Problem Solving Techniques

Have you ever tried to ‘reason’ your way out of a personal emergency while you are in the midst of the attack?  It’s very difficult to do and some would say impossible.  There is a reason for why we can’t do it.  Emergencies are not the time to stop and think things through – we must act!

There is an area of the brain that lights up energetically at times that we are thinking, concentrating, imagining and planning.  Let’s call it the creative center.  There is a completely separate zone of the brain that takes over and energizes when we sense trouble, and for sake of discussion we can call it the survival center.  The difficulty experienced with creative thinking in the middle of a crisis suggests that our creative energy supplies are rerouted during emergencies – leaving a ‘Temporary Closure’ sign on the door so to speak, and the ‘Ah Ha’ lights dimmed.

The survival center then lights up brightly in times of trouble, and it seems to have a slightly different mechanism of thought.  I envision this area of the brain to act like a filing clerk.  When the brain recognizes a threat, it calls upon the survival clerk to open a drawer in the correct cabinet and pull up the file with the instructions on ??? (whatever the issue is).  We then carry out those instructions instantaneously.

  • I’ve talked with many survivors/victims who have reported that during their emergency, they couldn’t do or think of anything other than just being paralyzed with fear.  I think this is the result of a filing clerk pulling up an empty docket for instruction.  Being as the creative center is still closed for the moment, there are only really three instinctive options left to follow, Fight, Flight or Freeze.

As human beings, we do have the ability to problem solve.  To be most effective, we must do it when we are outside of the crisis or stressed state of mind.  Some spare time for trial and error is also useful.  Simply stated, we can write the file content we need and store it away for future use.

  • First, let’s mentally convert our stressor into the construct of being a problem.
  • We can now work the problem through any number of actions with predicted outcomes (creativity) and,
  • Observe our results as a solution to the problem (instructions for the survival clerk’s docket).
  • These are the mechanics of any good course of training, self-defense for example.

Let’s look at outcomes for a moment.  Any action we employ to a problem will have only one of four results.  I remember the acronym: RUDE:

  • REDUCED – The stressor/problem is reduced in some capacity. i.e. number of occurrences.
  • UNCHANGED – The stressor/problem appears unaffected by the chosen action.
  • DISPLACED – The stressor/problem has moved to a new location or it has ‘morphed’ into a new and perhaps unanticipated issue.
  • ELIMINATED – The stressor/problem is no longer a concern.

We can assess our solutions, based on these outcomes, and decide upon our outcome satisfaction and any need for further work on the problem.  Another cool thing happens within this process – the stressor becomes a challenge to be dealt with rather than a frightening threat to our security.  We can think about it differently.  The instinctive fight or flight response with all of its pro’s and con’s gets left in the dust.  One can actually feel the difference when you do it right.