because he is extremely talented. But what makes him a role model is his way of seeing the world. For him the world is an infinite source of possibilities, therefore the only certainty he has in life is that everything is yet to be achieved. He never stops pursuing the sense of accomplishment, because that's the only way he can keep being creative.
David is not afraid of trying out what no one ever tried before. He is irreverent, avant-guard in his discs, videos, concerts. He is constantly trying new combinations of sounds, instruments, images, without being afraid of failure or critics. The world is full of possibilities and we are here to try them all out!
VS: What is the most surprising thing you have ever done?
JM: One day, without any previous sign or hint that I would be willing to do so, I quit my job, sold my car and moved to the Netherlands.
I found a roof, a job, made friends, learned how to live with rain for most of the year and thought this adventure would last a couple of years. After 7 years, the adventure is still a reality I don't want to live without anymore.
VS: Thank you very much, Joana, for this great interview and for the inspiration you passed through your words.
Looking forward to working with you and helping other people express themselves and know themselves better!
Here you will find the latest news of The Anti-Loneliness Project (media, workshops, presentations). Enjoy!