PIAJI

2012

The opposite of play is not seriousness but reality, even if children like to prop their imaginary objects on visible, tangible ones. Such propping is precisely what distinguishes playing from fantasizing; as the child grows up, it is left behind. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g), Freud told how he observed his one-and-a-half-year-old grandson repeating in an active way—by making a wooden reel attached to a string alternately disappear and reappear—what he had had to experience passively, namely the departure of his mother; the pleasure derived from this game allowed the child to work over the unpleasurable experience of his mother’s absence. In Freud’s view, the compulsion to repeat that operated “beyond the pleasure principle” and the child’s tendency to seek immediate pleasure through play were intimately linked. Today it is felt that play indeed helps the child tolerate the absence of an object, that it implies the cathexis of a representation: the boy with his reel successfully converts absence into nostalgia.