Solving Problems by Increasing Options
Most problems can be solved, goals reached, if we have the courage to get out of our cage… self-imposed limitations in our thinking… and explore the abundant universe waiting to assist us.
Plato said “The greatest good is knowledge, the greatest evil, ignorance.” Living in isolation within the boundaries of our “cage” or limited thinking keeps us from learning what we need to know to live the happy, peaceful, productive lives we were designed to have. So acquiring some new knowledge about life and death subjects will be the focus of this section.
These are the five areas we’ll be working on:
- Expanding your knowledge through reading and related activities
- Learning two very effective problem-solving methods
- Understanding and utilizing your sixth sense
- Using common sense in problem solving
- Finding or starting support groups
Regardless of where our destructive beliefs and behaviors come from, freeing ourselves from them is the same; we have to acknowledge them and reach out for help. When we do this, as if by magic, resources we need become available to us! I have a mug I often use with a statement on it that reminds me of how all this works. It has pictures of a chubby cat in workout clothes with a statement written above it, “Believe you can and you’re half way there”. So if you believe you can change things you don’t like about your life, you’re well on your way! Below are some activities that will help strengthen your belief.
- In your notebook, start a new section and label it “Problem Solving” or something along those lines. Write down some things you’d like to change in your life. Include your fears and doubts and other painful emotions you’re experiencing in connection with them. We’ll focus on specific problems and goals later, just be general here.
- Ask God or the universe to help you find the information you need to make these changes and the courage to act on that information.
- Write an affirmation or positive belief statement that you will succeed in this venture. For example, “Positive changes I want in my life are beginning to happen.”
- Post it in a place where you’ll see it often throughout the day.
- Say your affirmation several times a day, especially as you are going to sleep.
- Watch for results!
Now for the first area we’re covering in this section:
Once you’ve started working on the first half of this equation, believe change is possible and reach out for help, useful information will start coming to you from many directions. Books, articles, radio or television talk shows, Internet articles, and other related media are the most obvious.
If you haven’t already read To Heaven Through Hell” I hope you’ll read it soon, as this website can’t begin to share all the problem-solving resources and strategies it contains. There are 60 related books referenced in the story as they relate to specific parts of it, and they’re all listed in the bibliography with pertinent book and author information…books that address religious issues, sexuality, relationships, parenting, life-threatening illness, 6th sense experiences, etc. I feel sure you’ll want to read several of these books that deal with specific problems you’re working on.
Visitors to this site are encouraged to post feedback on helpful books they’ve read also, so watch for recommendations.
Problems Problems!! Everyone has them but what to do about it? When we’re little kids, our parents take care of them, for better or worse. But before long, we’re on our own, often without the problem solving resources we need, and like this picture illustrates, we’re in deep trouble. Well, don’t despair; help’s on the way!
There are 3 ways to deal with a problem:
- Solve it
- Accept it
- Change what you can. Accept what you can’t.
Because we lack good problem solving skills, too often we accept problems we could solve, or settle for partial solutions unnecessarily and feel powerless and resentful. Or, as mentioned earlier, we try to escape from our problems through self-defeating behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, sex or other excessive distractions. And things just get worse and worse. Whether or not your early caretakers prepared you to handle your own problems effectively or not, you can learn to become a good problem solver here and now!
Though it’s true we sometimes have to deal with problems in the last two ways indicated above, there are two very effective methods that will help you solve almost any problem or reach any goal.
1. Weigh and implement the best solution from a brainstorming list. The Problem Solving Process
2. Merge solutions from several sources. Solutions By Synthesis
As you practice on a regular basis you’ll be amazed at your new levels of self-confidence, self-reliance, self-actualization, and best of all… improvement in all of your relationships.
Here is an excerpt from To Heaven Through Hell that describes and illustrates the first method, The Problem Solving Process.
“As I worked on problem-solving strategies for my intended self-help section, I combined my own ideas with those I’d gathered from Tracy, the Global Problem Solving Course and many other sources. I came up with what seemed to be a foolproof process for solving any and all kinds of problems.
