The Bullshit With The “Ball Exercise”
Anyone who works with Orlando (real name: Roland H. Bellstedt) is of course familiar with his beloved “ball exercise”. According to his own description, it is “the only tool that can really dissolve negative emotions – including strong trauma – once and for all“.
It’s true that this exercise makes a difference. Yes, the ball exercise can be very powerful sometimes, too. Orlando’s basic philosophy is also valid: Mentally processing a trauma and “discussing it away” or “thinking it away” often doesn’t really work that well, even if methods such as CBT or ACT seem to follow a similar approach.* Instead, the underlying emotions are worked directly, and the rational level is practically skipped or viewed as a disruptive factor. My current psychotherapist (who studied in the UK) has confirmed to me that this school is well known in psychology. Not everywhere, of course, and probably not among many classic school psychologists either (especially in Germany?), but still.
It is true that some “energy” is released in the process, and the concept of perceiving a topic purely physically or directing one’s own focus on sensations, mental images that arise, and then “sucking them out” (or whatever description is most suitable for you) is a valid concept. At least I think so.
It’s also true that at least part of an “issue” (a generalized term for pretty much anything that can cause emotional discomfort) can actually be resolved through this exercise – maybe even almost completely if you want to push it to the extreme and you manages to remain motivated, or if you are strongly commitmented to it.
On GuteFrage.net (a site like Quora in Germany), a user who is very critical of Orlando wrote:
Oh yes, the ball exercise has already been critically addressed by some users here and out of my own experience I can say: it worked for me a few times.Source:GuteFrage.net, zndmignt by the user
I can confirm that.
It is also true that negative thoughts associated with the “issue” in the body can sometimes disappear after using the ball.
It is also true that the rational mind does not necessarily have to understand what the “issue” is or what exactly it is about. And that mental analysis / overthinking something as you do in classical psychology can be quite disturbing, or even worsen the problem or cause the person concerned to “fall in love” with and identify with their issues instead of getting rid of them.
Problems with emotional work and the ball exercise – the big BUT
But it is also true that the ball exercise – like everything that works with feelings in the broadest sense, or is even intended to bring about a fundamental change – can trigger massive fluctuations in the psyche. To say to someone with an acute issue “then just do a ball exercise” is negligent in my view. Feelings want to be felt, to be perceived, and to some extent also to be lived. And not being “balled away” as hostile elements.
In Magick Male, I think it’s often used the way a bitchy-aggressive “supervisor” at school etc. yells at an angry child: “Count to 10 and calm down!” It is misused as an instrument of power, especially in the community. And the success of a methodology as such is – as the good Orlando Owen himself once said – dependant on the perception of the client / customer / participant / patient of the exercise, the “therapist” or “coach”, i.e. the whole thing itself. No wonder the whole story often doesn’t work the way it theoretically could for people who may have become very suspicious through painful experiences.
Or, if the whole context at Magick Male is perceived as toxic. Like I do, for example.
However, it is also true that heavy brooding or “overthinking” can indicate that there is a really strong underlying topic here. Or that the switch to “working with feelings” or “perceiving feelings” can be very unusual and painful. At least that’s how it is for me.
But it is also true that for a sensible use of the ball exercise it is important to know where exactly the journey should go – at least in general, or somehow from gut and intuition. Do you want to be free from it? Or peace of mind? Or do I want to clear old memories or pain out of the way to have more energy and power again? Do I want to erase a feeling of grief in order to then become active again, or do I want to throw away a resistance that prevents me from perceiving the grief itself – and only then can I really get in touch with the grief? At least that’s how I experienced it.
But it is also true that body, mind and soul function as a unit in the human being. It is not always right, safe and sensible to expose an issue. For example, if you expose anger, you can expect very unpleasant social consequences. Losing your job or going straight to a mental hospital, or perhaps a greater sensitivity to attempts at manipulation – all of this can show very unpleasantly and often unexpectedly in life, and all the more blatant the more a certain a thought or maybe a social, professional or family environment ruled your (or my) life. At least that is my concern and experience.
But it’s also true that it can be damn scary when a ball exercise suddenly unleashes an even bigger avalanche of topics, or at least “blasts the lid off”. Those who have escaped trauma, confusion, and the like into the head may be in for some very uncomfortable or overwhelming experiences.
But it is also true that a ball exercise can also ensure that the user feels really bad. Of course, that might also happen with all sorts of other methods that work with emotions, and the themes were probably already there anyway. But that doesn’t change the fact that – at least superficially – the ball exercise really releases all that dirt. Or even more frustration because I then start preoccupying myself with how to “get the ball right” and emotional work as a substitute for some other distraction. At least that’s how it is for me. Or why do you think I’m doing a whole blog about all this stuff, dear reader? 😉 At least in part it’s distraction from stuff.
