Working at Playing, Playing at Working
Originally published on BlindAlive August 30, 2015
Children play naturally all the time if adults don’t interfere. They appear to be playing even though they are learning tremendous amounts in the process. Adults are drawn in by their cuteness to play with them. The adults don’t even know they are teaching the child because they are having so much fun.
Somewhere along the way playing becomes embarrassing. It isn’t cool anymore. I am not talking about playing a board game or video game. I am not talking about playing a sport. I mean fantasy playing or make believe like we did when we were kids, you know, like playing house, Tarzan, army, or horses. There are no toys involved. It’s a matter of becoming a different character. People in the theater are about the only ones who get to play at being something else.
I believe that my bouts of depression began in my early teens when fantasy playing went into hiding in my subconscious mind. Playing is creating in the moment and that was way too scary. What if I looked stupid? I was told, “Don’t be so silly”. I was very self-conscious at that age so pretending to be a powerful monster or a superhero was out of the question. There was no place to experience being a monster or a super hero so as they went underground the shadows of depression rose up. I became contemplative and very serious. My tribe I hung around was the tragic poet types. We talked a lot about death and broken hearts. It seemed like fun of a sort at the time but in retrospect, I see that it was a cover for my playful, creative true self.
Now a few decades later, I am aware that playing like a child is an essential tool for managing depression. It allows the evil monsters too rise up out of my subconscious. If I can feel them and they are in the front of my mind instead of deep in my subterranean self, I can dance with them that way. They become smaller and quieter. With the monsters out in front, I can know them for who they really are. They become silly and powerless over me. We can play together.
Next time, I will tell you where, when, and how I play.