- Believe there is a solution for every problem.
- Make a written statement of that belief on the top of the paper.
- Identify the main problem concerning a situation. To do this you may have to write down several things you think are the problem and select the one that seems to need solving most. If the other related problems you listed don’t solve themselves in the process, you may have to look at them again later, one at a time.
- Write down the problem you are going to solve…the thoughts, feelings and behaviors it involves.
- Write down the way you want to think, feel and behave concerning this matter.
- Brainstorm for as many possible solutions as you can think of. You can do this alone or with others. If you do it by yourself, early morning after a good night’s sleep seems to be an optimum time, but experiment with when to brainstorm for ideas and do it when they seem to come to you the easiest. Write all options down, even those that seem foolish.
- From your list, choose several things you think will solve the problem. Set some criteria for deciding upon the best answer (for example, easiest, fastest, safest, least expensive, most effective) and give each possible solution points on a scale of 1-10.
- Choose the one with the highest score or the solution, which seems the most likely if it’s quite obvious.
- Begin to execute the solution you have chosen as soon as possible.
- Measure the result you get against the one you said you wanted to achieve in Step 5.
- If, after a reasonable time, the goal is not reached or the problem is not solved, pick another option and try it. Or add more options to your brainstorming list of solutions until you find another one you think will work better.
- It’s important to keep doing the things that work once a problem has been solved.
I would soon have an opportunity to test out this new combination of ideas I had simply labeled “The Problem Solving Process” in my notes.
School started a few weeks after I got back from Canada. I was happy to be assigned world history full-time for the second year, but when I came to school to begin setting up for the coming l year, I learned we had all new administrators and major changes were underway. Teaching teams were changed, some teachers were given different job assignments, and many teachers were told to move their things into other rooms. Since there was very little time before the kids would be coming, this was especially upsetting to those of us who had to move or change subjects.
Lisa and I were still on the same team, but our team had been moved to the center wing where there were no windows and all of us had to move our things to different rooms. Two teachers came to me during faculty meeting that morning and told me to request a different room because the one I’d been assigned was the smallest in that section and the air ducts were broken, so it was extremely hot and unpleasant in there. Both of them had stayed sick with respiratory problems as long as they taught in that room! I already had enough problems with sinus and allergies and knew I had thirty-nine students assigned to my homeroom, so I panicked.
I spent much of that day trying to see various administrators to explain why I needed a different room. I was told there was nothing that could be done. I began to write the problem and possible solutions in the problem solving section I’d created in my notebook.
There is a good solution for every problem.
I have been assigned a room I think is too small, and too hot, and it has no windows I can look out of or open to get air. I will not be able to teach effectively in this room and I’m going to get sick.
How I am feeling:
I feel claustrophobic. I’m afraid there will be chaos with so many kids crammed into this room. I feel angry with the administrators for doing this. I feel powerless over making decisions to create a better climate at our school. I’m confused about my reaction; whether I’m over-reacting to create stress because I’m still addicted to it, or whether I have a genuine problem I need to solve.
How I want to feel:
I want to feel good about the room and capable of working in it effectively if there is really nothing I can do about being moved to a different one. I want to feel peaceful; confident I can handle whatever happens when the kids come. I don’t want to react or be impulsive and make the problem worse.
- Go to higher administration and see if anything can be done.
- Pay these administrators back by being uncooperative and unfriendly from now on.
- Quit my job.
- Write floor plans for the classroom and pick the best one.
- Try talking to them again tomorrow to see if I can get them to change their minds.
- Put the problem in perspective; is it really as bad as I think?
- Get rid of stuff I don’t need and make more room.
- Go to school today (Saturday) and get an extra day to work on this.
- See this as a challenge, not a problem.
- Consider what good might come out of this such as improving my skills in discipline and organization.
- Have a sense of humor about the situation.
- Set the room up halfway and if enrollment is as high as I fear, then ask again if I can change.
- Call the principal in when there’s no room and show him the situation, if it happens.
- Ask if we can move some of the kids assigned to us to another team if there’s not enough room.
- Change rooms on our own, behind their backs. They won’t know the difference.