But it is also true that confusion and fear can increase even more when working with the ball. The “functioning” in real life can suffer as a result. At least I feel that way. For example, someone who manages to use thinking and distraction, e.g. to walk through a dark forest at night, to avoid really noticing the underlying fear that comes with that, will certainly have problems if the feelings underneath suddenly become free and exposed.
But it is also true that for me – in a phase of manic depression, for lack of a better diagnosis – the ball exercise above all caused a rapid change from depressive to manic. An escape mechanism that took effect so quickly and automatically back then (around 2015 – 2017) that I didn’t really know what was happening.
But it is also true that it may take a long time to really “warm up” with the exercise. At least I feel that way, and according to some comments on Magick Male, a few others do too.
But it is also true that for the ball exercise it is often necessary for me to “wallow” in the topic and to be able to feel something again at all. Of course, that becomes quite difficult if – like me – you react very much to the statements of others, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and are very sensitive here. Who wants to get involved in deeply emotional and painful issues when there is always the fear of being put down or attacked for it? Or others reinforce the issue in other ways? After all, who wants to be close to others, e.g. when they are heartbroken? Almost every novel – at least the ones I like to read – describes in a similar way the fluctuations and contradictory effects that arise from trauma. For example in Harry Potter, when Sirius Black dies, Harry wants to be to with his friends when he is alone, and when he’s with his friends he wants to be alone again…
I could go on like this for hours. The fact is, environment plays a big part in these things, and I really don’t feel like “feeling” much in a shark tank like Magick Male.. It would be the task of the group and the company to create an appropriate environment, right? Especially if you are to immerse yourself in massive, deep feelings and injuries. Then, of course, particularly high standards apply – at least that’s what I think. Instead, such experiences are shouted down, perhaps not least because being confronted with so many strong issues from others overwhelms the group or some of the “roar” participants, or strongly reminds them of their own themes.
But it is definitely wrong that…
But it is definitely wrong that the ball exercise is the only tool that can make an emotional difference or resolve issues. It is an artificial technique that seems to be viewed critically by at least some therapists. A reader reported to me that his therapist (or naturopath?) described these and similar methods as “manipulation of the third eye”, which are not suitable for self-application at all. Since I am absolutely not familiar with this area, I cannot say much about this statement. Let me know your thoughts and ideas about it in the comments.
It is definitely wrong that the ball exercise “completely resolves issues where other methods only cover up the issue”. Orlando himself repeatedly states that “topics processed with the excercise can come up again and again – sometimes even more strongly”. (Source: “Mann-Bewusst-Sein” Liveevent in Germany, the corresponding position can also be found in the German online course)
Maybe the exercise can basically do that. But the statement that with other methods “the subject is only dangerously obscured and then eventually comes back out of nowhere” should be treated with caution. Something similar happens with users of the ball exercise, for example when the topic is not yet completely processed (or “redeemed”, as Orlando likes to put it in his German content).
With other methods, too, it is known that an issue can come up again and again until it is completely processed. Where is the big difference to the ball exercise?!
Whether the ball really works better than other methods, I can not judge. Methods like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing in some forms also deal with trauma and seem to achieve at least some success, and the all time classic – crying! – often seem more natural and authentic to me. That being said: I was often only able to cry after a ball exercise, i.e. after a resistance or a piece of a topic had been resolved with it.
But it is definitely wrong that head and mind play no role in the whole thing. Without reason you probably won’t get very far in adult life, unlessyou are only living in a very small setting. Anyone who has a really responsible task – and it is precisely this “responsibility” that is really pushed at Magick Male! – can hardly really afford it to have the mind suddenly tipping over, being confused, or whatever else can happen. Responsibility and fighting through normal life – especially when times are bad or the environment is neurotic and unreliable, or, if you need the help and cooperation of others – like me when it comes to my new professional projects, or my parents (my father is severely disabled and needs constant care, the landlord causes them trouble, etc.) – are often incompatible when working on emotional or mental health issues, or navigating through a jumble of stuff that needs to be “balled through”. With everything that comes with it – tantrums, sudden sadness, confusion, etc.
But it is definitely wrong that the ball exercise always brings relief. I’ve already written it above, but because it’s so important, I’ll emphasize it again: The ball exercise or working with emotions as such – or many other kinds of therapy! – can certainly get a whole avalanche of topics rolling. “Trigger” or “poke” the issue (like when you take a stick and poke a sleeping bear…) And then “balling through” is an art in itself.
Orlando says that getting out of your head and into your body and emotions and issues is the best thing that ever happened to the participant. Not necessarily. And it has its consequences. And can be extremely scary, especially in the case of severe trauma or whatever else has accumulated there. With all the consequences this can have on life.
Did I get it right? Do my thoughts and experiences on the subject match yours?
Write me in the comments!
* I sent this text to said psychotherapist for a quick review. She pointed out that the theories behind ACT and CBT are greatly shortened by me, or maybe even slightly falsified here. Please forgive me!