The Value of Play as a Source of Healing

Play is an Act of Growth and Healing
Children learn through play. I have spent a lot of time with children over the years and at any age play is the most valuable learning experience a child can be exposed to. Playful children are more flexible, more willing to participate in their own learning, more curious, and more creative.

value of play

Few would disagree that children need play time in order to learn and grow. It seems counter intuitive, however, that popular culture strongly encourages children to play, while at the same time discouraging it in adults. It seems there comes a time when play is no longer viewed as valuable act of learning. At some point  between the ages of 16 -22 (this may vary by location and demographic) we expect individuals to give up play and replace it with work. Society teaches us to judge adults who are playful and encourages us to use the word childish as an insult.

Who determines this arbitrary age cut off? And why? What are we giving up when we adopt the “mature adult” attitude that play is for children and that we need to “get serious” about life? At what point does play stop being a valuable and viable tool for learning and personal growth?

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Among the many serious problems our society faces I think that inhibiting playfulness in adults is one of the most important we individuals can address in our lifetime. If we truly value ingenuity, creativity, innovation and problem solving then we should be encouraging adults to play regularly. Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, believed that the instinct to play is a natural part of what it means to be human. To suppress this instinct (as we do with so many other natural urges) can cause conflict within the individual psyche – a battle between the intellectual, conscious mind and the instinctual, unconscious mind.

Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith … In contrast to the subjectivism of the conscious mind, the unconscious is objective, manifesting itself mainly in the form of contrary feelings, fantasies, emotions, impulses and dreams, none of which one makes oneself, but which come upon one objectively … (Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self)

Jung understood that instincts are more than just blind, indefinite impulses. They help us respond to our external environment, they are tools for adaptation and survival. In this way we are no different from any creature in the animal kingdom. Our instincts serve a purpose and can help keep us in balance with the rest of Creation.

These biological considerations naturally apply also to Homo sapiens, who still remains within the framework of general biology despite the possession of consciousness, will, and reason. The fact that our conscious activity is rooted in instinct and derives from it its dynamism, as well as the basic features of its ideational forms, has the same significance for human psychology as for all other members of the animal kingdom. (Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self)

What can we do to bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind? How can we heal the separation between instinct and intellect?…

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Playfulness is an instinct that should not be suppressed or restricted regularly. Giving in to your desire to play can have a many healing benefits.

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Play not only helps us learn it can also decrease stress and anxiety and keep us feeling “young at heart.” It encourages other healthy activities such as laughing and smiling. Think about the last playful encounter you had. What did it feel like during the play time? How about afterwards? The positive effects of play don’t simply stop when you finish playing, much like putting gasoline into the tank of your car, giving yourself some time to play gives you extra energy to carry you through the day. I personally feel much more motivated to work after I have had a good time doing something I truly enjoy and just being silly, relaxed and joyful from time to time.

Happiness and playfulness are actually good for productivity. I’m not the only person who has noticed this correlation. Research suggests companies that try to make employees happy could benefit from improved levels of productivity. According to this article from The Guardian, Happy People Really Do Work Harder, it can be both productive and profitable for companies to give their employees some time on the clock to relax and enjoy themselves. Just a short break and some laughter can really make a difference in the way people approach their work! Some of what was “discovered” in this research is so intuitive that I can’t help but roll my eyes…

“We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity,” the team said. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.”

Gee, ya think?

Of course adult human beings are more productive when they are happy and have enough time to play! It is the same with other species and young children, why would human adults be the exception?

Release your Inner Child

Our Society is a Reflection of Our Individual Thoughts and Feelings
What we project is what we get. I recommend that each of us take the time to reverse the negative effects of suppressing playfulness by taking time to release and heal our inner child.

We all have a child within. Your inner child is your innocence, your capacity for joy, amusement, playfulness, excitement and your sense of wonder. By taking time to heal this aspect of yourSelf you can learn to forgive yourself for past mistakes and move on in a healthy way. You may also learn the invaluable lesson of the importance of self love and acceptance.

If you feel like you have forgotten how to be playful you probably need to work with your inner child. As a healer I work with my clients in this capacity using various techniques (such as Tarot reading, Reiki healing, guided meditation and yoga, you can visit my website for more info on this: www.thejoyfullotus.com). I find inner child work very rewarding for both myself and my clients. I see so many people who have trouble releasing emotions such as fear, pain, frustration, disappointment anger and disgust. These heavy, dense emotions harden and sink deep to the bottom of the unconscious, where they wreak all sorts of havoc on the person’s mental, emotional, spiritually and even physical well being. The practices I use help to break apart these dense emotions so that they can be released or recycled into energy the person can once again use for healing and growth.

This video is a wonderful guide to using the Hawaiian healing technique called Ho’oPonopono. The video is just under 4 minutes long, and if practiced daily for a week or more it can have profound effects on your mental, emotional and spiritual well being.

I Want to Hear From You!
What is your experience with Ho’oPonopono? What are some other effective techniques for releasing the inner child, increasing your willingness to play and explore, or healing in general? 

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We each have a role to “play” not just do or work…place the emphasis on the word play and watch this quote transform into something truly powerful.

At the end of the day it is up to each of us how we live our lives. We must ask ourselves, “what do I want my my experience to be like?” The answer may change from day to day (even moment to moment) so it is important that we check in with ourselves regularly.

Do I play enough?
Does the style of play I have chosen motivate and inspire me?
How can increase my happiness and overall sense of well being? 
Do I honor both my intellectual mind AND my instinctual drives?
How can I promote balance in my life?

Help Heal the Planet by Healing Yourself
Healing is a process with no end goal. Wellness is a state in which all aspects of the Self  (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual) are in harmony with one another and the environment. The more of us who experience a state of optimal well being the more our entire planet heals and shifts into a new paradigm where the inseparable connection between individual and collective health is not only recognized and respected.

May each of us find the strength, wisdom and compassion to heal ourselves and others.
May we once again skip and play and view the world through the eyes of a child,
with wonder and awe.
May this post promote happiness and healing in the World.

Namaste,

Kay

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4 responses to “The Value of Play as a Source of Healing

  1. This is great. I believe in healing through play. Elijah’s Autism has him play differently than other children mostly which he is beginning to engage with other children with toys. His way of play is very healing. Running in the woods, climbing tires, jumping and swinging are all things we can highly benefit from. My favorite play time with him is when he finds a beautiful stream to play in. Sand between the toes :). Yes I just need to keep going back to my inner child in these moments!

  2. I have often thought about this too and wondered how people could act so ‘adult’ and be so serious all the time (as it seems to me). As an adult, I will still have a go on the swings at the park, for example, and tend to imagine adults as either the swinging type or not. There are some people I could never imagine on the swings! Then of course there are those I couldn’t imagine and then they surprise me. I guess many people are held back by trying to fit into a box and maybe they have forgotten how freeing play is?

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