I found several good possibilities and put check marks beside them. Using the previously mentioned five criteria mentally, I chose number four and got busy. After several floor plans, not only did I come up with one I liked, but I didn’t have to get rid of any of my things either.
When the kids arrived it was hot and crowded and there were still no windows, so it was stuffy. But continuing to use several more ideas from my brainstorming list, we made do and the year started out very successfully under the circumstances. I was excited about this new workable tool which I used repeatedly from then on to analyze and solve problems as they came up in all areas of my life.” (Pages 222-225)
Following are two forms you can copy and use each time you tackle a new problem. Go ahead and try it out. I know you’ll be amazed at how effective this process can be.
I coined the second method, Solutions By Synthesis, or combining solutions from several sources, from a wise philosopher whose name I am unable to find. He said, “It’s not new knowledge mankind needs, but a synthesis of the knowledge we already have.”
A good example of when to use this method might be losing and keeping off excess weight, a problem millions of us have today. How often have you tried this diet or that one, only to come up with defeat and discouragement? Instead of one of the following solutions, incorporate all of them, along with others as you come across them.
- Limit calories to 12-1500 a day, or cut portions in half
- Drink 8 glasses of water a day
- Do at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week
- Eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch, and a pauper for supper
- Reduce fat, sugar and salt
- Increase fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains
Another example is creating a healthy, open belief system for yourself in place of a limited, closed belief system you may have found yourself trapped in. After much study and listening to my intuition or 6th sense experiences, I came up with a combination of beliefs from both Eastern and Western religion and philosophy as well as other disciplines like psychology. My “universal perspective” has been a great source of comfort and empowerment to me.
As you expand your knowledge using your five physical senses, and begin to recognize your 6th sense at work, you’ll likely go through a similar process. And speaking of the 6th sense, we’re now up to the third area of this section:
First of all, what is the 6th sense? To define it briefly, it’s our inner capacity to connect with the invisible realm that lies beyond what we can experience using our 5 physical senses…seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. We each have our own unique 6th sense, but the vast invisible resource we tap with it, which many of us call God, is the same for all of us. We can block or deny our 6th sense, but it is ever present and cannot be destroyed. Therefore, through it, we are all connected to God and everyone who lives now or has ever lived.
Are there other names for this sense? Yes, it might be called your subconscious, your intuition, your spirit, your soul, your true self…. to share names I’m familiar with. There are probably many more.
What types of things are in the invisible realm that we can tap into with our 6th sense? All knowledge, creativity and energy for starters. Peace, joy, and love are three more. In short, everything we need, coupled with our physical world, to live happy, successful lives!
You may say, “I don’t have any 6th sense experiences, thinking only about the extraordinary experiences we usually associate with this often controversial subject. We’ll talk about those unusual phenomenon shortly, but first notice how acquiring energy is a 6th sense connection we all make on a constant basis. Within energy is the breath of life that begins our journey on earth and sustains us throughout its duration. I’m not talking about the air we breath. I’m talking about the fact that, without anything we do, we are alive and well at any given moment, in spite of every conceivable illness or disaster that could snuff out our life. I like the scripture on this one….”In God (or this realm) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Without this life force, or energy, regardless of where we believe it’s coming from, we cannot exist or do anything.
Knowledge seems tangible, and some of it we acquire by being taught what others have learned, but if you think about it, no one ever invented answers to life’s questions and problems. They simply accessed the information that exists in the intangible world. Thus people from all parts of the globe “discover” or access the same answers to many of the same concerns without ever having been in contact with one another!
The same goes for creativity. When we make or create something, we get all our ideas from this intangible realm. Then we turn these ideas into tangible objects such as buildings, paintings, inventions, etc.
So in expending energy, gaining knowledge we need to solve our problems, or creating useful or beautiful things, we are drawing from this invisible realm, from God, naturally and easily, without any thinking on our part. We do it through our sixth sense, or an invisible part of ourselves that works automatically if we don’t interfere with it.
