How Play Conjures a Positive Company Culture

Written by
Anne Brassier
Published on
May 25, 2022
Being playful at work is a good thing. Fact! It promotes innovation, creativity, collaboration, communication and all-round employee happiness.

In 1960 British pediatrician and psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, proposed that humans have a true and a false self. While the false self can be useful, it allows people to fit into society and behave ‘as expected’, it’s also a façade that conceals the true self. That true self is, by contrast, spontaneous, free and child-like. You probably guessed that being your true self is the way of being that leads to a happier life.

Winnicott’s concept of true and false selves connects to his views on play - that play helps people be their true self and only the true self is capable of creativity. Play is “an important path by which clients could gain awareness into their authentic emotional selves... reveal the uninhibited child within and rediscover a true sense of being.” (Good Therapy)

Being authentic or fake are concepts familiar to us. A few minutes on social media will provide a crash course, as the worlds of wellbeing and self-help place the notion of authenticity front and center.

However, it’s fair to say that most of us don some kind of mask or façade for work. But it’s not entirely fake, not a version of you that your friends and family wouldn’t recognise. It is an edited version of you nonetheless and as Winnicott said, that way of being is useful to a certain extent, but if the true self is buried deep, under layers of repression and expectation, it causes conflict within us.

Recognising our true self and allowing it out to play has many benefits. The true self, much like a child with a piece of blank paper to scribble on, isn’t daunted by creativity because it’s not overly concerned with failure. If a child doesn’t like their drawing, they crumple it up and start again. As adults, the creative process becomes a little more constipated! So there are huge benefits to incorporating play at work – colleagues will talk more openly and believe in their ability to think creatively. This means better working relationships and free-flowing innovative thinking!

Self-promo! A very good way to bring meaningful play into work is with Abracademy! Choose sessions that focus on a theme, for example confidence, communication, collaboration or wellbeing. Contact our Mind Master, Priya to find out more.

Further reading

While Winnicott’s theory of true and false self is significant, he is by no means the first or last to explore the concept. If you’d like to read more, try Freud (of course), Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Karen Horney, Jung and his personas and, more recently, Susie Orbach’s false bodies.

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