PLAY-ing EXPERTS (Part 2)

wise owl - 2
“Play help us be the best we can be!”


QUOTE:  If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play. ~ Actor John Cleese


Piaget (1962)
wrote that children learn primarily by doing, & that Play is the main way they take in their surroundings, absorb it into their thinking about the world, & use it as psychic nourishment. It’s what Maria Montessori called the “absorbent mind of the child”: they soak up their environment, and by taking it in, they become it.

Karen Hutchison is a play advocate and expert, teaching at Rowan University, & the U.S. delegate for the International Play Association’s “Right To Play” Award in 2012.
She’s concerned that in recent years Play is under attack. It’s being curtailed in the U.S. by parents trying to protect their kids from harm or over-scheduling their ‘free time’, while schools are cutting recess for economic reasons. Since the 1970s, kids have lost, on average, 9 hours of free playtime a week!
She messy playcommented: “True play is unstructured. It’s messy & it’s child-initiated. Not allowing them to go onto the playground to get scraped knees & even broken arms – is doing more harm, by preventing them from learning what they can or can’t do. Experience is the best teacher. That’s what play is all about.” (MORE….)

Johan Huizinga
, the Dutch historian, cultural theorist & professor, wrote in “Playing Man” (1938) – Play as an important component of culture & society. The book lists general RULES:
> Play is free, & is in fact, freedom
> Play is not ‘ordinary’ or ‘real life’, separate in both location
> Play creates order, is absolute & supreme order, demands order
> Play is connected with no material interest, & no profit is gained from circle

Huizinga considered it to be a most basic human function, calling it the ‘magic circle’ of human activity permeating all cultures from the beginning, expressed in creative language.
“Play is older than culture, for culture always presupposes human society, & animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.”  One of the most important characteristics of play is that it’s fun.

• He noted that Play “absorbs the participant intensely & utterly…. proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time & space, according to fixed rules, in an orderly manner. Both free & structured play are meant to promote adaptive social behaviors & enjoyment, even though many adults consider the ‘loose’ type (unstructured) as a waste of time.
It promotes the formation of social groupings that tend to surround themselves with secrecy & stress the difference from the common world by disguise or other means.”

Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist & one-time student of Freud, felt that access to the unconscious archetypal energies could provide the blueprint for profound change, when allowed to surface (conscious ego).
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct, acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves….. Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.”sand play

• An extension of his work is SAND PLAY, originally developed by Margaret Lowenfeld in the 1930’s. It’s a self-directed learning & therapeutic tool that emphasizes nonverbal, symbolic work in sand, similar to dreamwork, believed to tap into very deep levels of consciousness that helps heal and enlighten

Frank Salamone is a prolific anthropologist & writer. His book Society, Culture, Leisure and Play: An Anthropological Reference” (2000) is a collection of 42 articles about the many facets of leisure, taken from his almost 30 years experience in the field, ranging from adornment to weaving, with considerable depth about music and the other arts.

Gary Chickanthropologist at Pennsylvania State U, focused his studies on the non‐Western cross‐cultural validity of the concept of leisure (Article)


PLAY-ing EXPERTS (Part 1)

clever owl

“It’s good for us to play”

PREVIOUS: Childhood Play – Stages (#2)

ARTICLE: “The Importance of Play


: Some of us may still think this topic is frivolous, not to be taken seriously. We seem to be even more afflicted than most people with the ‘Adult Syndrome’ – which is not seeing ‘nearby objects of amusement’, oblivious to the possibilities of joy

In fact, each of us DO have the ability to draw on a happiness & sense of humor that comes from inside. But we’ve been so conditioned to work hard, to suffer & shut up about it! that we can’t imagine ‘letting go’. It makes us uncomfortable, squirming in our seats.
You can’t ask us to just sit around & relax, do nothing, & try to have fun. For some that’s pure sacrilege, for others blatant disobedience

SO – it might helpful to read what some of the many students of Human Nature have to say about Play.

“Free play”, the purest form, is what kids are designed to do – imaginative, independent, self-motivated & unstructured – where children initiate their own games, & even invent their own rules.

Free play is critical for “becoming socially adept – allowing children to develop competence, exercise self-control, follow rules, form interests, learn to –animal play get along with others, make decisions, make friends, regulate their emotions & solve problems” – without being traumatized! WOW.

