What’s your ‘Real’ Problem?
These strategies will help you pin down and identify a problem. Sometimes we’re not immediately sure about what the problem is, or perhaps you think you know, but then it shifts and changes into something else. It might feel like one of those shapeshifters that are constantly changing form and in the next instance, you seem to be dealing with multiple problems simultaneously with the young person in your life. All of those problems might take the route of one thing. I’m going to help you figure out what that one thing is. Then, when you come to work with a professional, such as myself or anyone else on the NLP4Kids team, you’ll be able to give us a good starting block by ensuring that we know and understand your problem before we start trying to solve it.
I’m going to be referring to this as your problem quite a lot of the time, but it may not be you that has the problem, it’s likely a young person that you are interacting with, but you are also working in some respects on their behalf by reaching out and finding some correct type of support for them so that the problem can disappear. However, sometimes it’s a real challenge to know what kind of help you need because you don’t know what kind of problem you’ve got! Sometimes there appear to be loads of stuff going on. There are problems everywhere and it’s because of believing that there are lots and lots of problems that then everyone starts to feel overwhelmed. The problem then turns into overwhelming anxiety. By the time you come to engage with a mental health professional or someone that helps deal with emotional wellness. It can take them longer to identify the problem and drill down to know what the right solutions are going to be. The other thing that can happen sometimes is, as well as having what appear to be like multiples of different issues going on you may have a problem that is very difficult to define.
For example, if you don’t feel like you could put it into a sentence or two, then you have a fluffy problem! If it is ill-defined and you can’t express it without using lots and lots of words and paragraphs, then that means that you don’t know what your problem is yet. When you know what your problem is, you will be able to say it quite succinctly and in just a couple of sentences. If you’re not at that stage, then you’re probably not yet ready to solve the problem. If you are what you’re going to be getting help with first is defining the problem and not solving a problem yet. It may be a good idea for you to do that little bit of work before seeing a practitioner. That way, you can say to the practitioner, “this is what we need help with”.
If you find that you’re jumping down lots of different rabbit holes then it’s probably the case that we haven’t quite got a definition of what this problem is yet.
Whether you appear to have tonnes of problems, or whether you appear to have a big fluffy problem the strategies I’m going to share will help you overcome that hurdle before you start reaching out for help. The first solution I’m going to give you is better for addressing the issue of multiple problems rather than the fluffy problem issue. The reason why this is a good strategy is that often, we’ll find that when multiple problems are occurring in a young person’s life, they all have a very similar thread. We need to know is what is the similar thread? Look at each of the problems in isolation and ask yourself the question: “What are all of these an example of?” Perhaps they are all an example of an anxious young person or an example of an angry young person. Perhaps they are all an example of a young person who is fearful.
Look at the individual problems, maybe even get them written down. The question that you need to ask yourself is, “What are all of these an example?” Then if you were to sort of, bag-them-up into bigger subject areas, what is that bigger subject area? Maybe there are one or two different subject areas, but there’s probably not going to be more than three. I would say three different problems simultaneously, that are all big and different subject areas are quite rare. If there are three, very often there is one of them that is feeding another. A question that we then might come ask is “Is there any one of these problems, which if we solve it, is going to have a positive impact on the other two?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then we’re going to look at the one first, that’s going to have the biggest impact because we might not even need to do any work on the others. Creating a sack around all of the problems and saying these are all the same so they can all get bagged up together, is a really helpful way to avoid dealing with lots and lots of little problems.
For us as NLP4Kids practitioners we may only need one or two interventions, to tackle all of those problems simultaneously. In NLP terms, we call that chunking up, and it is where we look at things that have a similar subject area and how we can categorise them all in the same way. The other thing that we can do when looking at commonalities is to think about a common denominator. And in this instance, I’m talking less about an overall theme that different problems or the fluffy problem has, but with whom and where the interactions are happening. So for example, a common denominator around a fluffy problem or multiple problems could be school, it could be a particular friend, it could even be you! For example, I may speak with a parent who has separated from another parent, and the parent who moved out and doesn’t have full-time custody of the child, takes a bit of a breather for a while, and then later re-engages into that child’s life. If we then see that there is a change in that child’s behaviour, or that there are some problems that start to arise, we might say, “what’s the common denominator is there something that’s happened at the same time as those problems arising? Is there something that has changed, or something that has maybe caused that child to spin out in some way?” In the example I gave you, the answer would be “yes, we’ve had a parent who’s re-entered into the child’s life” (though that’s not necessarily a negative thing at all, it is at first unsettling.)
It’s possibly caused a little bit of disruption and we need to wait for things to settle down, and to make sure that they’ve got some strategies to help them as they move forward. It might be that there is something else that is on the fringes of that young person’s life, which are not directly associated with the problem that they are experiencing. That outside stressor is maybe causing them to cope less well than they usually would do. This is what we refer to in NLP as a cause-and-effect equation. Simply meaning that one thing causes something else to happen. Sometimes cause and effect is a good thing and sometimes cause and effect has negative effects. As a result, we also have a saying within NLP that you ‘need to be at cause’, which means that you always look at yourself and your interactions and think, “How may I be causing it? What’s my influence? What am I doing to either cause or help maintain a particular problem?” Sometimes when we are dealing with young people, they do not necessarily need to change anything themselves, they do sometimes need that environmental shift to happen to be able to settle back down and get back into the swing of life again.I often meet young people who report to me that if things were a bit calmer at home or if I wasn’t under so much pressure at school…and even though I could give them useful resources, coping strategies, more resilience, what would help them is if things on the outside were not quite so chaotic.
Therefore, we also need to be saying, “what effects am I having on this young person with what I am doing, what I am sharing or how I am influencing them?” Sometimes you can make a big shift in a young person’s attitude, in their mental state and in how well they’re managing their emotions by you inputting something different. That’s not to say, then that you solve their problem for them, but what you do is you create the right environment for them to be able to solve the problem for themselves. Think about the influence that you’re having and if that is not bringing about the desired result right now, maybe it means you need to do something different. When you come to do something different, different doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to hit the winning formula the first time around. As soon as you switch and change in some way, it might make things worse. But if you make things worse, it still tells you that you have influence there, that you’ve got some power over this situation. It means then that if you switch and do something in a slightly different way again, you’re going to carry influence.
At that stage, you might start to cultivate more of a winning formula for helping that young person into a better coping strategy and coming up with solutions for themselves as well.
By Gemma Bailey