The StaGe of Mind has been designed as a long-term programm with some planned interruptions, such as during holidays and breaks. During its first implementation, the project partners identifyied that those interruptions could pose challenges for participants, causing a break in the continuity of the program, leading to potential issues.
It is important to understand the concept of interruption, which derives from the Latin word ‘interruptio,’ meaning a breaking off or interval. Regardless of whether an interruption is planned or unplanned, it can stir up a range of emotional reactions and dynamics in individuals. For example, participants may relive past separations, leading to painful feelings such as fear of rejection, abandonment, separation anxiety and frustration (Greenson, 1967, Tampouri, 2020).
The difficulty of mentally processing the above leads the person to resort to the use of defense mechanisms, e.g., withdrawal, acting out (McWilliams, 1994, Tampouri, 2020). Indeed, one way of externalizing the anxiety provoked in participants by the temporary interruption of the program has been the tendency to miss the first meetings after the summer, to “forget” to come back or even to abandon the program definitively (Greenson, 1967, Tampouri, 2020).
This is a phenomenon that the Greek project partners have faced when, after the program stopped for the summer vacations, six of the participants did not return: some of them, due to personal reasons, decided not to come back again, others took some time to process the previous anxieties and therefore took some time to return. These absences and drop outs may also be related to the stress of performing in front of an audience, which possible acted as an additional stressor for participants who were aware that the final goal of the programme was to present a theatre play in a local theatre. This is something that some participants express verbally on a later stage, also in the Spanish and Irish groups.
In dealing with these challenges, it was important to build trust within the group and create a safe and inclusive environment. This can help develop commitment among participants, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing anxiety.
One good practice developed by the Greek team to deal with the absence of some members was to integrate it into the script, creating the role of the narrator, who could narrate the words of the absent ones as well. This role allowed participants who were absent to have their words heard and their roles in the group and the show to remain. This approach provided an opportunity for participants to process their anxieties and for the group to process the absence.
In conclusion, interruptions in programs such as StaGe of Mind can pose challenges for participants, and it is crucial to recognize and address the emotional reactions and dynamics that arise. By building trust and creating a safe and inclusive environment, programs can help foster commitment and support participants in their personal and emotional development.
Cover photo by Paweł L. on Pexels