Penning Problems - Part 3
We’re back to using writing to deal with a problem.
You’ve done this by naming the problem, and using categorization to bring the impact of the problem into higher resolution across its whole range of manifestation.
Hopefully others are joining you in this process.
The next step is to examine and more fully define your influence, and the influence of your relationships, in the life of the problem.
As I mentioned, we’ll seek to do this in creative ways, with the aim of drawing out more meaning that challenges the dominant story and problem-saturated state of affairs, and disrupts the “psychic automation” that’s feeding the problem.
As we do this, we’ll come to see that the ongoing existence of the problem, and failed attempts to solve it, probably aren’t revelations of fixed structural aspects of you and your relationships.
It’s much more likely that instead, you and your relationships are influencing and feeding the problem in ways that can be intentionally changed, once they’ve been articulated and understood as fully as possible.
By using writing to map your influence and the influence of your relationships in the metabolism of the problem, you can discover very precise ways to starve it to death.
It can be hard for people to define their own influence in the life of a problem. Aside from our egotism, when an apparently unsolvable problem has lived among us and our relationships for a long time it can grow so big that it seems to swallow everything else.
All the writing you’ve done up until now has been changing this though. You’re now in a position where you can more competently identify your own influence in the life of the problem.
These are questions you can explore with writing to do exactly this. Plug in “how” after you’ve thought about “when” to bring the quality of your influence into higher resolution, along with each specific example you recall; plug in “why” to specifically try to bring motivations into higher resolution:
-When has the problem outsmarted you? When has it not outsmarted you?
-When have you cooperated with the problem? When have you resisted it, and declined to cooperate with it?
-When have you questioned your competence because of what the problem tells you? When have you refused to question your competence, despite what the problem says?
-When have you given in to the demands of the problem? When have you defied its demands?
-When have you fed the problem? When have you starved it?
-When have you provided for the needs of the problem? When have you decided not to provide for its needs?
You need to be honest about the ways you can see that you and your relationships are feeding the problem. This honesty isn’t for the sake of creating more self-loathing, bitterness, and resentment or malevolently degrading you or anyone else; it’s for the purpose of defining different influences as precisely as possible so that they can be changed.
In order to do this it’s critical to also acknowledge and focus on how you’ve resisted feeding the problem, so that over time a new story and new patterns of performance can be woven out of these threads of neglected meaning.
Hopefully the others involved with and impacted by the problem are joining you in this process; I can’t overstate how important this is. It’d be great to keep collaborating and reaching a consensus with the same mind mapping exercises I mentioned in part 2.
After you’ve explored those questions, try to factor the influence of your relationships into the life of the problem with ones like these:
-Do your past failures give you any ideas about how you and your loved ones can guard against the strategies the problem likes to use?
-When you’ve cooperated with the problem, what does this say about your relationships and about you as a person? How do you feel about this? What about when you’ve resisted cooperating with it?
-What personal and relational strengths and qualities have you and your loved ones relied on to defy the demands of the problem? What do these strengths and qualities suggest about your current relationship with your loved ones?
-Do your past successes give you any ideas about further steps you and your loved ones can take to reclaim your lives from the problem? What do these successes say about you as a person and about the quality of your relationships?
-What difference does what you now know, about you and your loved ones, make in terms of your future relationship with the problem?
-How can you and your loved ones refuse to play the problem’s games?
-What actions can you and your loved ones commit to taking to undermine the problem over time?
Try to be as specific as you can.
You’ve become less paralyzed by the problem, and much more flexible in your perception of the narrative within which the problem is being experienced. All this is going to help you discover meaning and significance that can help you adjust your own influence in the life of the problem, and hopefully the influence of your relationships in its life as well.
Externalizing a problem isn’t meant to release people from their responsibility for the extent and degree to which they’re feeding the problem and helping it survive and thrive; it’s meant to help people become more conscious and aware of their relationship with the problem in order to encourage them to assume greater responsibility for the problem than they knew how to before.
Externalizing a problem can draw it out of a person or group of people, and put an end to the problem-saturated description of individual and family life.
It can enable the emergence and growth of a new narrative, woven out of threads of previously neglected meaning, that can free people to take more creative, inspired, and intentionally flexible approaches to serious problems.
It can create new space, where neither a person, nor the relationships between people, are the problem; instead, the problem becomes the problem, and then people’s relationships with the problem become the problem.
The problem feeds on its own effects for its survival; it has a “life-support system” that it depends on. You and your loved ones can use writing to bring all this into higher resolution, and to help you put into words ways that you can act out a new story that starves the problem to death.