So what does “Living in the Solution” mean, anyway?

Some friends of mine are wondering if I spent too much time in Chemistry class or something.

What it means is pretty simple.  When we run into the kind of trouble that leads to us needing a psychotherapist, we have often painted ourselves into a corner where we can’t think of any positive way out.  This is precisely the time to start to live in the solution to our problems.

I can hear you saying, yes, but one has to get to the root of one’s problems before being able to get better.  Yes and no.  My issue with that is that you don’t “have” to do that at all.  You can acknowledge what you know about what is dragging you down, and at the same time try to incorporate aspects of living in the solution to help you get better.

A person who is at the bottom of the well doesn’t worry about digging further down to get to the root of a problem.  That person should instead look up and see the rope with the bucket right over his/her head that he/she can climb up.

So, what does living in the solution look like?

Ask yourself what is termed the “miracle question”, one of those strange questions we therapists are paid to ask.  One version of it follows:  “Suppose our meeting is over, you go home, do whatever you planned to do for the rest of the day. And then, some time in the evening, you get tired and go to sleep. And in the middle of the night, when you are fast asleep, a miracle happens and all the problems that brought you here today are solved just like that. But since the miracle happened over night nobody is telling you that the miracle happened. When you wake up the next morning, how are you going to start discovering that the miracle happened? … What else are you going to notice? What else?”  In other words, what do you notice that is different?  If you have a problem with anger before you go to bed, for example, you might notice in the morning that you speak in a quiet voice when someone calls you names.  If you feel depressed before you go to bed, you may notice that the next day you are making phone calls to friends whom you haven’t seen in months due to depression-related isolation.  Hopefully you get the picture.

Speaking in a quiet voice.  Calling friends.  These are concrete parts of the solution that you can work on in a given day.  Do more of these and you won’t find yourself worrying about the problem because you’ll be too busy having normal conversations with people who anger you and speaking on the phone with old friends, feeling better as a result.  In other words, you’ll be too busy living in the solution.

For more about Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, where the terms comes from, click here.

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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