It's often first the problem we know, feel, or hear about. Whether it's our own, a client's, a loved one's, or a friend's--the facts as they present themselves are all from the problem space.
At times, of course, it makes sense to inquire even into what's wrong. You can't change what you don't know is problematic. But even though change does arise from perception of negative patterns, it makes less sense in the beginning to leave what you see and feel wrapped in that negative awareness.
Coaching or therapeutic trainings often talk about something called “the problem space.” Staying lodged in these perceptions of what’s wrong keeps us stumped somehow about how to fix it. As the saying goes, “you can’t fix the problem from within the problem space.” You have to push out of it into a wider, richer, “solution space.”
Step into the Solution
Here’s a simple process that's excellent at doing this. It produces in my experience and that of my client's and student's better positive changes faster.
First ask yourself or the other person to try to reverse the problem statement. Ask something like, “Well, if that’s what’s wrong, what would ‘right’ look like in that area?” So “I’m exhausted and scared all the time and my business is failing,” turns into something like “I’m energized, calm, and my business is booming.” This is a good start. We have at least some brushstrokes in the solution space.
This is the beginning of what I call a “desired positive change,” and my students have dubbed it the situation's “DPC.” But it’s as yet diffuse, and rather global, in one fell swoop, probably impossible. So better, faster change can benefit greatly from three further steps. I call them “focusing,” “instantiating,” and “opening to the universe.”
Focus the Solution
Focusing means asking what, in this initially visualized solution space, is most important, or would maybe come first. Our own or other's initial DPC’s go often from problem to complete fixes for our whole life. Let’s narrow that down to something a little more practical. So, “I’m energized, calm, and my business is booming” might become “I have the energy to work calmly and steadily in my business.” That’s an obvious starting point for success.
OK, so now let’s instantiate it. That means asking the client to go further and imagine whatever success in that change, or serious progress towards it—whatever these might look like in the near future. In other words, to paint some detail into the solution space by creating one or two instances, one or two examples of “having the energy to work calmly and steadily in my business.”
I don’t use here the term “milestones,” because that tends to suggest a long, linear process. I don’t want to suggest the change is necessarily lengthy or tedious. Maybe it is, but let's not dwell on that just now.
The Miracle Question
Instantiating is by the way closely related to what is known as Steve de Shazer's “miracle question.” He (and Milton Ericson as well) would relax people, and then tell them they are waking up one day soon and somehow, miraculously--we don’t care how—the change has happened. It’s done, and during this first day or two, they notice various things being different that make them realize the miracle has indeed happened.
OK, so what are a couple of those things? How did you find out about the miracle? However you pose the question, “having the energy to work calmly and steadily in my business” can become instantiated as “I wake up excited about the day’s work,” or “I look back at a week amazed at how much I have accomplished,” or “wow, my mornings have become amazingly productive.”
Perhaps you can feel already the difference in energy around these.
Don't Micromanage the Universe
In this process, we have now nudged the client from vague, to more focused, all the way to concrete examples of life after the change. But we’ve left out how well the business is doing. And possibly much else that positive change might bring about. Maybe there's some different, amazingly cool development in store. So one of the guidelines for successfully manifesting transformative changes is “don’t try to micromanage the universe.”
So have we messed up by this focusing and instantiating?
My experience with myself and my clients says, no. This concrete populating of the solution space is extremely valuable for family constellations especially, and really any form of helping/healing work. Beyond that, we can easily re-open to the universe by simply adding “or better.”
So now the simple formula becomes
Applying This to
Family Constellation Work
This process is profoundly useful in any problem situation. But now if I'm doing a family constellation, I'll set up something in which the Desired Positive Change (DPC) is something like “amazed at my week's work accomplishments, or better,” or “so easily fascinated by my work, or better.”
Because of the process we’ve just gone through, the larger understanding remains present around this. But this is concrete and vivid, and implies the larger change (...or better!).
It can be richly productive to have a representative on the floor, table, or altar actually addressed (named) “amazed-at-my-work-accomplishments-or-better.” Checking in, I’ll literally ask, “So, amazed-at-my-work-accomplishments-or-better, how is this for you?” Understand of course, that this representative will often start out distanced or collapsed or turned away. That’s the current state of the system being constellated.
But now we've got the solution as well in the initial space. Often it can "tell us" what it needs.
This person or figurine or household object is an “indicator rep” in the constellation. What ever makes this element perk up, feel more included, or results in a supported client close to and facing it—those are the movements the constellation is looking to uncover and facilitate.
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