Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Solving Other People's Problems

Other people's problems are the easiest in the world to solve. You look at this guy who's complaining of getting nowhere in life, and you see he's a slob, he's a blob, he's indecisive, he's not trying, he's... - well, you look at him, and you see all the obvious solutions: Take a shower! Get some decent clothes, exercise, DO something, be presentible, decide what you want to do, go see some people....

At first he seems hungry for your suggestions, even says "Wow!" a few times, but one by one, upon closer scrutiny, he rejects them. He can't do this because...and that's no good because...and he doesn't have time for that or money for this and he doesn't think that would do any good....

And as you persist, working it all out for him, showing him exactly what's needed, making charts, he begins to get upset with you, and when you leave, he thanks you stiffly and you know he won't do any of it.

(And you lie awake wondering what you did wrong. So now YOU have a problem.)

People get ornery when you try to take on yourself their misery. Often, it's all they have. Every problem is a dear possession, hard to relinquish. Before it became a problem, it was a solution to some other problem. That's why, when you look at this guy, you immediately see solutions: Because that's exactly what you're looking at - all of this guy's solutions.

Being a slob, for example - what could that solve? It could solve having to dress up and shave every day. It could solve fear of people, by making one so repellant that people are kept at a distance. It could solve the loss of Dad or Uncle or Grandfather, who loved him dearly and was a slob, so by being a slob one keeps that person alive. Who knows what it solves? He doesn't. He's not aware of what he's doing. It's all submerged beneath heaps of old discarded solutions become problems.

And those earlier problems - they, too, were solutions to something. How do you unravel this? Where does it end?

Normally, it never ends, life becoming a dwindling into ever more confining solutions to solutions to solutions. That's why so many are now on psychiatric drugs: They are desperate solutions. And people themselves move, gradually, from being the solvers of problems to being, themselves, problems (the homeless, the insane, you're pal who is pissed at you for trying to solve his problem or for failing to solve his problem...) that must be solved by others. Thus, problems are a contagion.

So how can you help another or even help yourself?

It helps just to view what is - not try to solve it, but simply confront it. It helps another if you can just get him to view what is. It helps a person rise above problems (actually the problems simply cease to be problems) if you can get him to look at things or touch things - you know, walls, furniture, sidewalks, trees.

Perhaps you've experienced this yourself: You had lots of problems spinning round and round in your head. You took a long walk in hopes of sorting them out, but they just kept going round and round, leading into one dead end after another. But meanwhile, it's a beautiful day and you start noticing things, and a particular slant of sun on some kid's bike beneath a tree feels good for some reason, seems to take you back to a happy time in childhood - or you start to become aware of wind sounds in the leaves or notice a cat hiding behind a bush, staring at you.... You walk for a long time, maybe traces of the problems flitting in and out of consciousness, but you are simply aware and increasingly aware of a larger and more detailed and luminous world. When you get home, you look for the problem, but isn't there any more.

What happened? Nothing much. You just stopped trying to solve something, and it vanished (and with it, the entire chain of earlier problems and solutions that held it in place).

Awareness dissolves the lies that create what we call problems.

How could you use this to help someone else with problems? Here's a silly example: George has a problem: He can't go anywhere. Why not? Because he's in his house holding onto a door knob (attached to a door). He can't let go of the door knob, so he can't go anywhere. If you try to help him solve this, you get nowhere and are tempted to dismiss George as hopelessly insane, though his reasons for hanging onto that door knob are probably quite logical. Maybe years before, George was in a tornado and was saved from being blown away by grabbing a door knob and holding on tight. A door knob attached to a well-anchored door was a great solution.

But this was long ago, and George doesn't remember it, prefers not to think of that painful time (lost his family and his house, nothing left standing but the door he clung to), and probably doesn't even realize he's holding onto a door knob. He just knows that when he tries to go anywhere, he gets yanked back, and this is messing up his life, because it makes holding a job impossible, much less eating or going to the bathroom. (Yes, George needs a lot of help just to stay alive.)

He's tried everything! For example, he had the door taken off it's hinges, so he could drag it around with him, but that, too, was awkward, the door too heavy and bulky and upsetting to others. He's also tried isomorphic exercises to bulk up his shoulders and biceps so that he could more easily carry the door or maybe pull himself away from it, but the stronger he gets, the more tightly he holds onto the knob.

How could you help George (who, apart from his being unable to let go of the door knob, is rational )? Well, you might have him look at the door, look at the table, look at the wall, look at the door knob in his hand, look at one thing after another for hours, until he realized there was a door there and a door knob there. He may seem to know these things already - after all, he's been told about them often enough. But are they REAL to him? Of course not.

