Christmas always elicits fond memories from my childhood.
But today, as a parent, I turn my attention towards my children and find great joy in watching them revel in anticipation of Santa and the presents under the tree.
As a psychologist, one of my goals is to help clients bring their life back into balance.
However, this Christmas, my children are reminding me of a strategy that not only allows people to feel more balanced but helps them to get in touch with their true, authentic selves.
The strategy that my fantastic five-year-old twins are reminding me of is the value of play, and the role that fun has in reducing stress and bringing me back to my true self.
Winnicott and the Power of Play
Donald Winnicott (1896-1971) was a child psychiatrist who talked about the concept of True self versus False self. He says that everybody is born with a True Self – the happy, innocent, problem-free, creative, curious, and playful human qualities that are most evident in childhood.
Over time, though, as the child gets older and becomes an adult, the child loses connection with their True Self. What then emerges is a False Self. The False Self is the part that’s often associated with being orderly, mannerly, proper, and behaving in ways that will help the person fit into society.
What’s important to remember is that the role of the False Self is to protect the True Self. The False Self emerges to help the child (or adult) cope with their environment.
A person’s True Self never goes away. It only remains hidden and covered up by the False Self.
Play Exposes the True Self
Winnicott strongly believed that when an adult engages in any activity that resembles play, it helps the adult reconnect with their true, authentic self. In other words, the True Self emerges when we find activities that allow us to have fun.
Whether it’s engaging in physical activity (such as playing a sport, participating in fitness classes), being creative (painting, drawing, writing, listening to music, singing backup vocals to your favourite tune), hanging out with friends, or playing board games. Any different activities that remove you from your day-to-day world can help you to connect with your authentic self.
When you spend time connecting and having fun with your children (whether they are two years old or 30-years old), you bring yourself back down to a younger level, which helps you reconnect with your True Self.
And when you spend time playing and doing activities that bring a sense of enjoyment and pleasure to your life, you are reducing stress and bringing yourself back into a more balanced state.
I hope your Christmas and the holiday season allow you to laugh and play and provide you with an opportunity to reconnect with your True Self.