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Levy-Warren, M.H. (1994). The Metaphor of Play: Disruption and Restoration in the Borderline Experience: Russell Meares. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1993, viii + 221 pp., $30.00 (hardcover).. Psychoanal. Psychol., 11(3):409-412.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 11(3):409-412

The Metaphor of Play: Disruption and Restoration in the Borderline Experience: Russell Meares. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1993, viii + 221 pp., $30.00 (hardcover).

Review by:
Marsha H. Levy-Warren, Ph.D.

In these days of psychoanalytic factionalism, it is rare to find an author who moves fluidly and intelligently among such theorists as Freud, Kohut, Winnicott, Atwood, Jacobson, Stolorow, and Pine. It is equally rare to find an author who is well-versed in laboratory, field, and clinical research, as well as in developmental and clinical theory. Such an author is Australian psychiatrist Russell Meares, who demonstrates in The Metaphor of Play a wide-ranging knowledge that he ably and creatively applies to the role of children's play in the development of their core sense of self. He posits that early interferences in the play of the child lead to the kinds of primary disturbances in the self-experience that are suffered by those with borderline personality organizations.

This refreshingly unpreten, jargon-free book is organized in three sections: Development, Disruption, and Restoration. The first section, in seven succinct chapters, outlines a set of ideas about the nature of children's play, including an extension of Winnicott's notion of the playspace, the role of the other in the play, the nature of the consciousness of the playing child, and the language of the play.

The second section deals extensively with the ways in which there can be interferences in the evolution of a secure and defined inner self when a child's playing takes place in an environment in which there is too much stimulation from the other and/or too little apt (attuned) responsiveness. The transition from playing space to inner space is, thus, only inadequately attained, for the child remains too dependent on the space outside for stimulation and reassurance or too wary of potential intrusion to feel secure in being inwardly focused. There is, then, a propensity for the development of a false self.

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