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Sherkow, S.P. (2001). Reflections on the Play State, Play Interruptions, and the Capacity to Play Alone. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 10(3-4):531-542.

(2001). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 10(3-4):531-542

Reflections on the Play State, Play Interruptions, and the Capacity to Play Alone

Susan P. Sherkow, M.D.

This paper describes a type of normal play interaction between mother and child that is called “watched play.” Distinguished from reciprocal play, it is nonetheless a state of mutual engagement from the child's perspective, and therefore also “interactive.” During these play states of “watched play,” the presence of mother “watching” promotes and validates the identificatory process. It is proposed that the capacity to be alone depends upon the child's ability to internalize and identify with the watching mother in play. Playing in the presence of mother, without interruption, provides a child with the opportunity to discharge, organize, regulate, and integrate his impulses and affects in the course of play, on the road to symbolic functioning as play becomes more representational.

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