"What will you discover when you explore your inner world?"
It would be so nice when that one person would say the words you really want to hear: I see you. Maybe it's your father telling you, that he's proud of you. Maybe it's your mother, telling you that she can now see how certain things in your childhood have been very painful. Or maybe it's your partner, who can see how hard you've tried and how difficult it is. Sure others can tell you this. But hearing it from them would make a huge difference, wouldn't it?
We often wish to get something from people who can’t give it to us. Sometimes because they are dead. More often however we are entangled in a system in which it is impossible for others to express the things we so long to hear. Sometimes we are in some sort of conflict and the other (like us) wants to be heard first. Sometimes when we talk about our feelings and wishes, the others hear that they did something wrong and start to defend themselves. The person we really want us to acknowledge our feelings, thoughts and wishes is so often not able to give it.
The last ten years I’ve made people feel that I was their father, mother, partner, boss, colleague or child. I could see the immediate change when I changed from listening as Hugo to listening as the person who’s attention they really wanted. Some started crying tears of joy, for finally getting what they always wanted. Some were able to seriously reduce stress, because their anger / fear / pain were finally taken seriously. Some were able to say the things that could never been able to express before. Not hindered with what would hold back the real father, mother or partner, they would finally find that one person really listen to them and give them the empathy they wanted.
Clarity is the second gift that role play offers. When I play your father, mother or partner I start saying things about what is happening with the person I play. Sometimes this is a reaction to the way you behave. When you pull back, the person I play will cross your boundaries. When you are angry, I may feel guilty. Other reactions can not be explained as easily. I’ve said things that (according the people I worked with) were very accurate. “That’s exactly what he would say,” people said. Sometimes that included my gestures, tone of voice and even accent. And without ‘guiding’ what I was saying, I told them exactly, what they needed to hear. Often it was an answer to a question, that the real person would or could never answer. And sometimes an interesting surprise.
The body doesn’t lie. 9 years ago I experienced the enormous power of role play myself. I had shared about my son and how I missed him. I could sense that there was something painful deep inside of me. At the same time I noticed that I did not experience any emotions. I asked a woman to play the role of my son Daniël. The moment she started playing the role, there was an immediate change. First of all it was as if he was physically present. The interesting thing is, that everybody (4 more) present said (afterwards) that they could almost touch the connection. And ... I could finally feel emotions. I felt the joy of being connected. I could feel the pain, that he was so far away in real life. And we could talk. We even talked about things, that we never talked about in real life. With every minute this woman played my son, I felt how my body relaxed more and more.
In Role Play many things I’ve done come together including more than 30 years of impro theater. I started playing these roles live. The last years I also offer them online using programs like Skype. I even successfully used only text in a chat program. Who would you like to hear your thoughts, feelings and wishes?