Advances and New Directions

By Silvano Arieti; H. Keith H. Brodie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25

ADULT PLAY: ITS ROLE
IN MENTAL HEALTH
Norman Tabachnick THE PHRASE "adult play" is almost incongruous. While we know that many adults do play, playing seems inappropriate, even slightly sinful, for grown-ups. Playing properly belongs to childhood. Sometimes it even seems to be the main business of childhood. Yet the word "business" suggests an ambiguity. For "play" evokes visions of fun while "business" implies sustained effort directed toward important goals. So perhaps play is more serious for children than is at first apparent, and perhaps the notion that play is not important in adult life should be reconsidered.There are several questions dealing with the development and role of "play" in adulthood :
1. Does play disappear in adult life? If so, what are the reasons for it?
2. If play continues—to what degree does it persist in adult life?
3. Does play undergo certain developments or transformations in adult life? Should we develop an epigenesis of play?
4. Finally, can play be revived in adult life? What value might result from such an achievement?

Even the definition of play contains problems, for "play" is difficult to encompass within one set of concepts or specific formulas. To play is to experiment and create— yet it is not as serious as to be an Experimenter or Creator. For to play implies that the participants are not to be held to account either for what happens during the play or for the product of the play. To play means to enjoy one's self by acting whimsically. One need not play according to some set pattern. (Games with rules may be different from play or they may be a special form of play.) But one can choose to repeat certain roles and this can also constitute play.

One can play alone (yet strongly experience one's relationship to others). And one can play with others (and although that interplay is intense, one can at the same time create highly personal fantasies). One can

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