Play-acting needs to be learned – Role-playing in Blitzdefence for women

Before we address the topic of role-playing let's say something about the so-called role-briefing. This involves the selection of a scenario which is as realistic as possible, and in which different situations can be practiced with widely varied roles and without fear after relatively short rehearsal or even ad hoc.

The aim of these preparatory exercises is:

- to encourage the participants to take the role-playing exercise seriously

- to practice the verbal content and individual physical actions

- to encourage realism

- and to prepare them for enactment of the whole scenario.

These preparatory exercises must be done as carefully as possible, as they make certain demands on the "role-players". They must not be seen as "games", as they contain strong emotional aspects and must be well assimilated in the interests of the other participants.

In recent years role-playing has become a working method which is used in a wide variety of professional fields. In the educational field it is recognised and used as a tool in both training and further education (e.g. in pre-school classes, universities, adult education etc.) Role-playing is also used as a diagnostic and training tool in the personnel management sector, e.g. to simulate business situations and in assessment centres.

So what is role-playing?

It is very difficult to come up with a specific, firm definition, and even experts are unable to agree on one. In simple terms role-playing helps us to learn or develop certain behaviour patterns by way of "compartmentalised thinking". For example, if a police officer encounters a situation he has never experienced before, he may react inappropriately or find himself at a loss because he is familiar with several situations but not this specific one.

Two different situations can represent two different compartments. The more compartments we are familiar with, the greater the chance of coping with even more complex situations. Four eyes see more than two, as we all know. But being familiar with six compartments also means being equipped to cope with six situations successfully. Being able to handle situations better therefore requires training. Certain behavioural patterns must be "practiced" in the form of what police instructors call "training sequences".

The aims of role-playing:

The aim is for the role-player herself to experience and feel what is at stake when she seriously concerns herself with her fellow role-players and the roles they have adopted. She must develop an understanding for the roles of others, become conscious of her own imagination, study new behaviour patterns and learn to adopt them, lose her fear of being proactive in front of others, learn to use the thoughts and associations generated by the situation spontaneously, be able to translate her newly acquired knowledge into action in the situation and, above all, learn to solve problems.

Unfortunately there are always women who say, "I can't bring myself to hurt the 'attacker' now, but in a serious situation I would really let him have it". Sadly my police and training experience confirms that this is not what happens. Anybody who is unable to get to grips with a role-playing situation will certainly have no chance of prevailing in a situation involving enormous stress. Women might wish that it were otherwise, but unfortunately this only occurs in very rare cases.

We can therefore say that the general aim of role-playing exercises is to acquire skills in responding to social situations on a role-related basis. Conducting role-playing exercises always require a person who is familiar with role-play procedures, competent in the subject and extremely sensitive. This particularly applies where the participants are women who have been crime victims in the past.

Emanuel Kellert

Next month: Practical role-playing examples