216: How to solve a problem by ignoring it

216: How to solve a problem by ignoring it

Welcome to this episode of our short daily podcast - A Slice of Therapy.

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With Alun Parry https://liverpoolpsychotherapy.co.uk

Autogenerated Transcript

00:01
you’re listening to a slice of therapy
00:03
with me alun parry
00:06
[Music]
00:11
when we have problems the most common
00:16
traditional way that we’re taught to
00:19
deal with
00:19
problems to solve problems
00:24
is to focus on the problem
00:29
and so for instance
00:32
when my washing machine broke
00:35
it made sense for me to open up the
00:38
washing machine and find out what was
00:39
going on
00:42
when the handle came off
00:45
of my door and it wasn’t working
00:48
properly it made sense to
00:50
focus on the problem find out what was
00:53
going wrong and fix it
00:56
and so we’re often
01:00
taught that the way
01:03
the only way to solve a problem is to
01:07
focus on the problem in this episode
01:10
i’m going to be counter-intuitive and
01:13
i’m going to explain to you that there’s
01:14
actually another way
01:16
of solving problems which is very
01:19
different
01:20
because what it involves is ignoring the
01:24
problem
01:26
really ignoring the problem completely
01:29
and instead of finding the solution
01:33
in the problem itself the solution
01:37
is somewhere else entirely
01:40
now this thing seems a very strange
01:42
concept doesn’t it
01:44
how on earth you might be asking
01:48
is it even sensible that when we’ve got
01:51
a problem
01:52
we try and overcome the problem by
01:56
completely ignoring it does this mean
01:59
for instance that what i’m about to
02:01
recommend is that ostrich approach of
02:03
putting your
02:04
head in the sand and just pretending
02:07
that the issue isn’t there
02:09
no in fact it means that you address the
02:12
issue
02:13
by ignoring the problem so let me give
02:16
you an example of what i mean
02:19
let’s say one day you are emptying the
02:23
bins
02:24
so you take your bins out of the front
02:28
where your bigger bins are that get
02:31
collected by the
02:32
bin men and
02:35
as you’re putting the bag into the big
02:39
bin
02:40
you hear a noise behind you and it’s the
02:44
front door slamming
02:45
there’s a gust of wind and now you’re
02:49
locked out
02:50
which might be the worst thing in the
02:52
world but
02:54
you’ve got a newborn baby in the house
02:57
so what on earth are you gonna do you
02:59
can’t stay out here
03:01
and they of course can’t let you in but
03:04
you need to go back in there in order to
03:05
care for them but you’re stuck
03:09
now of course one obvious answer would
03:12
be
03:13
you know just put the key in the door
03:14
and open it that would be a way of doing
03:17
it by focusing on the problem
03:19
the door is locked i’ll unlock the door
03:22
but you don’t have your key with you
03:25
and you don’t have any means of
03:29
unlocking the door
03:33
now the traditional way of looking at
03:35
this
03:36
would be really to focus on the door
03:38
itself to focus on
03:40
the bit where the key is it might even
03:43
involve
03:43
you know trying to find somebody who
03:47
is going to get you a locksmith in order
03:49
to
03:50
unlock the door so you can get back in
03:54
and yet by focusing on the door
03:57
what you completely missed is
04:01
that the front window is wide open
04:04
simply because you focused on the
04:06
problem
04:08
you’ve totally missed the fact that
04:10
there was
04:11
another solution that was waiting for
04:14
you
04:15
somewhere else and so there the window
04:18
is wide open
04:20
and you don’t even notice because you
04:22
think
04:23
that the only way to solve the problem
04:26
is to focus on where the problem is
04:29
and it turned out that the solution had
04:30
nothing to do with the locked door
04:32
because a window was open and you could
04:35
have just climbed in within a matter of
04:36
seconds
04:38
and being able to care for the baby
04:43
so in terms of
04:46
looking to solve a situation
04:50
by ignoring the problem that’s a good
04:52
example
04:53
and in fact in order to kind of
04:57
ignore the problem like this what we’re
04:59
really looking towards then
05:01
is to find out what it is that we
05:03
actually want
05:05
now in that scenario we didn’t really
05:07
care whether the door was open or shut
05:09
what we cared about is whether we were
05:11
in the house with the baby
