Problems Module Introduction

The Problems Module is intended for anybody who perceives life as kind of hard and filled with problems. The person who has attention on many things outside herself that she is not in control of, but that she has to deal with.

Problems will keep the person sort of struggling along through life, being busy and stressed with all the things she has to attend to. And since she perceives the source of the problems as being outside herself, she feels that there is not much she can do about it, except for working harder at dealing with the problems.

The client might use various words about this, and might not call it problems. The main point is that it is things outside herself, that tend to persist in a less than optimum state. She has attention on these things and will readily talk at great length about how problematic they are.

What we will aim at in this module is to make the person cause over problems in general. In short, what we would like her to learn is that problems are only a matter of perception. They are problems only because she perceives them as such. And if we look closely at it, she isn't really forced to deal with them at all.

We don't just tell her that. We will need to work over problems both specifically and generally to have her make her own realizations. She needs to experience that problems change into no-problems just based on how she changes her mind. And if we do that enough in a variety of ways, she will hopefully develop her own ability to have or not have problems at will.

The first thing we would like to do is probably to reframe a problem from being just "an annoying difficulty" to being the result of several forces held in equilibrium. See, what people call problems are very often dilemmas. A dilemma consists of two choices one doesn't know how to choose between. That can be considered a step up from just a vague blob of "problem". A dilemma at least has choices.

We can look at it like this:

There are two forces that are of equal magnitude, but they are opposite, or at least they are mutually exclusive. None of them are apparently stronger than the other one, so they will stay in suspension, pressing against each other. In their focal point develops the so-called problem, and that is usually where attention gets stuck.

If I made the date to go to the movies with Annabel at 4 o'clock, but I had forgotten that I promised Mrs. Jones that I would for sure mow her lawn at that time, well, then I have a problem. Or rather, I have a dilemma. I can't do both at the same time. I'd really like to watch the movie with Annabel, but on the other hand I don't break the promises I make, and Mrs. Jones would get really mad. And Annabel would get mad if I broke the movie date, and she would never go out with me again. So, I am damned if I do and damned if I don't.

If the forces of the dilemma are of equal strength it will appear to be an unsolvable problem. If they did not appear to be of equal strength I would simply choose the lesser of two evils, or the better of two opportunities, whichever way I want to look at it.

The truth of the matter is that no matter how unsolvable the dilemma is, it is always a matter of a choice. No matter which way I go, there won't be a dilemma any more. If I go to the movies I will have a good time, but Mrs. Jones might be mad at me. If I mow her lawn then Mrs. Jones will be happy, but Annabel might be mad. Each of those possibilities might include an element of discomfort, but as long as I do something, there would be no dilemma.

Dilemmas are solved by choosing something. It doesn't have to be the perfect choice, but any choice is better than no choice. A dilemma persists when one isn't choosing.

So, we would like to bring up the person's ability to choose. We do that by examining various kinds of problems and realizing that there is a choice about them.

Of course, a general ability to communicate well makes everything run more smoothly. In the situation above, a few explanations and apologies and a minor negotiation might have sorted it out so that everybody got what they wanted. In which case it would of course no longer be a problem. So, the person's inability or unwillingness to communicate would be part of the equation also. It would be yet another force that keeps the situation stuck.

We will also be working towards the realization that a problem is only a matter of perception. We can do that by taking specific problems and switching them back and forth between being problems or not being problems. We can also work on what the perceptions are that will identify a problem. Is it a feeling, a picture, etc.

We will use a variety of methods of freeing up the thinking around problems. Changing them from frozen unsolvable situations into a more dynamic view of what is going on.

One tool we will use is to compare problems. We can look for bigger problems, smaller problems, or problems of the same size. That will more put the idea there that problems are not just universal and general, they have a specific context and magnitude.

Problems and solutions form some interesting phenomena that need to be explored. The thing is that they are actually two sides of the same thing. A problem is a stuck situation. If instead of loosening up the stuckness, one just applies another fixed ingredient to it, that doesn't really solve anything. It might at first appear to solve something. But most likely the fixed quality of the solution will eventually become a problem in itself, and we need a solution for that problem. And so forth.

If I simply couldn't figure out if I should go to the movies or mow the lawn, I could instead pick the solution of getting drunk and forgetting about it. That wouldn't really solve anything. The problem is still there and will surface again once my solution wears off.

There is of course nothing wrong with solving problems if "solving" means to free up the stuckness and get things flowing again. But if we are talking about a "solution" as a new factor that is introduced as a wholesale fix to the situation, that is likely to add more potential for stuckness in the long run.

If the people in an apartment complex are fighting with each other, we can regard that as a problem. The owner might make the solution of hiring an armed security guard who will keep order. That might quiet things down and apparently be a "good" solution. But it didn't solve anything at all about the problem that was there. We didn't find out why people were fighting with each other. Whatever unresolved issues were there would still be there. And now we have the added element of an armed guard. That solution might very well turn into a problem in itself. Maybe the security guard shoots somebody, to "keep order". And then we have another problem to solve. And so forth.

The only thing that really resolves problems is to find out what their components parts are. What is it that is going on, what are the conflicts, what are the different intentions. And once one really gets into it, it becomes clear that there isn't really a problem. There is only the vague perception of a problem because the situation wasn't clear. Once the situation becomes clear it is usually quite apparent what needs to be done.

In this module we would like to make the client realize these things and develop the ability to see through problems, realize what is really going on, sort out conflicts, choose the most optimum course of action, and so forth.

The client should become able to choose to have or not have problems. She should be able to change her mind about problems she doesn't like, and simply do what is most appropriate. And she should be able to choose the problems that she would actually enjoy having.

There are many nice problems one could have. Crossword puzzles are desirable problems for many people. Having a problem on fitting the maximum amount of fun and pleasure into one's busy schedule might be an enjoyable one to have. Learning to speak Chinese or to play the harp might be problematic, but enjoyable. You might choose to restore a 1937 Packard automobile, and you might have a hard time to get parts and so forth. But it might be very enjoyable.

Life is not meant to be without problems. On the contrary, the resolution of problems is very often what allows us to learn and to gain some excitement out of life. So, there is nothing wrong with problems in themselves. There is something wrong with having problems you don't get anything out of. And there is something wrong in not having enough enjoyable problems.

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