Psychology in Writing: The Need for Fun

In a previous post I discussed a sense of belonging as one of people’s five needs as part of William Glasser’s Reality therapy.  Today I’d like to address the need for fun.  It always seems like the odd one out in light of the other needs (i.e., survival, belonging, power, freedom), but when we

Flower fun

Flower fun (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

stop and think about it, having time for leisure is important to being a well-functioning individual.  As someone once said “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”  We need to have fun so that we have the space and energy to meet our other needs; without fun several things can go awry harming our ability to get our other needs met.

In my experience, clients who are suffering from not having their need for fun met have difficulty pinpointing what exactly is wrong.  They will present as irritable, grumpy, sad/forlorn, and sometimes remorseful.  The first group (irritable, grumpy, sad/forlorn) usually are not able to identify that they are not taking time for themselves.  Sometimes the lack of meeting their need for fun is due to over exertion in the workplace, not speaking up in a relationship (e.g., only doing what the partner wants and not doing what they want), or they’re truly depressed and don’t have the psychic energy to motivate themselves to engage in fun activities.  On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen clients who denied their need for fun to the point where they overdo it to make up for suppressing the need.  This can manifest in excess drinking, risky sexual behavior, shopping sprees, etc.  Therefore, the goal for therapy for those not meeting their need for fun is to identify how they like to have fun, where they can fit fun in, and how can they identify when their need is not getting met. By identifying what is fun, identifying when they need it, and committing to engaging in fun activities, they should meet their regular commitments while meeting their need for fun in healthy appropriate ways.

In therapy the individual who is not having their need for fun met can seem like a challenge, this individual in writing can be a joy to have around.  The character who’s need for fun isn’t being met often appears in stories as the carefree companion.  This is the person who is tired of life on the farm and needs a change, and any change, even going off to battle dragons, seems like an exciting change of pace to get this need met.  This is also the character that can be bothersome to the other characters, in that they don’t take the quest/task/relationship quite as seriously; this character is more interested in the excitement than the safety of her/his self or others and the ultimate goal.  This lack of care for self, while fun seeking, can also set this character up to be brave and not afraid to face death, as death is just another adventure.

Sometimes denying the need for fun can appear in our writing too.  Our main protagonist may be taking the quest too seriously, which leads to irritability and anger that can alienate her/his companions.  This can serve as a relationship foil in our writing; the love interest can be the one who is able to lower the protagonist’s defenses and allow her/him to have a sense of humor about self and allow some levity freeing them from the cycle of anger.  It can also cause conflict in relationships by the protagonist admonishing the fun seeking character for not taking things seriously enough.  While as writers, we can tell our characters and ourselves that their need for fun will come when the task at hand is completed, it can help to show a different side of our characters if we allow them to indulge in some fun despite the burdens confronting them.

Writing prompt:  How does your character have fun?  What’s your character doing to enjoy her/his self to blow off steam?  What preceded this need for fun?  Was your character stressed/overwhelmed?  In having fun is your character going overboard because s/he hasn’t allowed her/him self to have fun?  How are others reacting to this side of your character?

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One thought on “Psychology in Writing: The Need for Fun

  1. Terrific article. I seem to have forgotten how to have fun in life.
    Even the fun things I do I make into work.
    I’ve lost the ability to have fun, or even remember what it is or how I do it.
    Have been looking for the answer for a while.
    Your article has brought this into focus again. Will focus on solution.
    Thank you. : )

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