Therapeutic Meeples: The Healing Kind

Today, Benny takes us on an adventure in search of the greatest healer in the world. He explores how using a game and game mechanics can provide helpful insight into what you need to understand about yourself to heal. Follow him as he works with a patient using the mechanisms of Tikal.

A great deal is made of healing in our society. The first image that comes to mind might be a physician, maybe a nurse. Someone in the medical field at any rate. Even the receptionist or the person who is responsible for billing the insurance company with the correct codes and gets them to at least pay part of the bill. Maybe the image is of a counselor or a dentist.

mirror photo
Photo by Tif Pic

I’ll ask you to suspend your belief for a moment and come along with me. This is a mirror. You see that person in the mirror? That person is actually your best healer! Hold on, don’t run away! Come back for a minute and let me finish. That person needs help. They need some guidance, they need a small person with green skin, long pointy ears who wants to ride around in your backpack as you traverse a swamp. (too close on the copyright? Okay, we’ll back off on that a bit).

In short I’m suggesting that person in the mirror needs a guide, puppets voiced by Frank Oz are in short supply after all so let me be your guide. Come back, I can do this. I’ve been doing it a while. No, I won’t use that mis-ordered words type speech. (nope, encouraging it won’t help).

I encountered a picture with words, some might call it a motivational poster. It gave the rough idea that the therapist/counselor was there to offer a “stick” which the person could use to fight off some of what they were facing. A literal stick would not be recommended, they tend to get moldy or break. Plus they could have bugs in them.

A lot of what I do is offer this form of encouragement or hope or something else. I spent time with a lady not long ago. She shared with me about her relationship to her husband, saying he was a narcissist. I guess someone diagnosed him that, I didn’t. I listened for a while. She talked about their experiences, it reminded me of Tikal (Ravensberger), because she was talking about the cultural influences of Mexico. She referenced his family and how culturally they were different.

Image courtesy of Board Game Geek

In listening to her I began to wonder what the initial draw was, she seemed like someone who likes helping people, which is part of her profession. While listening, I again was drawn back to Tikal. Conveniently I had it on my phone. I asked her about what she wanted to explore next. She mentioned the jungle temples of the Maya and how she had reveled in them growing up. Describing her explorer’s spirit. For her, Tulum was the one she always dreamed of visiting and she had.

I asked her about what she valued. What her “treasure” of the world was. For her it was her children.

Using this explorer spirit, I began asking about application of resources in the relationship; financial, emotional, spiritual, physical. She seemed to be putting forth a lot of the resources to support her husband, which her husband was apparently content to do. I asked her about what she valued. What her “treasure” of the world was. For her it was her children.

I directed our conversation about application of those resources toward her children then since when she applied them to her husband he was angry or quarrelsome. She seemed surprised by this. Again, thinking of Tikal, I talked about the application of those resources toward what she wanted rather than the scatter shot approach she had been applying in trying to chase after what she thought her husband wanted. This seemed foreign. I gave her the notion of putting your resources in one area, to build up that area, to make it shine, to make it something you’re proud of.

For her it was her children, which is awesome. She was also an explorer, so I suggested that she look into things she could do with her children that also involved exploration. She said walking the beach looking for shells. She also came up with exploring new food types together, possibly exploring the cuisine of Mexico. She left with a feeling of light, easy, free from some of that which was the anchor dragging her down, maybe an albatross.

In Tikal, you are allocating resources every turn, it is important to allocate them in a way that grows what you want in the game.

At any rate, it allowed her a new path. One she wasn’t looking at or wasn’t sure existed. I offered an idea that lead to her taking those strides. So a “stick” if you will. Though also a knowledge of reallocating resources. In Tikal, you are allocating resources every turn, it is important to allocate them in a way that grows what you want in the game. Rather than scattershot them about into multiple separate areas hoping one or two will be enough to get it done, instead there is an element of focus. Bring those resources to one spot or a couple of spots where they can flourish.

She and I never did actually play a game. I might recommend Forbidden Island for her and her children to play together, but it sounded like they were already on their own track. They just needed someone to see an option they didn’t see. That’s what healing is.

The takeaway then is you are the best healer you know. That person in the mirror. Stop pointing out flaws. Get a little guide, stuff it in your backpack, and let’s begin this adventure!

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