Coaching For Child-like States With Clients: Mask Work/Role Playing

Mask work and role playing with clients often frees them to move effortlessly and expressively from emotion to emotion, bypassing the censuring, conscious mind.
Just as children do.

Kids move from laughter to tears to anger to fear effortlessly and fluidly. The child falls off his scooter, and cries.
He hears the sounds of the ice cream truck, bounces up and asks if she can have an ice-cream.
The fall and the pain both forgotten in the new emotional state.

By using masks and “roles” as a personae (fig leaf?) in my coaching, clients are able to express deepest goals, selves and blocks, unself- consciously, without the burden of familiar language and responses or thought.

Their multiple sub-personalities are free to express and contradict and enjoy the play of laughter, crying, arguing, being fearful.

How did this approach to coaching start?

As a playwright and theatre director with the Stage One Theater Lab (Boston, New York, Copenhagen), our intent as performers was to create dramatic situations, performances that brought about childlike emotional and physical states in the audience.

We wanted our audiences to experience these emotional states from happiness to sorrow, bypassing the intellect, the thought process.
Ours was a direct theater, a “poor” theatre in that it relied on few props, costumes, and only the trained actor for making direct contact with the audience’s emotions and feelings.

Coaching seemed a natural extension of this kind of “play.”
I’m still testing this out, but I can see that the client enjoys the process of playing the many parts of herself, and does so with fascinatingly different voices and vocal qualities.

They are quite taken with the process, are fully present and relaxed during and after the session.

What often follows, are easier session where we are both more comfortably, and can fully access emotional states and, by extension, issues.
The process is less strained, and new, fresher impulses arise leading to productive considerations of new perspectives on old issues.

In many ways, The work is the Play.