It’s a bit odd for me to be writing about how to play, because I’ve never been very good at it—or, at least, for years I did not consider myself someone who “played.” I’m a classic introvert, which means that I lose energy by being around people—I renew my energy by spending time alone. This means that I can enjoy going out with other people, but after a couple of hours I’m ready to go home and recuperate. I’m not that person who goes from house to house or bar to bar on a weekend evening.
Another characteristic of an introvert is our avoidance of an activity if we do not feel competent to do it. This is why I always hated games at parties, where I might be put on the spot. Also, many games require that you think fast, and an introvert’s mental processes do not happen quickly (this has been documented in scientific studies), especially when in the presence of others. We tend not to be the life of the party because we become tongue-tied at the simplest questions. If you pose a question to me and then allow me to go somewhere to think it over, I’ll bring back a brilliant answer. But please don’t require me to come up with a rhyme or a movie title while a timer is ticking and 10 people are staring at me.
It took years for me to understand that play comes in many forms and that I can discover ways to play regardless of my personality type. I know that good recreation for me is a walk along the lakefront or through a city neighborhood, where I can go at my own pace and take in what I see and hear. Often I’m happy to do this kind of recreation by myself.
My husband Jim and I have made multiple camping trips with children and teenagers. I really enjoyed this, but it worked better for me when we had multiple kids who could entertain one another at least part of the time. And Jim would go with them to do something, leaving me at the camp to work on the meal or general housekeeping—or I would go with them for a while, leaving him to grocery shop or work on the fire (he and I are both introverts). So we had our family time, but we managed it so that it was truly recreational for everybody.
I consider it a form of play when I walk the dog or get down on the floor with one or more of the cats. It doesn’t take a lot of energy, but I’m moving and enjoying myself and feeling no pressure.
Please consider your temperament when you plan your recreation. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into multiple events that do not attract you. Of course we must all go to events out of obligation sometimes, especially if we’re with children or grandchildren. But we owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones to give ourselves experiences that fit our needs and that help us play in a way that feels like play.
What have you learned over the years about personality type and recreation? Please share your wisdom.