Sat at a picnic table with a red bicycle lying discarded in the grass . A pair of open scissors. Eating from my plate when a female lion cub jumps up onto the table in front of me. She clearly wants to play. She is beautiful and radiating energy, but I’m nervous. I’m scared she will maul me with her claws in her exuberance. I move backwards, bringing my plate with me to protect it. I need to eat.
The images of my dream so vivid, that they were definitely trying to tell me something:
The bicycle symbolic of a need for more leisure time.
The open scissors suggesting I’m being pulled in too many directions.
The cub, my subconscious desire for childish play.
Yet my reaction so telling. I’m fearful of play. I need to make money – food. I must provide: work not play.
We are all so serious. Our culture has been shifting and changing and Dr.Stuart Brown feels we have definitely lost something. He has the proof that play builds our creativity and problem solving skills, it improves our relationships, our emotional intelligence and it brings us joy.
He notes that work is not the opposite of ‘play’, but that a life devoid of play is more akin to ‘depression’ and with its alarming rise in our society, its got to be worth further investigation.
What is Play?
“It’s a state of being.” Brown says “purposeless, fun and pleasurable.” If the purpose is more important, chances are, it’s not play.
It comes in different types; body, rough and tumble, social, imaginative-solo, spectral, competitive and ritual.
Play is all around us even as adults, sports, books, films, day dreaming, flirting, dancing, if not done purely for a defined purpose, are all play.
Nothing “lights the brain up more than play” says Brown it’s never a waste of time, but one of the most essential developing things we can do.
It is as vital as sleeping and dreaming.
How can we play more as adults?
Reconnect with Play
Stuart Brown asks us to look at our own play histories.
Last week my Food For Thursday Selfology prompt was:
“Where and what did you play as a child?”
The responses were a real mix of beautiful sepia images of bubbles and hula hoops. Making perfume out of rose petals and organised games in the street with what felt like the whole neighborhood. These mixed with the memories of time spent in solitude fixing, building and being drawn to an older crowd. Of being in bed early while the summer sun was still shining and feeling like you were missing out, as the voices of the other kids playing outside carried through the air. The acute feeling of not belonging. Of rejection. Of being outside the group game.
One of my favourite bloggers the awesome Lotte Lane responded with:
“I used to put on plays, make ‘potions’ in the sink using my mum’s toiletries (foundation squirted from the tube makes great worms), write stories, paint pictures and practice shouting”
This just about sums up Lotte’s fabulous writing now as an adult. Her blog ‘living out loud’ screaming for attention as she shares her most authentic self.
Stuart Brown asks us to dig chronologically backwards to how we played as children and to ask how that connects to us now. For success and happiness he infers that we should embrace and encourage that connection.
I’ve never been comfortable with goofing around. ‘Childish’ an insult. ‘Being silly’ actively discouraged.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t austere. My sisters and I played. I have very fond memories of growing up. Yet, being thrown up in the air, getting carried away with the giggles, rough housing with my Dad and generally being silly, always ended in tears.
Maybe that’s something to explore as a block to my ‘playfulness’.
One of my favourite imagination games was to play alone, pretending to be deep in the forest surviving by myself lighting imaginary fires and hugging a cup of soup. My sisters and I also liked to play under tented cities.
I can see parallels in how fierce my independence streak can be, how I often feel cut off, could certainly ask for more help and how I hide my ‘playful’ side.
As the eldest of three girls I pretty much always took the lead. My sister likes to recall the time when playing schools, I finally allowed her to be the teacher, before shortly announcing I was headmistress. Being my own boss for the last 7 years has definitely been the right choice.
Growing up I always wrote and illustrated my own stories and feel in flow writing and choosing images for my blogs.
Those connections have certainly made a difference to my life.
You can sign up below for my free Thursday Selfology prompts and if you haven’t seen Stuart Brown’s TED Talk “Play Is More Than Just Fun” I really recommend it, even if just for the first 3 minutes, in which he shows how ‘play’ can overcome a polar bear’s killing instinct. Powerful stuff.
What can you learn from your childhood games and how can you connect that back to your life now?
Image altered original Photo Credit