I recently watched an inspiring Ted Talk by Dr. Lois Holzman on the critical importance of play for our human growth at every age. She points out that we need playing to get ourselves, our relationships, and our world unstuck.
WOW, playing is a serious matter.
As a psychotherapist, working to break out of the roles and identities that keep us stuck inspires me. Playing is such a powerful way to do just that.
Here’s a slice from the last week of playing with my clients:
-In group therapy, a client shared how he likes to sit away from the rest of group as a ‘safety net’. His identity is as someone who needs protection from others. After talking about this for a bit, group members started switching their seats to change perspective. In playing a kind of adult musical chairs, we discovered something about giving support in new ways while challenging our labels and of fears.
-A couple came in asking for help with the same fight they perform over and over (sound familiar?). We practiced jumping up and down and talking gibberish once that fight starts. This pointless activity helped us break up the couple’s pattern and to discover news ways of disagreeing.
-An impromptu game erupted with a 10-year-old client struggling with anger at adults. He led us in a game called walking-on-rocks-in-a-pond (my office rug was the pond); our job was to walk across the pond on the rocks avoiding all the snakes in the water. This was an intimate scene we created that was not about fixing or stopping his anger - the beauty in the activity is that it did not have to be about anything! And no I did not nor did I want to interpret the symbolism of the snakes J I just was present with him and had fun, even though one snake almost got us.
My clients and I had fun, and playing is also very hard. Playing exposes our humanity – our not knowing, silliness, not looking all put together. That’s our shot at developing the world and ourselves!
This October I am excited to attend Performing The World, a professional international conference on playing, that Dr. Holzman and colleagues convene biannually in NYC. This is a conference like no other: rigorous and playful. Join me. Let’s all break out and play together!