Research into animal behavior confirms Play’s benefits, establishing its developmental importance: Playing & being playful provide animals & humans with skills that help them survive & reproduce

EXP: According to the AMA, when adults take a vacation from work, even a 4-day weekend, we’re more inventive, productive & healthier (fewer sick days) when we return
> And, a study led by Princeton researcher Alan Krueger found that people are at their happiest when involved in leisure activities

• There are many books, articles & whole organizations focused on PLAY, such as — The American Journal of Play, The National Institute for Play, the National Museum of Play, the National Toy Hall of Fame, The Strong (educational institution studying play, in upstate NY), the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the International Play Association, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games…..

Many of the most prominent researchers in the field of psychology (Freud, Jung, Piaget, W. James, Lev Vygotsky….) considered Play an intrinsic part of being Human, & had strong views on how important it is to child developmentFreud
Freud regarded play as the way children accomplish their first great cultural & psychological achievements – noting how well & easily it allows them to expressing their thoughts & emotions

This is true even for an infant who may ‘only’ be returning its mother’s smile, called Attunement Play. He believed that young children could be unaware of or overwhelmed by their emotions, except by acting them out in play-fantasy.
> Other psychoanalysts noticed how children use play to work through & master quite complicated psychological problems of their experiences, which led to Play Therapy.

Dr. Stuart Brown, psychiatrist, in the late 1960s, was assigned to evaluate Charles Whitman of the University of Texas Tower massacre, & later interviewed 26 convicted Texas murderers for a small pilot study.

He discovered that most of the killers, including Whitman, shared two abuse/no playthings in common: they were from abusive families, and they never played as kids.

Since then he’s talked extensively to almost 6,000 people about their childhood, & again found “that a lack of opportunities for unstructured, imaginative play can keep children from growing into happy, well-adjusted adults.”  At age 76 he’s still hooked on playing. (TED Talk)

Research by Jenkins & Astington, 2000 / Leslie, 1987 / Singer & Singer, 1990 & 2005 – showed that make-believe (Pretend) play is closely related to the “Theory of Mind”. This important concept has to do with an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other people, and that each of us is capable of a variety of perspectives.

NEXT: Play-ing Experts (#2)

Family INVENTORIES – Purpose (Part 2)

fam inventory 

ignorance is NOT bliss

PREVIOUS: Family Inventory (Part 1)

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


• Being trapped in unhealthy emotional/mental states (listed in 2b.) keeps us choosing or being chosen by people who are abusive or unavailable, and then staying with them because we compulsively blame ourselves for any pain they cause by their damage.

This happens because we keep using Self-Hate (S-H) to explain away someone else’s bad behavior (“It’s my fault / I should have / If only I had”… ), no matter how obvious it may be to others that we’re allowing ourselves to be victimized.

It’s useful to remember that all S-H is a defense mechanism. Its purpose is to ‘protect’ us from being fully aware of our childhood traumas & other abandoning experiences, but all it really does is add more pain to the original pile, by believing we caused our suffering

Of course it’s very important to do our own personal inventories (next post), but without a clear picture of our early life, much of what we end up writing is steeped in S-H & hopelessness. Therefore it’s imperative to first have an accurate understanding of all the relevant people we grew up with, because we absorbed their words, actios-h alonens & emotions into ourselves. This absorption became our Introject.

Every person has one, but not everyone’s Introject is a PP (pig parent / accusatory voice) – only those of us who come from damaging families. Without enough healing (deep FoO work), this Harsh Voice is the only one the WIC takes as absolute gospel, the cruel guide we use to identify who we are, even tho’ it’s not our original voice AND is a complete liar!

• Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, & even when he is old he will not depart from it”.
Unfortunately, those of us from unhealthy backgrounds have absorbed a distorted, self-defeating programming – most obvious in our CDs, which include S-H.

This brain-wiring is so strong that it takes much effort & repetition to change – mainly because it is kept locked in place by a great deal of emotional pain, which needs to be cleaned out. Most people don’t have the guts & patience to revisit & process old emotions, even if that refusal causes havoc to themselves and others.

