Problem Solving – A Way to Finding Peace: An Essay

Essay by Linda Shacklock.

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We all have problems. They ebb and flow: sometimes we have more, and other times we are carefree without a worry in the world. We know that over the course of our lives problems will come and go. How we think about problems and how we choose to respond to problems determines the quality of our lives.

We may want to run away, hide under the covers in our bed, disappear into scrolling on our screens or binge-watching TV shows to distract ourselves. Sometimes, when looking at it from the outside, some forms of distraction can appear healthy, such as excessive exercise, working or socialising a lot.

Problems have a way of finding their way out from our distractions and reappearing over and over in our lives in differing ways until we pay proper attention to them. Paying attention is vastly different from wallowing or hyper-fixating on problems. If we pay attention to the type of problems that we are facing, especially if they seem to have a repetitious pattern, then we can identify how we can tackle the core of the problem we are facing.

We often distract ourselves because knowing the true cause of our problems often asks us to take a hard look at ourselves and how we got to where we are now. It is so much easier to blame our problems on others or external factors to make us feel better about ourselves, our actions, our points of view or our beliefs.

Most problems are not caused by a single factor that can be alleviated with a quick fix or by pushing the problems back onto others when we have (at the least) a portion of responsibility for them. Many people use this strategy as their first problem solving instinct. This is called projection. Humans use projection strategies to stop themselves from experiencing difficult thoughts, feelings or emotions. We instead mentally disown and then attribute these labels of emotions, thoughts, and feelings we have to other people or things external to us. This is not effective problem solving, and it can inhibit our ability to find meaningful solutions.

Why do we do this? Projection is a form of hiding from our true selves, afraid of what we will find or what our lives may look like if we did take ownership of our part in the problem we face.

The reason this occurs is that it is much easier to judge than it is to understand, be open-minded, and learn. By blaming the cause of our problems on external sources only, and not partially or wholly on ourselves, we hope to avoid taking on accountability and responsibility for our contribution, our actions or inaction. We avoid the messy work required to know our true selves when we encounter complex problems, and we avoid potential solutions. 

It takes great courage to dig deep and look at ourselves honestly to figure out who we actually are. The reason this is commonly avoided is because it is scary, and it is messy. Humans also have a tendency to feel shame and harshly judge ourselves for not being perfect. When we realistically know that there is no such thing as perfect, our inner critic’s voice will want to drown us out.

It takes great courage to dig deep and look at ourselves honestly to figure out who we actually are.

Good problem solving requires a decision to truly tackle problems that are repetitive. This means that we must approach them in a way that is different from any way we have tried before. If we don’t change our approach and our problem-solving process there will not be a different result.

We must also keep in mind that we can only have an effect on things that are within our control. We can’t make someone else do something differently unless they want to; as such we must also accept that there are things that are beyond our power and we must come to peace with them or change ourselves to change them.

Effective, kind, calm and clear communication can go a long way to solve problems effectively before they turn into bigger problems. As you tackle new ways of problem solving you will have some successes, but inevitably there will be some failures as well. That is the nature of problem solving and of learning.

Taking a breath and taking a pause whilst you think about problems proactively and rationally rather than emotionally or reactively can help us learn how to face problems with a different approach. Try to use non-judgmental or inflammatory language. Ask yourself the following questions calmly: 

Did I have a role in this? How could I approach this differently? How can I be heard in a way that promotes understanding and improved knowledge? What sort of person do I wish to be? Am I based in truth or am I based in what I think I know based on partial facts, my own beliefs, or previous experiences? Have I gathered as much information as I can from a wide range of resources that don’t all align with my usual stance on this issue and about this situation or problem so that I can make a well informed decision?

This world will always have problems and we owe it to ourselves and to our fellow humans to make a commitment to solving as many problems as they arise or in foresight as we are able to. The healthier our brains are, the more informed we are, the less judgmental we are and the gap between us all becomes smaller and smaller. After all, we are all humans, none better than another, inhabiting this same earth. We owe it to the well-being of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our fellow humans on faraway continents who we will never know.

Solving problems does not mean we will get our way. It does not mean that the other person, people, or external sources will get their way either. Solving problems means that we all come to a mature, healthy, informed, well rounded, fact based, non-judgmental, kind and peaceful approach to finding common ground that leads to a more harmonious life for us all.

This is what we can give to life; our life, the lives of those we engage with and of those we don’t, and in doing so when we come to the end of our lives and we reflect back, we can leave this world with peace in our hearts that we have tried our best by taking on responsibility for our whole selves right down to the deepest depths of who we are.

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