Get to know your inner bear(s), inner Ziggy(s), inner whatever(s)

I am 36 years old, and I play with stuffed toy bears. Some stare at me like I am looney. Some scoff. Others tell me they cannot share my posts with bears because it is not professional enough for their networks. But why not?

Enoch Li


They mock me for being insane; I laugh because I know they know not.

British psychologist Oliver James has no idea I exist in this world. I would not expect him to. I know of him and have read his books and articles (if you have not, I suggest you do and start with Affluenza). His recent work, Upping You Ziggy, resonates with me — he says we need to introspect and write out all our different personas, confront them, process them, and own them. Unbeknownst to him, I have been dealing with my Inner Ziggy for a few years now, but in form of stuffed toy bears.

I have the Bearachive to prove it. Go on, take a look…. 40 bears. 40 different facets of me. 40 different personas I have. All part and parcel of my complex personality.

James asks us to write down our personas and give them names. Another way is to create personas like I did with toys. Or draw them. Or build them with paper clips.

Here is one way of doing it:

(1) Think of something you liked as a child and was so dear to you that you would never let it go. Example: a yellow cube

(2) Why did you like it so much? What was the toy like? How does it make you feel? Example: coz it was yellow, and so perfect as a square, and when I hold it, I feel safe

(3) How does this toy remind you of yourself now? Example: I like wearing yellow, yellow makes me happy, the cube makes me feel like everything is certain and perfect, yellow is bright and catches everyone’s attention, the cube looks the same from every side but if you cut it open it is rotten wood…. et cetera et cetera

(4) What does this say about the hidden personalities you wish others would not know about you? Example: I like being center of attention i.e. my Vanity; I pretend everything is perfect i.e. my Delusion & Denial; under the pretense of being easy-going, I have hidden OCD and control freakiness; I have the inner bitch beneath the veneer of friendliness…

You get the gist.

What’s your inner bear?

I had taken James’ ideas further by externalizing these personas. I am tired of repeating my story, but here it is again. I was burn out, lost, confused. I had clinical depression. Nearly killed myself. Moped about for years. Had therapy, anti-depressants, acupuncture, blah blah blah, the whole suite… But crossing to the other side and finding myself was through a stuffed toy bear. Yeh, you heard me right. Those furry, fluffy stuff that are deemed childish, girlish, unprofessional were the ones who helped me walk out of depression.

It was safer for me to see myself from a distance. Every bear represented different parts of my personality — the parts I did not like, the parts I feared, the parts I did not want to admit, the parts I would like to reinforce…. It provided me with a platform to expose my vulnerabilities to myself, and then to be able to open up to others, reinforcing my resilience through the process.

I created, what psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, would call the transitional space through engaging with these bears — the space between illusion and reality, a space where creativity thrives. I let my imagination run in the space, with the help of these bears that are simply, objects. Christopher Bollas would understand how such objects in different shapes and forms encompass not just the aesthetics, but sentimental and emotional values that create meanings.

This is playfulness. This is where self-awareness came along. This is how you can reinvent yourself: by understanding yourself through your toys and objects, knowing who you are inside, all the fears, the shadows, the shit, all of it!

You call it childishness — I call it maturity.

People told me Bearapy would not work — I say everyone needs a dose of playfulness.

They said play is for children — I say adults need it more.

Today you may be embarrassed for me, tomorrow (or maybe the day after) you would wish you had reposted/shared the article when I asked for your help. I always remember those who have been kind and helpful to me.

This projection process is one step closer to become a more self-aware person. This is how you deal with the demons. This is how you accept yourself and makes you more effective in whatever you do and however you lead.

Find your inner bear, inner Ziggy, inner whatever. But find it, talk to it, love it, hate it, embrace it and let it be known.

Originally published at on July 31, 2017.

Enoch Li

Written by

Enoch Li

Founder of Bearapy. Mental Health & Play Consultant. Executive Mental Well-being expert — avoid burnout, depression and anxiety. Finds wisdom in Dr Seuss.

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