05:13
or whether we weren’t and so once we
05:16
identify what it is that we
05:18
want we can start looking for ways to
05:22
actually get there
05:24
if we only focus on the problem
05:29
then we miss that question of what is it
05:31
we actually want because
05:33
there might be a better way to get to
05:35
that destination
05:37
and so when i’m with a client i will
05:39
often ask a question
05:42
that is based on more of a metaphor of
05:46
going on a journey than solving a
05:48
problem
05:50
when we’re going on a journey the first
05:52
question that we would ask
05:54
is well where do we want to go
05:58
how do we know that we’ve got to this
06:00
place
06:04
and it’s a good question isn’t it
06:05
because you know anytime you’re at a
06:07
train station
06:09
that’s the question you ask of each
06:11
train at each platform
06:13
you know where do i want to go and does
06:15
this train take me there
06:18
and so that’s a really good first
06:20
question
06:22
because once we view this as a a kind of
06:24
a journey
06:26
by asking what it what it is that we
06:28
want and how we will know
06:30
that we’ve arrived there it actually
06:33
gives us a destination to aimer
06:37
so in the example about the locked door
06:40
then it would be well
06:42
if this problem were no longer bothering
06:44
you
06:46
how would you know it wasn’t what where
06:47
would you be you know what is it you
06:49
want at the end of this
06:51
and then then we would have said well i
06:53
want to be indoors with the baby
06:57
and once you establish that destination
07:00
we then see that there’s lots of
07:02
different paths to get there
07:04
and so even if the door really is fixed
07:07
shut
07:08
and even if every locksmith in the city
07:10
is otherwise engaged
07:13
we can still get to our destination
07:16
we don’t have to deal with the problem
07:20
and focus on the problem in order to
07:23
build a solution
07:25
the solution and the problem might have
07:28
nothing at all to do with them
07:30
whatsoever
07:34
and so in a therapy kind of situation
07:37
to identify what it is that we want is
07:39
really important because it opens that
07:41
creativity up
07:44
and so i might ask a question in terms
07:46
of life
07:48
to really paint out
07:51
a picture of what it is that we want in
07:54
some real
07:56
detail
07:58
because what i’m doing there is i’m
08:00
helping
08:01
the person not focus on the problem
08:05
which can really drain us of energy
08:07
but to build a solution to build a
08:10
destination
08:12
so supposing that therapy works how will
08:15
you know that it’s worked
08:17
how will you know that this journey that
08:20
we go on has been useful to you
08:22
and then the person can actually start
08:25
painting out
08:26
what they want and one favorite way of
08:30
doing that is
08:31
simply to suppose
08:34
that the thing we want has already
08:36
happened
08:38
so if a miracle were to happen
08:41
and you were to wake up tomorrow for
08:43
instance
08:44
and it had just happened and
08:48
nobody’s left a note on your pillow to
08:50
say it’s happened
08:53
you just have to figure it out like what
08:56
would be the things that you would
08:58
notice tomorrow in your
08:59
everyday life that told you that the
09:02
problem was solved
09:05
and again this approach pays no
09:08
attention to the problem
09:11
it focuses on building what it is
09:14
that you want and so we might discover
09:17
you know what’s the very first thing you
09:19
would notice even as you’re lying there
09:20
in bed
09:22
and it might be that the feeling in
09:25
the feeling the person’s stomach has
09:27
changed
09:29
it’s gone from butterflies and now it
09:30
just feels calm
09:32
it might be that they noticed that they
09:35
would get
09:36
out of bed quicker it might be their
09:39
their partner notices they’re smiling
09:42
and they’re chatty
09:44
and so it goes on building this lovely
09:49
very very detailed rich picture
09:52
of what it looks like now the thing
09:55
about building a solution rather than
09:57
focusing on the problem
09:58
when you focus on the problem it’s
10:00
either fixed or it’s not
10:02
but when you’re on a journey
10:06
you know unless you’re on star trek and
10:08
you’re using those teleporters
10:10
it’s not a case of here or there you go
10:13
on a journey so if i was walking to my
10:17
local park
10:18
then my park would be the destination
10:22
but at a certain point say 20 minutes in
10:25
