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Problem Solving Training



When faced with a crisis of our own making, we need to rely upon the judgment of others, and guidance and direction provided by God, or well meaning people and institutions. However, to fully rely upon external control is to lose control over one's own life, resulting in a feeling of futility, and uselessness. It may work for a reprieve, but if we become dependent upon the program, rather than independent and vibrant with the challenges of life, we may be prevented from our opportunity to solve the problems we were given to solve.

Trust in yourself and God to be more effective with others. The program isn't about feeling good, but about building character. Make decisions carefully so every opportunity will count. Become free of judgment and confident in yourself and your ability to help others.

Problem solving cannot be done while emotionally distraught. Emotions jumble up our thinking causing us to do things we don't mean to do, and say things we don't mean to say, often aggravating the problem rather than contributing to a solution.

Even if emotions have stabilized, it is not possible to work on a problem by 'thinking' about it. There is too much information to process. In order to see things clearly, we need to write them down. We are much more careful to be accurate about the information as we write, and when we review what we have written, the relevant information can be separated from what may not be so relevant.

~Paul Klerman, Circa 1998 Mental Health Options, Berkeley CA

Define the Problem

Exactly what is the problem?

For Example: Though we may not be able to talk about it, we may realize that our relationship has become shallow - that we keep repeating the same meaningless behavior, and that some of the behavior is really harmful, like making up after a fight with fitful sex, knowing full well it's only a matter of time before the fighting starts all over again.

This seems like a cycle of abuse. Please see: Cycle of Abuse

The idea is to state the problem clearly in one line. If we're angry, or fearful, we need to work on those troubling emotions before tackling problem solving. Here are some forms that will help resolve those toxic emotions:

Resentment Inventory
Resentment Inventory II

Fear Inventory
Fear Inventory II

Gather Relevant Information

Naturally, we could see a professional for services like couples counseling, or anger management, but if our partner isn't willing to participate in these kinds of activities, or doesn't see our point of view, researching the problem on our own will be very important to us.

We may find that the problem is related to substance abuse, or based upon victim mentality, and the program we choose will necessarily depend on the information we have, as well as what we can find out.

Sometimes, there's nothing that can be done about a lifestyle choice, or an illegal activity, but there are programs and services designed specifically for that kind of obstacle, such as Al-Anon, or CODA. Please see: Anonymous Fellowships.

Generate Options

If we've done our research well, we might wake from a dream with a great idea! Keep paper and pen close to jot it down before forgetting, especially at night. A serious researcher gets completely immersed in a problem, and sometimes the most helpful inspiration comes from within as a result.

While we may find guidance and direction online, most of the trouble we face is based on the person we're perceived to be, so become clear about the kind of person others believe you to be (We don't want to be the problem.) Please see: Self Examination, follow through with the worksheets here to find out what's wrong and what to do about it. Its up to us!

Conduct Inventory
Conduct Inventory II

Evaluate Options

Use a Decision Tree: Please see: Decision Tree, to more easily see what the consequences of our decisions will be.

If we're really careful, we can even assign values to each Pro and Con, to emphasize which is most important.

For example, if we are choosing where to live, where we work might be very important. but if one of our options is working at home, then where we work will be wherever we live, and won't matter to our decision at all.

This is a good example of the kind of complexity we need to deal with. Depending upon which option is chosen, the value of the work location will vary. In order to make decisions like these well, we will need to write our options down. Not all options can be evaluated carefully in the mind!

Develop an Action Plan

Create a list of do-able steps. A great example of baby-steps was created by The Founders of the 12-Step Program. (Please see: Step Primer.)

The Program Founders were a part of a Christian Fellowship known as the Oxford Group, and their radical 6-Step Program must have seemed daunting to early sobriety, so rather than doing Restitution in one step, they broke it down into two:

  1. In Step 8, just the list.
  2. And then, in Step 9, the direct amends.

Even each of those steps can become more well developed by listing for example, a break down of Step 8 into:

  • Those to whom we will never make amends,
  • Those to whom we're sure we will,
  • And those to whom we might make amends to after some time in prayer.

I chose not to do this, but suggestions for preparing to make amends are here:

Amends List
Amends List II

The point is, to write a plan in steps we know we can accomplish.

Evaluate Results

If you have ever done this before, you already know it's a lot of work, but if we've been careful about each step of the process, we will have done our work very well. Every Country, Corporation, Church and People has used this process, or one very much like it. The plan is to share a few strategies to help avoid pitfalls along the way (like victim mentality).

On the evaluation form, we will determine if the time and energy we put into this was worth our while. We'll need to be honest with ourselves about various strategies we've used to achieve peace of mind. Please see: Evaluation Form to determine if anything works for you.

Please see also: Fundamentals for an example in practice.

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