• But for those of us with the willingness & proper support – we greatly benefit form carefully identifying what originally happened to us & around us. It allows us toinventory understand – & accept – that our childhood suffering was caused by the damage already present in our caretakers, and therefore could not have possibly been our responsibility, nor our fault!

It bears repeating: This awareness (The 3 C’s: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it” – problems in OTHERS) will gradually lessen our need for S-H, as we stop denying the width & breadth of our own original loss in all 4 layers of PMES. This becomes a great victory over our dis-ease!

• All of our struggles to heal & flourish are contingent on outgrowing the toxic family training (via S & I), but before we can do it thoroughly we have to SEE what that training entails. We have to know which city we’re traveling from -and to- before we can book a ticket, yet ACoAs have a built-in denial system that makes it hard to know what state we’re in much less what city! We need a map & some guide books to our destination. Inventories help.

• Psychologists, Sociologists & Spiritual teachers tell us how important it to know ‘where we come from’, what our cultural & spiritual history is & how all of humanity is ONE.
Yet ACoAs have a painful sense of not belonging anywhere – no matter what environment we’re in. This is because our parents’ narcissism made it very hard to feel wanted & loved, only getting judgement & impossible demands. And we figure that if they didn’t take care of us properly nor want us exactly the way we were – then why would anyone else?


S & I : Healthy Individuation (Part 1)

healthy S & I 

is unique but not alone!

PREVIOUS: S & I  – Separation

SITE: “Extroverts & Introverts…”


• Individuation is the ‘normal’ search for our True Self – our essence & goal of life.  In the past, mystics called it : the ascent of the soul, the alchemy of the soul, or enlightenment. Carl Jung believed that the nature of humans is to constantly develop, grow & move toward a level of completeness, which can only be done from the inside (opposite of co-dependence).

It’s the progressive development of our own voice, throughout life by trial & error, involving many successes as well as failures & frustrations.
Just like Separation – Healthy Individuation includes keeping our attachment & connection to others (children & parents, mentors & protégés, friendships, mates….) without enmeshment or fusion, in a delicate balance

• Putting Self-Actualizing needs in the foreground, Individuation is to ‘own’ at least 51% of ourselves, by having combined Ego & Shadow, & therefore freed ourselves of the Superego’s tyranny (Negative Introject).
The rest is made up of heredity + all our family & social experiences, traditions & religion.  And, because Individuation is ongoing, there’s a periodic need to return to earlier developmental stages – to heal deeper & deeper layers of unfinished business. At the same time, the truer we are to our Real Self, the more INternally motivated we become

• Successful Separation & Individuation requires an intact Ego – the center of our conscious awareness. While giving a sense of uniqueness, the Ego lets us know that we’re just like all other humans – a part of a larger whole.

In Jungian terms, the Self is the main archetype in the Collective Unconscious, for order & organization, unifying different aspects of personality. Therefore it’s of a higher order than Ego – made up of both conscious (ego = public face) & unconscious (shadow= primitive impulses such as selfishness, greed, envy…..)

✶ Shadow :  For Jung, both constructive & destructive forces exist in the human psyche, requiring psychological integration. To become fully actualized – at the top of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”- we have to be aware of & accept all our parts.
Ironically, for ACoAs, much of what also gets shunted off into our Shadow are the good parts of ourselves which were not accepted or allowed in our family & society! Having normal human needs such as wanting attention, intense emotions, our own way of thinking & doing things, being heard & respected…. were punished or so controlled that we end up forgetting them OR hating ourselves when they surface

• Jung believed that we don’t suddenly make a conscious decision to free ourselves from the herd, with its well-worn paths, in order to go our own way – ie. to Individuate.
Instead, the deciding influence is an irrational factor he called “vocation – like a law of God from which there is no escape”. It’s the Ego’s response to a call from the unconscious, whether we like it or not

• Based on personal & professional experience, he concluded that Individuation happens in the second half of life, when people reach the pinnacle & suddenly find themselves facing an unknown possibility or unexpected upheaval.
This turning point usually is crisis in mid-life (not necessarily something bad), that upsets the status quo, causing a shift in perspective :
new way– a financial failure    – a health problem
– a broken relationship or a death
– a change of residence or profession
– a message from powerful dreams & fantasies, creating
a deep yearning or call to change direction
– profound self-doubt, loss of meaning or religious conviction
– questioning of everything previously held as important, valuable or precious

