Play Becomes Developmental Work

We are often so focused on trying to meet our basic survival, belonging, and self-esteem needs to try to fit into society, that we rarely get the opportunity in our lives to go beyond them and explore our higher level needs of autonomy and creativity to truly figure out how we want to stand out in our lives in a unique way.

Only by truly playing in a deeper, meaningful, developmental sense can we go beyond that which is known to us and explore the unknown of ourselves, discovering and releasing the untapped potential within us that’s dying to be lived.

All too often we pass on what is unfinished in ourselves to be lived out by our children.

The psychological work lies in coming to terms with the ghosts of our unlived lives. Not our grief for what we wanted and have missed for ourselves. Not a laying to rest of adolescent ambitions. The mystery of the psyche is that we are haunted not by what we want out of life, but by what life wants out of us. We can never lay these unlived potentials to rest. Relentlessly they seek to be lived out, regardless of how deeply we bury them. Working nine to five may be an essential adaptation for working in an urban culture, but just how well does it suit us to the instinctual energies patterned in the psyche? Learning to live out only what our parents could tolerate may have been an essential relationship to our families growing up, but just how well does it suit us to the yearnings still waiting to be played out deep within?

What backs up is our unlived life—the life energy that is unspent, the possibilities left unexplored. That’s what haunts us. In the shadow of our daylight preoccupations, the ghosts of our unlived life huddle, caged like prisoners rattling their chains. They strain and push and clamor to be released. Not only the ghosts of what could have been in our life, but the spirit of what may be. And it’s inconvenient; inconvenient to always be making room for the ghosts, always to be making room for more. You settle into a career, only to confront a restless urge for pottery. You settle into a predictable attitude about life and what it’s about, only to find yourself pushed from every side to think again. You arrange the psychological furniture in your personality the way you want it, but wake up in the morning to find the ghosts have rearranged it yet again. Always something more wants to emerge.

What we’re encountering with these “ghosts” are patterns of psychic energy—patterns that want to be lived out, enacted, brought into life. “Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole.” These patterns yearn to be set in motion and fulfilled.

It is the yearning for development, for evolution. What emerges in play wants to go somewhere. Play becomes developmental work.

Living Myth: Personal Meaning as a Way of Life

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for The Adventure of Your Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

Leave a Reply