“I can buy these natural, ordinary connections to the invisible realm many of us call God,” you might say, “but how is this related to the unusual phenomenon you mentioned, like ghosts, near death experiences, premonitions, unexplainable moving objects, and a host of others associated with the 6th sense? My explanation is simple. They are an out of the ordinary way of receiving critical information or knowledge. If, for example, our religion has taught us to fear God and this unknown realm, paranormal or spiritual experiences help override these negative religious beliefs that cause us to feel separated from Him, torn within ourselves. They provide us with answers to our most difficult questions about life and death. They are often our pathway to spiritual independence and wholeness, which release and empower us to take responsibility for our own lives and become fulfilled human beings. They are personal reminders, as needed, that we are connected to an all-loving, all-powerful source and can never be disconnected. Gaining this awareness and the surge of peace, love and personal power that comes with it, is perhaps the most important concept any human being can grasp. In addition to effortlessly and freely tapping energy, knowledge, and creativity with our sixth sense on a regular basis, all of our lives are filled with these out of the ordinary experiences, whether or not we choose to acknowledge them. I saw a picture once with a caption that reminds me of this subject, “Life sings to us whether we listen or not.”
In “To Heaven Through Hell” I share about two dozen of these unusual experiences involving my 6th sense. Some call these phenomenon psychic experiences, others paranormal experiences, still others, spiritual experiences. I didn’t really have a name for them. I just knew that in every instance, I gained new knowledge, creative problem-solving resources, and the revitalizing energy I needed to make positive changes in my life. And with these changes came peace, joy, and love……
Here is a video clip taken during a 2009 workshop on problem solving using all our senses, based on the contents of Breaking Free. It takes about 10 minutes to watch and will help sum up the material we have just covered on the 6th sense.
After you’ve watched the video, if you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes and read one of these powerful sixth sense experiences from To Heaven Through Hell with commentary and conclusions from several prominent researchers on sixth sense phenomenon. My Father’s Ghost: Messages and Predictions
Then take out your notebook and write down each and every out of the ordinary experience you can think of, that may be related to this aspect of your sixth sense. Watch for unusual ways in which information is coming to you as you asked for help in the first part of this section and affirmed you would receive it. If you’ve previously blown all this off as “coincidence” try to turn that around and see it as “special attention” from a loving creator. And be aware that this help is always available to you.
Ways to Activate the 6th Sense
The 6th sense operates best when we’re relaxed, peaceful, not afraid. Knowledge, energy, and creativity flow easily in this state. But how do we relax in this hectic world we live in, not to mention in the midst of our inner turmoil? We’ll look at more ways in Staying Free, but let’s look at two types of exercises that can help you relax and reach your optimum state of mind for problem-solving. Psychologists and psychiatrists may refer to them as progressive relaxation exercises and self-hypnosis. Teachers of eastern religions and cultures may call them guided meditations and visualization. They all do pretty much the same thing. They take you to a place of peace and well-being without the use of mind-altering drugs and their side effects. In this state you can see your life more clearly and program your mind to make positive change.
Understanding the components of relaxation exercises and learning to use them effectively is not difficult. Either or both involve:
- Deep breathing
- Using your imagination to take you to a place where you feel safe and warm
- Mentally repeating positive words and beliefs
A fourth component, often but not always used is the Jacobsonian technique, tensing and relaxing all the body’s muscles in conjunction with the other three. Sometimes soft calming music is also used during the exercises.
You can create your own exercises or borrow from the huge storehouse of free exercises on the Internet. Just Google in “relaxation exercises” or “guided meditations” and try out a few until you find some that suit you best. Then spend a few minutes every day or two following the instructions and see what kind of results you get. I enter this state numerous times in my story with incredibly helpful results and the conditions are never exactly the same during any two experiences. Sometimes I get there by just taking a few deep breaths. So experiment and practice. You may need to update your browser as most free exercises are embedded on youtube. You can use these exercises any time but if you prefer to do them just before going to sleep, you may need to purchase a recording from one of the sources that provide free samples on the Internet.
