Jigsaw Joy

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Jigsaws are brilliant, and without wishing to over-therapise a simple leisure pleasure, they provide a wealth of recovery-building skills.

The mass of pieces begin as a complete mess. It looks impossible to rearrange into anything coherent. But. Reassuringly, there’s a system for starting to work it out – doing the edges, defining the parameters. You can then continue the ‘chunking’ or baby steps or task analysis or breaking the task down by grouping pieces by colour or other content. Having sorted out and slotted in the easier pieces, you can leave the daunting for later.

Pieces which look like they couldn’t possibly be connected can turn out to be the right combination – the improbable is possible! It takes cognitive effort and dexterity to twiddle pieces around so that they are the right way up, one of several facets of it being a perfect exercise in seeing things from different perspectives. Similarly, it’s possible torecognise even subtle gradations in colour, shape and relevance when you’re really focussing.

Only when the jigsaw is complete can some of the details become apparent, a good reminder that it’s inadvisable to make assumptions before the whole picture is available.

The experience of doing a jigsaw is totally absorbing. The whole ‘flow’ thing described by Csíkszentmihályi, and easier to pronounce than his name. This blocks out other thoughts, squashes other feelings. It’s deeply, continuously fulfilling, as the picture starts to form and pieces start to fit together. Online jigsaws (eg www.jigzone.com) have the additional satisfaction of the sound of each piece clunking into another. And of course when it’s completed, there’s the great sense of resolution and achievement, features annoyingly absents when I’m not in a good state.

I’ve just got an email from my cousin Shoshi in Jerusalem. “Funnily enough, I also took off a week last week.  It was wonderful.  I needed to spend time doing important things.  On the first day, I sorted my socks out. I have a huge collection of odd socks. Very fulfilling and I even chucked out some.   I also spent 2 days taking photos (not of socks).” The satisfaction of assembling a jigsaw surpasses even that of sock sorting and is a delightful way of beneficially using time on a ward.


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