The Powerful Atom
Remember when your science teacher taught you that an atom is the smallest unit of matter that contains the properties of an element? In social psychology, we look to J.L. Moreno who taught that the smallest unit of humankind is not self, but the social atom: self + essential relationships. No man is an island.
A social atom is a drawing to scale of relationships—a way to illuminate to whom we are closest and how we stand within our people world. Social atoms can be used to visually depict our links to family, friends, coworkers—any society.
In group, we draw a social atom for our family-of-origin. You may wonder why, as adults, it’s important to visit childhood. You may wonder, can’t we just look forward and let all that stuff be? We can, but it’s important to be aware of what we carry with us as we move forward. Exactly, what did we inherit from our family of origin?
An honest visit into our history by creating a social atom is an effective tool for analyzing how our place within our family of origin may affect us. We observe patterns, special bonds, gaps in our support system, or wounds. It serves as a reminder of where many of the beliefs we hold about ourselves originated. By highlighting limiting beliefs assigned to us by others, we can challenge notions that impede our progress. Conversely, we can be grateful for the people who made us feel loved.
We can move forward, empowered to make decisions, unencumbered. A social atom serves as a reality check and provides the knowledge we need to select who brings positive energy into our lives and who doesn’t. We can move people closer to us, or distance them—something that may not have been available to us as a child.