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The Two Marble Stress Reduction Therapy Plan or 'What Me Worry'?

Feb 28, 2008
Before video games we kids played with marbles. There were 'funsies' where the participants would simply play for the fun of it. Then there were 'keepsies' or a type of wager where the loser lost his marbles thus introducing many an innocent child to the risks of gambling in a brutally cruel world. There were many variations in between and we played most of them with great vigor, learning a lot about ourselves and each other in the process.

Fast-forward many years to the Chinese metallic "worry balls" or at least that is how they are marketed in Chinatown. A little bigger than golf balls, the idea is to put the two balls in the palm your hand and rotate them, using only the one hand, without touching balls. This is no small task especially if you have small hands or are a bit awkward or have just drank a half dozen martinis.

The concept is similar to the Feldenkreis physical therapy method: focus on something else and the intensity of your primary and immediate problem diminishes. When one twiddles these Chinese worry balls then they somehow get distracted from their worries, cares, problems, challenges, hassles and aggravations. This worry ball therapy does not solve problems or even eliminate worries; the attention is simply momentarily focused away from the stressor.

The real problem with the Chinese metallic balls is they are just too big. They are awkward, need a travel case and can't be carried in a business suit pocket without bulging. Some of the balls actually have a type of internal bell so when the balls are moved they make a noise. Not so with a couple of marbles. Advantage marbles.

The purists will say that marbles are too small and present no challenge so attention is not diverted from worry and anxiety. But purists are often wrong. If regular marbles are too small for you, use the larger sized 'shooters'. While slowly rotating two marbles in the palm of your hand may not seem overly challenging it does keep one's frazzled mind occupied and at least part of the brain in a less distressed state. If nothing else it gives the poor overworked hippocampus a short break.

As usual the experts don't know how all this works but in their defense nobody else knows either. The clump of gray matter known as the brain does not work like the pragmatists hope it would work. This has been a problem since some men thought they knew more than other men. And women. What little is actually known has something to do with tactile sensation, attention, coordination and current mental condition. And faking out a lot of cranial neural circuitry also known as the black box.

If we look at the computer or informational model of the brain for insight we can quickly see that logic really doesn't compute because the brain itself really doesn't care. In the computer brain model, information is taken in, processed internally and then either put into memory or exhibited outwardly as behavior. This computerized brain model tells us nothing about neural chemistry or extended neural circuitry but it tells us a lot about the dynamics of cause and effect. The bad news is the dynamics look mostly to be smoke and mirrors.

The biggest advantage of the two marble therapy is low cost. Depending on the quantity, marbles can cost several cents to maybe a dime apiece. For two dollars you can get a year's supply of worry marbles so that even if you lose them or they are stolen by jealous colleagues you can resupply rather quickly. And you can always pop into the toy store for a new bag. What therapy is cheaper or more convenient?

The most outstanding feature of the two marble therapy is marbles can fit in your pocket or purse or laptop case. You can hide them and bring them out when you feel the urge. Or not. You can twiddle them while waiting to give that big presentation or during your kid's soccer match. People might look at you a bit oddly and you can explain or not; if you must explain just tell them it's a new top secret brain plasticity builder. Odds are they will readily accept that explanation because they have no idea what brain plasticity means.

An added plus is if you drop your marbles at an embarrassing moment you can always remark that you 'must be losing your marbles.' Those near you will snicker and chortle and probably think you are an odd sort but be assured you will emit strong markers that you have a well developed sense of humor. And a good sense of humor can offset many character defects.

By the way, have you seen any stray marbles rolling around?
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting and uses worry marbles. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/humor and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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