Blowing Off Some Steam


Rich talked about recreation this week, which is an awful lot like play, though maybe a little bit different. It’s the fancy adult word we use for play, though in this case Rich talked about a particular kind of playful activity, namely play as a restorative force. Restorative, but not restful.

On my planet, to rest is to rest. To cease using energy. To me, it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass using energy instead of saving it.” ~Spock (TOS: Shore Leave)

Ben TrubeRecreational restorative play has three functions: to help us to grieve and work out frustration, to flex our strengths and to return us to ourselves. Today I’m going to focus on the first of these, play as a way to re-direct or work out anger, frustration, guilt, etc.

I, like most adult males, occasionally have days that make me want to punch something. But I’m a civilized 21st century male who wears fancy dress pants (though not a tie), and who must attempt to avoid beating the people who annoy me senseless.

So I play video games.

Or at least I used to when I had time. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a first person shooter for venting off anger. This isn’t exactly flexing a strength; while I’m a capable player, I by no means am a match for elite players, or even particularly difficult AI’s. But wandering through an alien ship, taking out biological anomalies can be satisfying.

The only problem is, this form of recreation can equally cause you to loose track of time, or the feeling in certain fingers and in your behind. It can ramp up feelings as well as diffuse them. Now believe me, I’m not a pro or anti-gaming evangelist, but it is a popular way for people of my age and our time to deal with stress and attempt to recreate.

I have tried to channel feelings into productive energy for writing. This has varying degrees of success. Usually it only works when how I’m feeling corresponds to what I’m trying to write. Otherwise it’s hard to convert distracting energy into something useful. And truthfully, writing isn’t really recreation for me, it’s a passion and a job.

I’ve personally found that walking around and doing something physical can help, even something as simple as walking the dog, though there is part of me that resists for some reason the idea that physical activity has any effect on my mood or my energy. I think it is the downfall of having both programming and writing as passions to believe that every problem can be solved inside my head. Even the video game to a certain degree is a much more mental activity than a physical one.

When I was in college I sang in the Men’s Glee Club. I felt this was essential (in addition to being fun) because it forced me to think in a different way than I usually was, and it was physical in that there was breath control, and even the shape of one’s throat to think about. You had to use your ears to listen to everyone around you, and produce the correct notes on your own, eventually off book.

I think it’s important to have something, anything, that gets you thinking and doing differently than what it is you do the rest of the week. It makes you a more well rounded person, and it helps prevent getting stuck in ruts. What works for me may work for you, or more likely something else. The key is, to allow yourself time for these recreations, and not always to feel like you should be getting something done, or doing something productive. Even as a guy who’d like to write 20-30 books in my lifetime, there’s time to walk the dog.

– Spock to Kirk, declining shore leave

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