Once they are real to him, you might ask him to hold on to the door knob as tightly as he can, and have him do this repeatedly (each time saying "Hold on tightly to that door knob", and when he does, saying "Thank you" or some other acknowledgement, so that each time he does it newly and knows when he's done it), and after a few hours (or a few hours a day for several days) of this, George will suddenly realize, "What the hell! I'm holding onto this door knob!" And he'll let go of it, just like that. (Maybe he'll realize at this point why he was holding onto it and start laughing and not stop laughing for a long time.) And that will be it. You didn't offer him a solution. You just familiarized him with what is - and as he confronted, increasingly, how things were, a lie vanished, and with it, the problem.

He didn't solve his problem. It simply vanished.

(I call drugs a desperate solution, because the way out of traps involves confronting them, becoming more aware of what is, and drugs are designed to suppress from view the exact things that need to be confronted, on the grounds that they are upsetting. So drugs are a good way to make it more difficult ever to be free of one's problems.)

A silly story? Or do our most formidable problems rest on foundations as fragile as George's? Do we have to work as hard as George did to maintain the problem keep it in place, keep it from vanishing? Do we hold on tight to our problems?

I've had the following experiences:

I had problems. I took my attention (somewhat) off them and concentrated on listing things I'd started, but never completed (including letters unanswered, housework not done, etc.). I took the easiest of these and finished it, then took another and completed it - at the start, some of these tasks looked forbidding, but as I got the easier ones done, the harder ones began to look easy too (I was on a roll); I completed them all or at least got them all well underway, and somewhere along the line, the problems that had occupied my mind for weeks vanished. Some of them had nothing obvious to do with the tasks I was completing, but they, too, vanished.

On another occasion, having attention on problems, I just looked for all the incomplete communications I could find and completed them, and my problems vanished. I answered my letters and e-mails, called some people I'd long meant to call or had been avoiding calling, told someone something I'd been avoiding saying, etc. And my problems disappeared.

The single most powerful thing I ever did to deal with problems (in 1968) was get into Scientology. In fact, since a particular session of Scientology counseling that year, problems have never since seemed as solid and desperate as they did before that session. At the time it seemed like magic, because I'd been a buzzing hive of problems, but I came out of that 30-minute session utterly free of them, able to view life as a game that included challenges, but none of the things I'd considered problems (stucknesses, MUST-have-CAN'T-have impasses) remained.

It was at that time that I worked out my parable of the man who couldn't let go of door knobs. It was the best thing I could come up with to explain what had happened to me. I'd seen exactly how and why I'd been clinging to the situations I'd called problems, and suddenly was able to let go of them. Not "solve" them, not "do something about" them, just let go of them and get on with the game of living.

Imagine a guy who keeps hanging onto the "problem" of not having the money he needs who stops having that problem. Does this mean he goes into apathy on the subject of money, gives up? No. That would be a "solution" - not caring. Letting go of the problem does not mean lowering responsibility for one's own condition. It means ceasing to fixate on some lie that prevents change. So if you are able to dispense with a money problem, that doesn't mean you won't have money. On the contrary, it greatly increases the likelihood that you'll prosper, since you're attention isn't hung-up in the "problem" of money.

The techniques used to deal with problems (and other basic traps of existence) in Scientology are not just applicable to individuals. For example, right now the United States has "problems" with terrorism, drugs, etc., and keeps trying to "solve" them, and, sure enough, the "solutions" (for example, invasion of Iraq) are becoming problems. Hmmm. Dear United States, what problem do terrorists solve for you?

(NOT as silly as it sounds. For example, we have "problems" with getting oil inexpensively and "problems" about finding excuses for moving into the Middle East oil countries and "problems" about the Arab countries accepting Euros as well as dollars for oil and this destabilizing the U.S. currency and economy and "problems" justifying the existence and expense of parts of our government that previously depended on exaggerating the might and evil of the Soviet Union for their existence and funding; and "problems" keeping the people of the United States in line as well-behaved consumers and "problems" moving an increasing share of the money of citizens into large corporations via the government - for example, right now the Bush Administration is making the argument that the FDA must restrict the right of citizens to sue pharmaceutical companies because the expertise and viability of these companies may be needed for the War on Terrorism. I'm not saying these are the reasons for the War on Terrorism. I'm simply citing possibilities. What I know for certain is that the "War on Terrorism" is a solution, and therefore has become a problem and therefore is based on lies. Enough aware citizens would cause the problem to vanish.)


jere said...

Excellent analysis and advice, Dean. Thanks.

Belle said...

I enjoyed this one though "Awareness dissolves the lies that create what we call problems." impinged so directly that I just sort of scanned the rest of the way through.