The Game of Jenga

Jenga is a game made up of stacked oblong blocks that create a tower. The base is made up of three blocks laid next to each other which form a square. Then another three blocks are turned 90 degrees and laid on top of the first layer. Layers of three blocks are added to ultimately create a tower of 18 layers using 54 blocks.

Once the tower is built, each player takes turns to identify blocks that are “loose” in that they are not structurally holding much weight above it. The player can then push that block free and place it on top of the structure to start a new layer. As the game progresses, the initial structure has several blocks missing that have been used to add layers to make the tower taller. That is, the foundation is compromised in order to build a taller tower.

As the structure grows taller, the players know that the base structure is less stable. And at some point, the structure will collapse because the base support is weakened by the effort to build on top of it. That is, after all, the point of the game.

After the tower collapses, the blocks are arranged again to create a new tower as the starting point.

In a sense, as the game begins, that tower could be considered an established experiencebase. Some people may call it the ego, the mind or even the ego-mind.

  • The process of building the tower represents a child learning building their experiencebase. The child creates structure based on the world around them and how they feel, experience, interact with, and learn from it.

  • The lowest levels of the Jenga tower represent the foundations learned as a child with additional layers of experience and knowledge added as the child grows and understands more about the world around them.

  • As the “game of life” continues, there are times when we must rely on our initial resources to develop new things as we continue to grow.

  • If however, we pull too much away from the original base rather than incorporating new, additional resources to grow, we create vulnerable spots in the existing structure.

  • This can lead to collapse and can no longer support the new weight added in the form of growth.

Unlike Jenga, the blocks and pieces in an experiencebase are not equal. Some are based in health and accomplishment while others may be rooted in significant trauma and pain. In a sense, certain “blocks” in the experiencebase perhaps break or become rotted out and need to be removed and potentially replaced.

We often don’t understand those pieces and elements of how we structure memory, meaning, and significance in our own lives. We simply do the best we can. We may inadvertently add too much weight to an area that can no longer support it and BAM, that structure collapses.

This Jenga analogy does fall apart (pun intended) in that a person’s experiencebase is much, much more complex and multi-dimensional than the basic three-block layer in the game. Yet there are comparisons that may be of benefit:

  • A general understanding as to what kind of structure a person works from.

  • How does that person draw on their resources (each block) as they manage additional responsibilities (adding layers to grow the tower)?

  • Are sections of the tower becoming unstable as additional layers are added?

  • If so, how can those sections be reinforced?

  • Is there a point where sections of the tower fall or implode? (Maybe that’s a good thing in the long run.)

  • If the tower collapses, who can help the person create perhaps build a better tower for them to use going forward?

As with the game of Jenga, when sections of the experiencebase collapse, in order to continue, the tower must be rebuilt somehow. Unlike in the game of Jenga, when that collapse and implosion happens, there is a living, breathing, feeling entity that feels pain in that process.

Hopefully, as that structure is rebuilt, it can lead to a healthier future for the person involved.