Playing with Uncertainty

How your unconscious can help you overcome life’s challenges

Everyone remembers those English composition classes in school, those classic topics: “What is your favourite toy and why?” “How would you change the world?” “What did you want to be when you grew-up?” and “What is your ideal life like?”

Such questions send us to our fantasy world, knowing that not everything we conjure up on paper will become tangible reality. However, we dared to imagine, creating a world of boundless possibilities and endless wonder in our minds.

Somehow, as we grow up, we lose the ability to create, for sake of rationality and to be seen as “grown up”. Yet, by doing so, we are in effect, suppressing innate powerful neural pathways in our brains that could aid in our creativity and problem-solving as adults.

We face uncertainties everyday, from things we do not think twice about (e.g. will the water come out of the tap ?), to trivial issues (e.g. would I have a parking space at the office building?), to pertinent dilemmas (e.g. would my boss give me the promotion?), to societal challenges (e.g. who will become the next president)… All are question marks in our brain, whether we are conscious of them or not.

But, the sense of uncertainty returns .

There is an alternative: tapping into our phantasies through playful means to cope with such uncertainties.

projections of uncertainties onto objects

Uncertainties could engender a sense of anxiety, or being overwhelmed and stressed out. We do not know the next course of action, or who to turn to for advice. We do not know if our decisions would be “right”, or what unforeseen backlashes might surface. Most of us have methods to de-stress such as going to the gym, running, meditation, yoga…

Phantasy with a “ph” denotes fantasies that are in our unconscious minds — those dreams and imagined realms that we do not even know we have. The ability to access them gives us more data and insights into our psyche and therefore tools to cope with the anxiety caused by uncertainties. One way of accessing our phantasies is through object-play: playing with tangible things.

In a recent workshop my partner and I facilitated, we helped individuals project their uncertainties onto objects and then explore them in order to make sense of their felt experience & explore previously unseen choices. Participants used a variety of materials to build their uncertainties, making what were in their minds into concrete forms that they could see, feel, sense, smell, and touch. Throughout the process, participants dug into their memories and realized ideas from childhood, or discovered ah-ha moments they did not even imagine — their phantasies.

Let yourselves journey into phantasy through play.

At the close, most had different perspectives towards their uncertain issues, and some even thought of solutions or possible outcomes.

Our childhood imagination that explored the impossible, with the piece of crumpled paper that resembled a fortress, clouds on a summers day that resembled animals or our childhood paintings that looked like treasure maps — this is the power that could help us as adults, if we would only let ourselves.

Originally published at on July 4, 2017.

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