“What if my boss doesn’t like my work?”
What if I get cancer?
What if I don’t pass the exam?
What if my friends don’t like my dress?
What if Mommy doesn’t come back from work?
Worries! Age, gender and ethnicity, is no bar. From babies to youth to middle aged to the elderly, we all have our share of them – a few valid, some too trivial to warrant a worry but we still do - but loads and loads of them are simply imaginary ones that never become real.
Some of us must have read the famous self help book by Dale Carnegie How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
Some technologically savvy might have googled ‘How to deal with anxieties’ and got the tips:
- Prepare for the worst, hope for the best
- Practice relaxation
- List your blessing
- Distract yourself, keep busy
- Get support
Quite a few of us Moms and Dads must have dealt with worrying kids and must have used our own tools either as healing words, “I understand your concern, but be strong “, or simply giving a tight reassuring hug without saying “I’m beside you.”
Perhaps many of us may even have trivialised “That’s nothing to worry about?” without realising that it adds to their worries rather than help them.
A few days ago while visiting a museum for the Mayan Civilization Exhibition in Toronto; I came across a very simple yet unique and fascinating way of dealing with worries. My attention was drawn to the tiny, barely 2.5- 3cm long set of six miniature dolls placed with a name: “Guatemalan worry dolls”.
On a closer look, they were tiny dolls made out of wrapping cloth or wool over tiny wires shaped as dolls and each one had faces with eyes and a smile drawn on them.
Later as I dug into the details, I learnt that they are an ancient Mayan tradition which is still being practiced by the surviving descendants of the ancient Mayans which live in Central America, specifically in Guatemala.
The dolls usually come in a pack of six handmade dolls and a tiny bag to carry them.
It is said that if the children who worry are told to share their worry with the ‘worry doll’ and place it under the pillow imagining that the doll will take care of that worry. Each doll is told one worry at a time. Many a times parents take away the doll from below the pillow, so that when the kids wake up in the morning thinking that with the doll, the worry too has disappeared. However, sometimes if the worries are recurrent, not removing the doll implies that the doll is working on the ‘worry’ to disappear.
The tradition has been claimed to be scientifically sound and helps kids learn to ‘speak out’ their worries instead of internalising them into long lasting fears. It also gives a subtle message that ‘someone’ cares. It is also know to work as a good tool to inculcate a habit of sound sleep. However, this may work only in those with mild or moderate worries, but not so much in situations of extreme anxiety.
It is claimed that ‘worry dolls’ have also been used in the hospitals, for young and old, to allay anxiety in patients while they undergo surgeries or cancer treatments. Some claim to have used them in class rooms in schools and meeting rooms in offices to cope with stress, and to boost creativity. They are even used for emotional healing in incurable illnesses, dealing with deaths or even heart breaks. I think with the potential they have, there is no dearth of situations where ‘worry dolls’ can be used. Imagination is the limit to utilize them as calming companions.
Though not mentioned in the information on dolls, their ‘tiny’ size taking up seemingly ‘big’ worries must be playing its part in the process of relaxation too.
Apart from the therapeutic value, what fascinated me was the art of making these miniature dolls by wrapping up wool or cloth on wire and giving them a resemblance to someone who ‘cares’.
So aptly was it mentioned in the literature: “Make your own worry dolls at home, just give them a dress, two pairs of limbs and a smiley face? And see them in action. You needn’t be a Picasso or a Freud.”