One of the things I believe in most is the value of play in our lives. I met Lianne while “playing” one weekend. Her smile told me that we were both in on the secret – that play really matters. Find out why she knows it’s true and how you can have more of it in your life.
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”
-Hereclitus (500 BC)
I just spent a couple weeks with my nephew and niece who are 5 and 4 years old. Such a delight to be around beings whose first imperative when they wake up in the morning is to play. They didn’t wake us up, or ask for food – nope – the first order of the day was play. I delighted in lying in bed in the morning and just listening in on their play. “I’ll be a princess and you be a zombie and then we’ll get married.” Only in play can you get that kind of a perfect match!
We probably need more words for play, but the play I’m discussing is not the type of play that we think of when we think of sports or video games or those horrible group building activities they make us do at corporate trainings. True play is a completely spontaneous activity that arises when conditions are right. Having said that, it is much more about one’s state of mind than any particular activity. Play can not be demanded or commanded.
True Play has the following characteristics:
- no agenda
- deep immersion/pretend /fantasy
Why we need True Play
1. Play is where the self is truly expressed.
It is during play that we nurture our interests, uncover our core dynamics and work through deep emotions. It is often therapeutic in a way we aren’t even aware of.
“Play is the royal road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance.”
- Joseph Chilton Pearce
2. Play is where creativity most often shows up.
When we let go of outcome based activity our brains are freer to explore all possibilities. (Like Princesses and Zombies getting married.)
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct.”
- Carl Jung
3. Play is the ground for growth and development.
Play allows us to deepen and develop our sense of agency, practice at life without consequences and learn abut ourselves.
“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” – D. W. Winnicott
What we need to play
1. Rest – both psychological and physical – if we are overly anxious or overly tired, the chance for spontaneous play to happen is slight.
2. Freedom – from the need to produce, freedom from the work ethic and freedom from outcomes
3. Love – acceptance of who we are unconditionally so we can be fully unselfconscious and not preoccupied with pleasing anyone
Creating the conditions which allow play to happen is often about removing the things that get in the way of our Rest, Freedom and Love.
Impediments to Play
- lack of acceptance
- loss of connection
- desire to please others
I truly believe that the answers to some of our most pressing problems will only be found in play. I encourage everyone to do what they can to increase the conditions for play for themselves and others in our world. As our culture stands right now it is a force against play. Be a countercultural force of acceptance and connection to help counteract the shame and defendedness that interfere with play. Let’s be a field where play can bloom.
Lianne Raymond is a personal coach and teacher who works with women to reconnect with their wild, intuitive selves. She loves to creat conditions for play and is currently doing just that in a new online course she is offering with Julie Daley. Find out more about it at WildSoul Book Club.