running into patricia lambert today at our monthly SWAN meeting, i peeked at her web site, where i saw a reference to “the problem of problem solving”. i’ve been wanting to write about this for quite a while; thanks, patricia, for giving me the impetus!
in the path of least resistance, robert fritz offers this diagram:
the problem remaining
this is a picture observed by many health care providers, therapists included. let’s say charmaine feels at the end of her rope; she just can’t stand any longer how constricted she feels in her relationship. she comes in for a session and the therapist suggests that charmaine’s problems may have something to do with a lack of assertiveness. aaah! that’s it! charmaine immediately feels a bit better and signs up for a weekend workshop on assertiveness. on sunday evening she feels even better! no need to see a therapist anymore, everything’s fine.
don’t get me wrong – sometimes one or two sessions with a therapist and a little workshop is really all that’s needed. but in the majority of the cases, this scenario describes exactly what robert fritz is talking about.the action of going to the therapist and attending a workshop lessens the intensity of the discomfort, which lessens the motivation to do something about the problem with her relationship on a more long-term basis. for now, things are fine. three weeks later, charmaine is back where she started.
what happens if instead of trying to deal with the problem of feeling too constricted, charmaine looks for ways to create more freedom in her life?
1. immediately, it takes the emphasis off the relationship and puts it on the only person who can do something about charmaine’s life: charmaine herself. right away, charmaine has the opportunity to take control.
2. by moving the emphasis off the relationship, charmaine also creates more space. her attention is not on the little box of “relationship” anymore, it’s on her whole life. how many ways are there to have more freedom? literally hundreds – what am i saying: probably thousands.
she could restructure her morning routine to create some time off. she could talk to her boss about having freer reign with the accessory design she’s been working on. she could take a sunday off and explore an area of town she’s never been to. she could tell her boyfriend that she’d like to take turns making dinner. and the list goes on.
3. focusing on the delicious image of freedom is simply much more fun than focusing on the bad news of feeling all crammed up in her relationship.
4. fun adds energy; bad news squashes it.
5. focusing on what charmaine wants instead of what she doesn’t want directs her attention. that’s largely what the movie the secret is about. it isn’t rocket science.
the world is huge; each second we are bombarded with dozens of sense impressions, from the colour of the wallpaper to the “ding” of a new email arriving to the feel of the socks on our feet. we simply have to make decisions on where we allocate our attention, otherwise we go mad. the more attention we pay to something, the more of an expert we become at recognizing it and taking advantage of it.
so – do you want to be an expert in what you don’t want or do you want to be an expert in what you want to have more of in your life? maybe it’s time to stop solving problems and to start creating results.