i would be neither at the park nor here
10:28
but i would be
10:29
on my way and this is the other lovely
10:32
way
10:35
that makes it an important way to kind
10:38
of build
10:39
solutions is that once we actually
10:41
create a destination
10:44
we can then have this sense
10:48
of being in motion
10:51
and often what we’ll find is
10:54
if we think of the destination that
10:57
we’re heading to
10:58
as one point and we think of as far away
11:01
as we can imagine that
11:03
from the destination as another point
11:07
then what will often be the case is that
11:10
we’ll discover
11:12
that we’re actually already on our way
11:14
we’re actually already on our way
11:17
to solving these problems that have led
11:20
us to reach out for help in the first
11:22
place
11:23
we realize that once we’ve actually
11:25
painted the destination
11:28
some of those things are already present
11:30
in life
11:32
and so this approach where you build a
11:34
solution build a destination
11:36
it allows us to move forward
11:40
one step at a time and realize
11:43
that actually the change that we want is
11:46
already showing up
11:48
and the great thing about that is that
11:50
once we realize that the change that we
11:52
want is already showing up
11:54
in some areas even to an extent
11:58
then we can start to figure out how we
11:59
did that
12:01
how do we get to this point where we’re
12:03
kind of
12:04
halfway along the journey
12:07
and those answers will be very very
12:10
unique
12:11
to each person but they work and we know
12:14
that they work
12:15
because they’re already halfway along
12:18
the journey
12:19
or maybe a third of the way or maybe
12:21
even just one step
12:22
along the way
12:26
and yet if we simply focus on the
12:28
problem
12:29
then it’s either still still broken or
12:32
it’s fixed
12:33
and this kind of sense of movement
12:36
is much more difficult to capture
12:39
and so when we ignore the problem what
12:41
we do instead is we create a journey to
12:44
go on
12:45
and we set a destination and then
12:48
much like that train journey we go stop
12:52
by stop by stop noticing that we’re
12:55
getting closer and closer
12:57
until we end up where we want to be
13:01
so to recap then i started off by saying
13:04
that you don’t need to focus on the
13:06
problem in order to
13:07
get a solution to the problem and in
13:10
fact it’s often a better way
13:11
to ignore the problem completely which
13:14
sounds strange
13:15
but there was the example of the door
13:18
that shuts behind you when you’re
13:19
emptying the bins
13:21
and if you just focus on the locked door
13:23
you can’t actually get to what you
13:25
really want which is to be back in the
13:27
house with the baby
13:28
and that focus that very
13:32
singular focus on the problem itself
13:34
means that you miss the fact
13:36
that the window is open and then thirdly
13:40
we saw that instead
13:43
that metaphor of going on a journey can
13:46
be more useful
13:47
and so instead of focusing on the
13:49
problem we instead
13:51
build a destination we ask ourselves
13:55
what would what would it look like if
13:57
there was a miracle overnight
13:59
and we just woke up tomorrow with those
14:01
problems not there
14:03
and by describing what we notice we
14:05
really paint a very detailed
14:08
picture of the destination of the place
14:11
that we want to end up at
14:14
and we saw as well that because it’s a
14:16
journey
14:19
just like the train journeys that we go
14:21
on
14:22
it gives us a sense of being on our way
14:25
rather than a problem which is either
14:26
fixed or broken
14:28
on a journey we start where we start
14:31
from
14:32
which might actually be already on our
14:34
way but then we move
14:37
forward and we can actually spot our own
14:40
progress
14:41
spot our own milestones along that
14:44
journey
14:46
getting closer and closer to the
14:48
destination
14:52
so if that was useful to you please
14:53
share the episode
14:55
so somebody else could get the benefit
14:56
as well you can work with me directly
14:59
i’m alun parry and you can find out more
15:01
at liverpool psychotherapy dot co dot uk
15:04
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15:06
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15:07
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15:08
episode again so thanks for listening
15:10
i’ll be back again tomorrow
15:12
with another one

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