Simulation and Roleplay in De-Armoring and Somatic Practices

Published: Apr 15, 2024 | Revised: Jun 10, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Angry man roleplay therapy

Simulation and roleplay used as a technique in De-Armoring can be a means to induce subconscious and/or unconscious emotions or trauma to surge fully to the surface, which gives an opportunity to analyze and digest its content.

Another important motive for simulation and roleplay is to let a traumatic event come to its completion and closure.

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The thing is that trauma is characteristically a form of “undigested emotional content.” People may have “frozen” in the moment of the disturbing event instead of “fleeing” or “fighting.” Or they “fled” instead of “fought.” Their reaction may not have been what they really would have wanted to do, which possibly fills them with repressed or suppressed, regret, guilt, shame, or anger.

According to De-Armoring concepts, the latter negative emotions should be released, which can be supported by mimicking the somatic aspects of a traumatic experience. In addition, impersonating the “desired completion” of the traumatic could be a means to find closure.

For instance, by deliberately inducing fast and shallow breathing and by assuming a certain bodily position or posture, the client/patient can simulate (bring about) the physiological effects they had at the moment of the disturbing event, which may bring forgotten memories to the surface.

Typically, the client would also try to simulate other appropriate bodily expressions connected to a certain traumatic event, such as the applicable facial expressions or vocalizing (yelling, screaming, etc.).

Roleplay performed together with the therapist (or another third party) can also be used. For example, the therapist may take the role of the abusive parent or sibling, or that of the rapist.

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Another roleplay technique used is that of the “empty chair.” The client imagines that a specific person — or an aspect of themselves — is present, “sitting” in an empty chair, which allows them to express their thoughts and feelings and investigate the traumatic event or source of emotional distress.

For instance, the client may perhaps “play” the “desired completion” of the traumatic event (s), such as screaming, crying, and physically fighting or protesting instead of being mute and “let it all happen.”

Hence, De-Armoring through somatic simulation and roleplay can release tensions, disconnectedness, holding patterns, or numbness of the body or body parts, free the accompanying “trapped” emotions, and induce Catharsis to finally digest disturbing emotional content and find relaxation of body and mind.

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