PREVIOUS: Inner Child Speaks, #2
See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.” Roald Dahl (writer of children’s books)
“Play is the royal road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance.” Joseph Chiltern Pearce (author of child development books)
Play with a capital P is a process, not a specific thing, which lights up our brain, benefiting us in PMES ways (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). Being a ‘whole’ person means balancing between being serious & having fun, but ACoAs tend to live in one extreme or the other – being over-responsible or under-responsible.
In general, it’s any activity someone voluntarily chooses to do (or for ACoAs to not do) because it’s fun, relaxing & enjoyable. It can include being creative, & sometimes even competitive – but without the need to win – otherwise it stops being Play. Debbie Mandel, Stress Management expert suggests that F-U-N = Feeling Uninhibited Naturally. And a formula for ‘balance’ is: Concentrated Energy + Relaxation = Healthy living.
• One of the many sad results of having a traumatic childhood is that we were & are still deprived of the joy of relaxing thru playing & having fun. As a result of our damage we fall into several categories (lifestyles) which seem very different but underneath each has the same problem – our WIC listening to the Negative Introject, believing the Toxic Rules: “Life is hard / you have to suffer / you can’t play until all your work is done / no one wants to play with you anyway / if you don’t like it you have to stay / don’t be yourself / the world is a dangerous place / you always have to struggle, but never get there!…..”
REACTION to growing up in a dysfunctional environment:
a. Many of us turned out to be compulsive, over-responsible worker bees, doing something we hate or are bored with, trudging thru life trying to be perfect, but never quite making it. No time for play, unless we consider participating in addictions as a way to relax. Obviously not real fun.
b. Some of us decided early on to give up & not really try at all. Hide & be safe, don’t rock the boat, don’t stick your neck out. No fun here.
c. And then there are those of us who are openly rebellious – the flamboyant addicts, promiscuous, belligerent, running wild, never finishing our education, never sticking to anything long enough to become accomplished, terrified of being trapped, controlled, of even committing to a book – much less a good job or relationship….
• To the rest of the world this third group may seem to be having a lot of fun. They do whatever they want, get away with ‘murder’ & play all the time. NOT SO. Sometimes even this type of ACoA may think so while in the middle of it, but it wears thin over the years, since the internal foundation is built with inferior material – not ours but what was given to us by our family & community. It’s cracked & crumbling. This is not fun.
BTW, If you identify with either the a. b or c. group, & are reading this, presumably you’re in the process of healing your wounds & working to outgrow the category. You deserve a lot of respect & encouragement!
• However, some of you may say – “I’m an ACoA & don’t fit into a. b. or c. I have a decent life I’ve carved out for myself – family, career, some accomplishments, some travel…. & I know how to have fun & play.”
Response: “GOOD! You’ve used your own native skill & drive to achieve these things, & have a lot to show for it. BUT – how’s your anxiety level? Are you free of addictions, perfectionism & S-H? Are you content & relaxed? Or do you over-do for others & under-feel – for yourself?”
LAUNDRY LIST of ACoA False Self characteristics related to this topic:
ACoAs guess at what normal is. Here ‘Normal’ means healthy, as opposed to ‘average’. We don’t realize that playing, relaxing & having fun are a legitimate & important part of being healthy, happy & well-balanced. “All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy”. There is even a tribe in Papua New Guinea that frowns on sex and bans play. Anthropologists have been trying to study them for years with no success until recently – because they considered this tribe too dull! (MORE…) Scholars don’t know why the tribe developed this philosophy, but it’s not one we should emulate!
ACoAs over-react to changes they can’t control.
Genuine play allows us to be in the moment, not knowing the outcome, not having to be right or perfect and not “forcing solutions”. For exp, when children play they often change the ‘rules’ (which they made up in the first place) anytime they feel like it. Adult play doesn’t always have to follow pre-set rules either, & they can be thrown out the window if it’s more fun to not use them. This is hard to allow ourselves. Children need things to be stable & predictable in their every-day life, with clear rules & boundaries, something in very short supply in most dysfunctional homes. Chaos was the order of the day for us, so now we try to keep everything under tight control, which doesn’t fit in with playing.
ACoAs have difficulty with intimate relationships.
Everyone needs a certain amount of connection with other people, but the amount depends on one’s developmental stage, personality & on what’s going on in one’s life at the moment. And while it’s perfectly normal & acceptable to play alone, playing with others requires a certain capacity for intimacy* to be ‘successful’ – since being in authentic play-mode means being able to express the True Self without shame or reservation. This is not easy because our True Self got shrouded in shame & self-hate, making it hard for us to ‘let loose’ & to let others get emotionally close to us. ACoAs are more likely to put others in double binds: “I hate you – Don’t leave me!” OR “I need you – Don’t touch me!”
*INTIMACY: (IN-TO-ME-YOU-SEE) “Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature / marked by informality & familiarity; something deeply personal, private, or secret”. In relation to others, it’s the ability to connect your ‘deepest nature’ with safe & appropriate others, because you know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Real You, so you’re not afraid of letting it be seen.
NEXT: ACoAs & Play (Part 2)