Sunday, January 07, 2007


Do you know how to play? That may sound like an odd question but so many of us who had difficult childhoods find that as adults we don’t play. We do things. We are responsible. There’s always something we SHOULD be doing. Rarely do we just play and if we do, we’re likely to feel antsy and believe we should be working on something useful instead. On some level we often feel that only by doing something can we justify our existence.

Ironically, if we allow ourselves to play, we will be more productive when we work and may well accomplish much more than if we didn’t let ourselves play. We are more likely to think of solutions to problems and ways to cope with the challenges in our lives.

It’s not uncommon for those of us who had difficult childhoods to realize one day that we don’t know how to play. Or, rather, more accurately odds are we have forgotten. If we go back far enough in our memories there was usually a time when we knew how to play before we were scolded out of it or told we didn’t deserve to play and came to believe it. On a subconscious level we may still believe it.

The epiphany that sometimes breaks this barrier is one someone I know had recently. She thought about how she would talk to and/or raise a child. She realized that of course she would want the child to laugh and play! Of course she would think he or she deserved to be able to do so! Of course she would want to see that child laughing and giggling and having fun! Wouldn't we all feel this way? And then she realized that SHE deserved to be able to laugh and giggle and have fun, too. She's right. She deserves to be able to do those things. In fact, we all do.

Does that make sense to you? Do you wonder, though, where to begin? For me it was to imagine a safe and beautiful place in my mind and imagine teaching the child I was how to play and picturing her flying kites, rolling around with puppies, eating ice cream cones (and not worrying about the mess!), coloring, splashing in the lake or ocean, dancing and singing and playing with friends.

It is a funny thing but when we love and cherish and nurture the child we once were, the adult us grows and feels safer and more loved as well. And we all need that—to be loved and nurtured and cherished—and accepted just as we are. When we can treat ourselves this way we are also more likely to be able to treat those around us this way. And if we can nurture and love ourselves then we are less vulnerable to the unkindness of or rejection by others. We are more likely to draw into our circle people who also are able to love themselves and therefore treat us with kindness and respect, too. We can be ourselves and not feel we have to meet the expectations of everyone around us. you know how to play? If you do—wonderful! If not, what could you do today that would be fun? If you can’t think of anything—and there was a time in my life when I didn’t know how to play either (or wouldn’t let myself)—then maybe begin in your imagination teaching the child inside how to play. No one will know and it won’t cost anything or even have to take much time. And it will be a start that could have a profound impact on your life.

Sending safe and gentle (and playful!) (((((((hugs))))))),


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I do find that this is an issue for me. I can play now in certain instances, mostly with young children in the family. But, the mindframe isn't there. There is very much a sense, instead, of, as you say, having to be responsible. Its a losing of one's inner voice and desires. Hmmm, something to think about. Thanks!

April_optimist said...


For me, it began with teaching the child inside to play--in my imagination. Because there it was safe, there no one could say it wasn't okay. And that taught me the power of play. I could see in my every day life the change it made when I would do that. And I realized that letting myself play like a child, even if only in my mind, made me a much better, much more responsible adult.