Why Adults Need to Play
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A rambling essay from a clinical child psychiatrist on the significance of play in the lives of adults. Terr, whose previous works dealt with trauma and memory (Too Scared To Cry: Psychic Trauma in Childhood, 1990; Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories Lost and Found, 1994), posits that Freud, not noticeably playful himself, overlooked the power of play when he wrote that the compulsion to work and the power of love were the twofold foundation of the communal life of human beings. As a psychiatrist, Terr is convinced that play, which she defines as “activity aimed at having fun,” not only provides clues to a child’s mental state and serves as a means of therapy but also is crucial to healthy adult living. In play, she says, we forget ourselves and become free. She traces the development of play from the instinctive play and mimicry of infants through rough-and-tumble play, fantasy play, word play, games with rules, and the differences between the play of boys and girls. Remnants of early play can be found in some surprising adult activities, according to Terr, who, for example, sees class reunions, with their theme of separation and return, as a variant of the peekaboo game of babies. She distinguishes leisure from play, describing the former as “time off” and the latter as “time on,” and she warns against the dangers of overplay, citing gambling and computers as especially leading to this. Terr draws on her psychiatric practice, her reading, her family, and others she sought out and interviewed for her many stories about the importance of play in mental health and for examples of how individuals have retained a love of play and have successfully incorporated it into their work. Falling short as a user-friendly how-to book for nonplayers, Terr’s text, with its research summaries and bibliographical notes, seems more aimed at her professional colleagues than at the general reader.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-82239-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998