• Then the essence of the personality moves from Ego toward Self, trying to form a new center. Parts that were ignored or under-developed (interests, talents, characteristics, experiences, issues…) may ‘suddenly’ want to be acknowledged
What was:
– fragmented now strives for unity  – broken now yearns for wholeness
– neglected now seeks expression   – formless now starts to take shape

While these changes can be very surprising & uncomfortable, shifting the ground under us, we intuitively feel they fit our deeply ingrained uniqueness

PS: Many psychologists now argue that while Individuation may be a natural outcome of age & experience, it can also be brought on sooner by deep therapy, but it’s mainly considered a life-long journey, which starts soon after birth.

MASLOW's needs

NEXT: Healthy Individuation (Part 2)

‘Controlling’ & Abandonment (Part 1)

baby controling 

so now I force it out of others!


 Acronym PAGE for abbrev.


ABANDONMENT (A.) as SOURCE of Control Issues
• To understand being controlled or acting controlling, we have to know the underpinnings, which come from our original abandonment experiences.  In common usage, a person is said to be A. when someone physically leaves us – moving away, a break-up, divorce, long or repeated hospitalizations, death…..

However, based on ACoA experience we know this definition is too limited. When we observe little kids – ours or others – we notice how very needy they are.  This is perfectly normal, in spite of what we ACoAs were told growing up = that we were too much, too selfish, a bother, too sensitive, dramatic …. We got the clear message that at best we were being tolerated!

• A broader & more accurate definition of Abandonment is: “Not getting enough of our needs met in childhood”.  This includes all needs on each of the 4 levels of PMES – Physical, Mental, Emotional & Spiritual. We can also say that A. is not being loved unconditionally, with the resulting loss of genuine connection so crucial to a child’s sense of well-being & safety.sad/scared

• Picture all children as having 100 different needs in each of the PMES categories (total 400 – an arbitrary number, as an example). Then consider the reality that in a severely dysfunctional family each kid only gets a small percentage of those needs met – just enough to survive. Of course some of us got more, while others didn’t even get that much & have died too young as a result!

Depending on birth order, gender & personality,  different siblings received differing amounts in each category. But over all, let’s say that we were only provided with 30 – 40% of our normal human needs – when we were the most fragile & in need of great care. Children are very often favored because their ‘native’ style is similar to the parent, or rejected by the narcissists because the child was not like them!

EXP: A pathological narcissist “mentally-oriented” father who incested each of his children in varying degrees, (4 boys & 1 girl) was slightly less abusive towards the one child who was also “mentally-oriented”.  This son is the only sibling who was able to forge a decent life for himself (as a doctor), but not without emotional scars. The others became addicts, severe under-achievers &/or criminals.

• With no validation & nowhere to process the emotional pain, it all goes underground & slowly eats away at us. Toxic Beliefs then get ingrained.
This distorted thinking combined with a great backlog of unmet needs – has left us with an overwhelming desperation to be ‘fed’ by someone, anyone – along with the deep hopelessness of it ever happening. Pretending we don’t have needs, or suppressing our awareness of them does not make them go away.

SHADOW : To survive & not ‘go crazy”, many of those ignored childhood requirements get pushed into our ‘shadow’ – made up of every part of ourselves we were taught were so awful – we have to deny their very existence.

In Jungian psychology the shadow aspect is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, instincts & shortcominshadow sidegs…. “Everyone carries a shadow, & the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker & denser it is.
It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind” (Jung-Myers Model + A Case Study & chart)

➼ Unfortunately for us, ACoAs not only relegate our ‘unpleasant’ aspects (such as the ‘7 Deadly Sins’) to Shadow, but also many of our good qualities – anything that were not allowed in our family!

We become so terrified of these aspects & actively, we use a wide variety of defenses & addictions to keep them hidden.  But the more we suppress legitimate needs the more anxiety builds. Sooner or later they leak out or erupt in distorted ways, like being clingy, invisible, manipulative, irresponsible, vague, needy….. AND/ OR controlling, mean, demanding, domineering, promiscuous, pushy…
Sad IRONY: The more we suppress – the needier (& meaner) we get!

NEXT: Controlling & A. (Part 2)