In 1984, when Colombia hosted an International Family Therapy Congress, I was asked to produce and present an innovative technique suitable for use in family counselling, and thus began the development of The Play of Life, which utilises a miniature theatre format for problem evaluation and conflict resolution.
The Play of Life is the product of many years of professional practice in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling and business consultancy. It consolidates both my professional and personal life experiences and can be applied to many varied situations.
Based on solid theoretical principles, this expressive and visual technique, The Play of Life is a practical evaluative tool applied through solution-oriented methodology.
On a board, small figurines and necessary props are used to depict a person’s reality. Simply, the stage is set to visually express thoughts and feelings pertaining to relational issues. Step by step, presenting undesired circumstances are defined, and possibilities for desired change are realized. Positive action is required to manifest these changes and then to maintain the new reality.
My approach in developing The Play of Life is drawn from the convergence of several forces that grew within me over many years. At one particularly difficult point in life, I found myself at a place where complete re-evaluation was necessary. The relational, intellectual and spiritual foundations on which I stood did not seem to be enough to sustain my existence. I had to discover, or rediscover the essential pillars that gave me strength, meaning, and purpose.
In random order, there was an awareness of my desire to love and be loved, my parents’ teachings, the chats with Tito Maldonado, the discovery of Relationship Mapping (Sociometry) with J.G. Rojas-Bermudez and my meeting with Francis Schaeffer, a philosopher and theologian who helped me discover transcendent values in life.
The experience of love and the teachings from my parents and grandparents, gave me the belief that healing and personal growth are dependent on interpersonal relationships. I realised that the healing process is a relational process; one made effective when people truly communicate with each other and participate in social interaction. One of my teachers once said, “We are mostly sick due to the effect of other people on our lives. We therefore, can be healed by the effect of people as well”.
Naturally so, this belief in healing through interaction and action needs to incorporate others be it a mentor or a wise friend, supportive group or the ideal, reassuring family. With whom will I live? With whom will I enjoy life? Who will I include in my healing process? What job or profession should I choose? These are important questions. What is needed is the skill of discernment in choosing the appropriate people with whom to relate and share our life and times.
The Play of Life is a practical tool for determining the right relationships that enrich our lives. It uses Relationship Mapping
to facilitate a quick understanding of situations beyond words, and discovers healthy alternatives for dealing with issues and achieving desired outcomes.
In developing this method, I feel I have created a broad parameter for understanding interpersonal relationships. I have also been enriched with the art of creativity and spontaneity and this, in itself, has enhanced my personal growth, freedom and satisfaction in life.
The teachings of my teachers, F A Schaeffer and Dr J G Rojas-Bermudez in particular, have helped me learn two major concepts.
- Firstly, I believe people have imprinted within them an archetypal model of their absolute best, as well as an impression of the very worst they could become, I still believe that this is due to relational experiences of hurt and pain, often unresolved. It is within our wisdom to identify (insight) these contrasting forces and and which one to feed them appropriately. I remember once my father, observing my inappropriate behaviour and confronting me, saying (what its known in many traditions) “Carlos, you have inside you two forces, one that wants to destroy and one that wants to create. The force you feed the most, the one you put more energy into will naturally be the strongest force, and it will be the one that wins. Just think, which one have you fed with this action?” As the attraction for a destructive force has always been strong within me, I have to find ways to exercise and feed the creative force within me.
- Secondly, I am convinced that people have imprinted within them the need to find core values (consciousness) and the certainty that life will “flow” when there is a meeting of the person and those values. Some call that Spirituality, that can be defined as “the force of life that moves towards identity, purpose and meaning”. This is not a religious thought, but a vital life concept!
It may be assumed that if there is an internal need for identity, purpose and meaning, anyone seeking truth and wisdom will ultimately find it. Thus, if a person could learn ways to clearly and honestly see where they are, then obtain the skill of finding where they could eventually be, they may just find that “first step” towards wholeness and fulfilment. While the very same skill could be used to assess steps towards desolation and death, it could also be used to avoid them. As a learning tool, The Play of Life provides a way for making strategic decisions in life.
Karl Jung clearly speaks of this imprint of a model of wholeness existing in the collective as well as the individual. Every family, group, and community has a spiritual force flowing through them that allows those members who actively search for it to know their individual and collective ultimate potential. The basic spiritual force imprinted in the person is a healing dynamic that provides them with personal power and life-giving assurance.
In using The Play of Life, healing is quickened and maximized. This simple tool provides a platform for closely and respectfully accompanying the player by closely revealing “where they are” and guiding them towards a better future. Yet, to be able to change, one must first acknowledge the need to do so. Being willing to change but not being able to gives cause for worry, resulting in the workaholic. The Play of Life offers the workaholic not only awareness, but also empowerment to change.
It provides a “first step” towards learning new roles, new ways of living life and not just surviving.
We must understand the need to create a space in time for silent stillness, disengagement from activity and thoughtful reflection. For some people, it can be very difficult to stop and assess life. For these people, lack of movement creates a perception of a loss of equilibrium. They are deafened by the silence and continue to live life walking on a tight rope. Instead of choosing to stop, the STOP unfortunately comes to them; through sickness, a breakdown and/or an accident.
The Play of Life is a relevant tool, often acting as a warning signal. It enables a person to make the choice to actually STOP, SEE, REFLECT and then PROCEED with healthy alternatives for dealing with negative issues in life. Before these negative issues culminate in life threatening results such as heart attacks or burnout.
The Play of Life enhances independence, assertion and greater self-control. An individual alone, together with another or in a group may follow the steps towards self-discovery, goal-setting and personal development. By mapping out their relationships they are able to assess interpersonal dynamics, understand social networks and achieve a real sense of wholeness.
The Play of Life is highly effective in the following three contexts:
- Self-Help, for individuals at work or at home dealing with relational issues.
- Human Resource Management, Counselling and Education; as a coaching method for professional use in team-
building as well as for interpersonal, student and marriage counselling.
- Corporate Training, for human resource development, executive coaching, dealing with personnel concerns, team-building and conflict resolution.
Regardless, The Play of Life offers tools for identifying ways to become a better person. The ultimate goal is for personal growth, with this comes stronger relationships with others and facilitation of their improvement as well.
The Play of Life helps to turn negative relationships into positive experiences. It is a practical evaluative tool applied through solution-focussed methods.
Enjoy and grow!
Carlos A. Raimundo