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The Need For Balance; A Nurture-Play-Structure Model

Have you ever experienced times in life when you felt out of balance?  Most of us can say that we have. Nurture Play Structure (NPS) is all about recognizing the need for balance, how to recognize when we are out of balance, and how to adjust when we are. Over a decade of working with NPS has taught us that a balance in Nurture, Play, and Structure is crucial to intra- and interpersonal relationships.

So, just what do we mean by balance?  Imagine that you are standing on a stool with three legs.  This stool is a representation of your life, and the legs are the three aspects of your emotional needs and wants: Nurture, Play, and Structure.  How challenging would it be to stand on your stool if the legs were not equal in length?  Each of these legs (Nurture, Play, and Structure) are a vital part in a balanced life, are unique to your experience, and each needs the other to be understood and appreciated.  As we will discuss, when we are out of balance, when the legs of our stool are not equally attended to, we struggle to find our footing.

NPS is a simple way to understand how emotional needs and wants are met when we are in balance, and unmet when we are not.  When we understand how each of these legs support and balance our stools, we can more fully understand ourselves, alter our behaviors, and name our needs in an authentic way.  Once we can name our true needs, we have the potential to meet them.  Thus, we begin to find balance.

Nurture is understood as love.  The Nurture leg of the stool represents healthy emotional connections with others and within ourselves.  It represents our ability to love and to accept being loved.  Nurture is love that makes you feel safe to be in the world or to retreat from the world when needed.  Attachment theory tells us that we receive Nurture four ways; knowing that we are loved, feeling safe and protected, being nourished, and through healthy touch.

Play is understood as joy.  Play is not simply having fun.  It is the true joy that makes you excited to be in the world.  We understand this joy as being your most authentic self in a time and place, where you would not choose to be somewhere or someone else. The Play leg of the stool represents the part of our being that needs to simply enjoy being alive.  Play can come from solitary, group, or partnering activities that we do in order to counter our stress, anger, worries, or sadness.  

Structure is understood to be those methods by which we understand and navigate our intra- and interpersonal relationships. These can include to-do lists, moral codes, achievements, and any other means of understanding our place in relation to others.  The Structure leg of the stool is what we utilize to accomplish tasks and also better understand our emotions.  Simply put, Structure is how we introduce the world to our rules of engagement or boundaries. Without structure, we have no direction and/or understanding of ourselves, our wants, or our needs. Ultimately, structure is how we understand ourselves and others.  

To learn more about NPS check out our worksheet, "NPS Chart: An Introduction."

Phillip Bass, MDiv, ThM, MA, NCLCMHC, NCC,

Licensed Qualified Supervisor

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