topic: It’s your turn! – playfully supporting tranformations

Transformations – a concern for all of us

“Es muss das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne, um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern in an`dre neue Bindungen zu geben. Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, der uns beschützt und der uns hilft zu leben…”

(“The heart must submit itself courageously to life’s call without a hint of grief, A magic dwells in each beginning, protecting us, telling us how to live…”)  

Hermann Hesse: „Stufen“

For all of us, birth is the starting point for a time of transformation. It is our first great transition in which we enter the world.  We are now called upon to acquire it, to discover our sense of self and to become ourselves. It is a matter that cannot be evaded. It’s our turn!

Transition objects, such as comfort blankets, dolls and teddy bears help us to feel more comfortable to venture out more and more in the first months of our life, to move away from the familiar (mother/father) in freedom. Transitional objects are our first companions, protectors, friends, consolers and playfellows.

Transformational periods in life are plentiful: Starting school, vocational training, partnership, the first child, changing jobs, the death of close relatives, are all examples of further personally significant thresholds with which life challenges us. But not only that, our sense of time is also shaped by transitions: birthdays, turn of the year, seasons, bedtime stories and our morning habits. We often shape them through small rituals and thus structure our everyday rhythm.

Transformations – personally significant

Transitions are places and times in which we move and gain momentum. There is no standstill in times of transformation, whether as an infant, as a teenager, in working age or as a senior. Transitions are an invitation to venture out and to move.

Transitions are intersections and thresholds in our lives. Transitions are challenging. Transitions are crossroads and bridges on the journey to become ourselves.

Transitions often mean uncertainty and open endings. Caution and attentiveness, start and risk, hope and fear, curiosity and consternation are usually closely related. In transformational situations there is often a lot at stake.

This challenge tells you: “It’s your turn!”. You can feel that you are on the brink of a new situation, or you are moving from one phase of life to the next. “Face the transformation,” it says. “Make it as best you can. You cannot avoid it.”

You realize that now it is your turn to be a mentor in your transitions and to prove yourself in everyday life.

Transitions are not always rhythmic. Every now and then they suddenly break into our lives. We experience it ourselves or in other people’s lives. We live with people for whom transformations are connected with flight, displacement, traumatic experiences or other precarious life situations. Upheavals that have fatefully come upon them. As a result, people are often limited in their self-efficacy and need professional and personal support in order to regain a foothold in life.

The risks and opportunities of a transition are also closely related during puberty, for example. Farewell and departure, the question of who I am, and an awakening sexuality often pose existential challenges. For the transition to adulthood, young people therefore need well-prepared, low-sanction spaces for the formation of values. They don’t need external control and guidance, but they need understanding companions and an environment in which self-effective action is possible. Confidence in oneself is a prerequisite for the development of one’s own personal competence, which can only be acquired in an appreciative framework. Educators are challenged here:

It is your turn to be a mentor for others. It is your turn to accompany transitions and upheavals.

Transformations – playfully supporting

In myths and fairy tales, mentors train the hero, they protect and support him and give him a gift that he will need as the journey progresses. The laser sword that Obi Wan Kenobi presents to Luke Skywalker is probably the most famous gift of our media-driven times.

Sensitive mentors encourage, play through, challenge and promote. Always as a supporter, never patronizing or manipulating, but always persistent.

Playful support of transformations takes place in an intermediary space, in which the discrepancy between dream and reality is overcome. In play, the subconsciously experienced, but also the (not yet) experienced, the utopian, comes to life. Play therefore enables not only the processing of memories, but also utopian ideas and changes, as well as the realization of something new.

Play can be preparation for the case of emergency, a tool to find possible solutions. Therefore, Fröbel calls his play material “offerings”. In play, children should be accompanied by these offerings to play in order to develop their talents and discover life and its correlations.

We can learn a lot from the playful use of language and gestures in everyday interpersonal encounters, from our little morning rituals or bedtime stories: the playful accompaniment of transitions, the reminder to celebrate life and also the integration of rituals, help us to find a healing rhythm of life.

Play is the multiplication of our options for action through creative ideas. Playing as a trial act in a place protected by rules and structure.

Hardly any other medium combines freedom of action, authenticity and structure as much as playing. Games appear “contradictory” in that they presuppose the observance of certain structures, but at the same time they encourage us to try out new possibilities and chances, constellations and options by playing through them.

Rituals in play emerge in the form of support on the threshold to something new. According to ancient myths, it even seems to be necessary to meet suitable ferrymen and women to help us ferry across to unknown shores.

In the history of religion, God and the gods are who support the ferry across at transitions. The Roman god Janus was not only the god of the beginnings (January), but also the god of the end. And he was the god of all transitions and passages, of all thresholds and doors. His image was regularly found there. At the transition of the people of Israel from slavery to freedom, God Yahweh accompanied the Israelites through a cloud and a pillar of fire. For a successful start into freedom, he gave them the 10 Commandments as orientation.

If we look at our transformations with a playful eye, they prove to be not only a space in between, but also a space to play – a place of encounter with the unknown. A place for new thoughts and new insights, where the previously insignificant becomes more important. The unimaginable imagines itself. The impossible becomes feasible.

Transformations are playing fields in which many things confront us, we must deal with the unforeseen, but precisely because of this, new ways can be found which open up new free spaces in which we can find our own way to play.

Transitions are places of change, by walking through them we change ourselves. Some crises, some transitions lead us to our centre, our inner being. This is the deep wisdom of the labyrinth.

Transformation – perception in the 21st century

Fast pace is a characteristic of our time. Our life is characterized by frequent changes, both professionally and in social status. Phases of reliable, constant conditions become shorter. The demands on individuals to constantly reorient themselves are becoming greater. Transformational situations become more frequent. The acquisition of competencies for personal “change management” is considered a prerequisite for sustainable success.

The philosopher Michael Bordt expressed: “We live in a time of transition. Parties, churches, trade unions and social market economy have lost their persuasive power. The new is not yet visible. It is not yet evident how the old order will be replaced.” (Welt 28.12.2018).

This makes us uneasy. This makes us curious. This makes us afraid.

We know that in this situation humanity is in urgent need of support and creative solutions. “Where the element of play is missing in human action, it becomes a mere reflex, a totalitarian execution of the given and leads to forgetting what freedom means” (A. Grötzinger, theologian, University of Basel). We as humanity urgently need the courage to shape the opportunities we have. Impulses to venture out of the familiar.

Play as a support offers the opportunity to make an abstract topic vivid and comprehensible. Playful behaviour is the basis for deep and long-term learning and understanding. The freedom of a simulation makes it possible to find the right paths by trial and error.

At the 29th Internationales Bildungsforum Spielmarkt Potsdam, on 15 and 16 May 2020, together with an interested audience of experts, numerous lecturers from Germany and abroad, thousands of play ideas and a wide range of hands-on activities, the topic of playful support of transformations will be brought to life.

On behalf of the Spielmarkt team


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