Articles and exercises

Personal and Cultural Relationships

This exercise will give you a clearer picture of your thinking and where to go next.

I would like you to make three diagrams; these will be three atoms that show how you feel about your life at the time of completing the exercise. They are called the role or personal atom, the social atom and the cultural atom.

The Social, Cultural and Role Atoms are based on the work of psychologist and founder of psychodrama J.L.Moreno who argued that a human being’s survival depends on the health of their position in the social and cultural web of relationships that gives individuals a sense of belonging and perspective.

The Social Atom charts the people, friends, family, work colleagues, we relate to, in order of closeness. This enables us to reflect on whom we would want to draw closer to us, and who is moving away. 

The Role Atom gives us the opportunity to recognise the roles we play, take on, are given and create in our lives - for example, cook, singer, victim, wife, belly dancer, writer etc.

The Cultural Atom is composed of the influences that contribute to a person’s sense of belonging in the world and these can act as reference points that give meaning to our lives. Such things as dancing, reiki, member of a club or society, medieval reinactment group. Once we understand this meaning, we can further enrich our lives through the choices we make, and nurture our sense of identity and spiritual well being.

For each exercise take a sheet of paper, minimum A4, and draw three consecutive circles beginning with a smaller one in the centre and going to the largest at the outside, this is your atom and you are at the centre. For each atom anything or person who is in the centre is closest to you in some way, those farthest away or with the least influence are on the outer circle. You can use any other marks or arrows you choose to show if they are moving towards or away from you, if the influence is positive or negative etc.  Begin with your social atom.

Here is part of a role atom to give you the idea.


Now move on to the role atom and then your cultural atom.

I look forward to hearing your response. Remember this is how you feel at the time of completing the diagrams. You may well feel differently at another time. You can do this exercise whenever you feel it may be useful.