What is common sense? There are probably several good definitions for it, but I like to think of common sense as the wisdom of the ages…. truisms or predictable results for certain behaviors the human race has learned by trial and error. Another name for these truisms might be “Laws of the Universe.” Common sense is the answer we would all give to basic questions about human behavior, or how we would all finish sentences as to what will or may happen if we do certain things. Here are some examples:
- “If I touch a hot stove…………………I’ll burn my hand.”’
- “If I drop this dish…………………..it will fall to the floor.”
- “If I hit a stranger…he’ll probably hit me back.””
- “If I over-eat…………..I’ll gain weight.”
- “If I drink too much alcohol…………..I’ll get drunk”, and so on.
Well, using common sense sounds easy enough and it would obviously prevent many problems, so why don’t we all just use it along with our reasoning abilities and our sixth sense? The answer may surprise you.
According to a psychologist I went to for a few sessions when I could afford them, many of us are addicted to stress and chaos, so used to them after years of erroneous beliefs and unsolved problems we’re afraid of what feeling “good” might be like. We use secondary addictions like drugs, sex, work, even negative religious beliefs, to keep this stress and chaos going in our lives. She went on to explain, “The bad news is though you became addicted to stress and chaos in childhood, you are choosing it as an adult. But the good news is if you are choosing it now, you can make a different choice!” I did, and it changed my life forever. She gave me my first affirmation, “I choose peace.” You’re welcome to borrow it if you need it.
So, whether fear, as we mentioned in Trapped, addiction to stress, or both, are holding you back, all the resources in these three self-help sections will help you overcome them.
Here’s a second clip from the same workshop on problem-solving using all our senses. We’ll use it to wind up this part of our study. Look for announcements on upcoming workshops and retreats in the book’s website, under “related events”.
Problem Solving Workshop Video Clip 2
Getting ideas out of our heads and onto paper, participating in discussions on internet boards, or speaking our thoughts aloud to others with similar needs and interests, speeds up the process of freeing ourselves from ineffective beliefs and behaviors and getting on with building better belief systems and healthier lives.
Because To Heaven Through Hell covers many major life and death issues of importance to all of us, and has a bibliography of some sixty related books, organizing a discussion group with it might be a good place to start. It’s not hard to create such a group. Just read the book yourself if you haven’t already done so, and introduce it to friends you think might be interested in the subject matter. Then get together on whatever schedule fits the group and talk about it. This website is a good resource to use along with the book.
If you want to find others in your area who might need such a discussion group, go to meetup.com and offer to start one where you live. Thousands of people use this organization to initiate special interest groups of various kinds. “Challenging and Changing Destructive Religious Beliefs” might be a good name for such a group. Or something more neutral like “Balanced Living” or “Objective Problem Solving” might work. You may find an existing related share group that’s already registered at that website. There’s an extensive list of topics and groups meeting around them, with information about which ones are meeting in your area.
Groups that deal with specific areas of addiction and recovery might be a good place to start if you’re really struggling with an addiction. I went to “Adult children of Alcoholics” for about a year and found it very helpful. You can find these groups at adultchildren.org.
Codependency is a problem most readers of “To Heaven Through Hell” share. You can probably find a group dealing with this issue near you. Check out coda.org if you’re interested in this type of group.
If you decide to start a group, try to adhere to these guidelines used by most share groups:
- Read a section of the proposed text aloud at each meeting.
- Share your thoughts on the topic, giving everyone who wants to participate a chance to speak.
- Listen respectfully when others are talking.
- Avoid cross-talk or advice-giving unless feedback has been requested.
- Don’t divulge personal information shared within the group to outsiders.
Butterflies are a universal symbol of inner beauty, strength, and transformation. Take a minute to google a few butterfly sites and view some butterfly pictures and videos. Then find a good picture of a butterfly and put it somewhere you’ll see it often, to remind you of your inner beauty and strength, and the transformation you are determined to see in your life.
Breaking Free takes time. But with some effort every day and a good measure of patience, you will be successful. We’ll move on to the next section now… Staying Free. In it we’ll be talking about what healthy well-balanced people do every day, and though we may still be a long way off, we’ll at least take a good look at the big picture.