I find in my practice that people have complex relationships with their problems. Long-standing problems can take on an identity of their own and it becomes really important to listen to how clients describe their problems and to learn to ask the right questions. More often than not, their problem becomes a ‘thing’ that is a real part of them, like a toe, or an arm. Their language gives this away – ‘because of my depression, I don’t enjoy the things I used to do’; ‘My Phobia means I can’t watch nature programs on TV anymore’; ‘My OCD means I can’t eat out in restaurants’; ‘My phobia stops me visiting my mum in Spain’ and so on.
Now, the interesting thing about this model of describing problems is that it disempowers the owner of the problem. You become its subject. Out of control. Which is often how these things feel in reality.
It’s tempting in such circumstances to join in with this model and ask questions such as ‘how long have you had your phobia? How is your depression today? For many clients that is a discussion they are very comfortable with - they are able to discuss at length their problems, in the same way they can talk about their loved ones or jobs.
The problem with this model is that Phobias or anxiety or depression are not ‘things’, they are experiences, states, or more accurately – PROCESSES. Processes that involve triggers that could be experiential or recalled; physical reactions or changes in state that usually follow the same pattern in our bodies and can involve images and self talk etc (we call these modalities and sub-modalities in Neuro Linguistic Programming). And they are as unique as we are individual. We ‘DO’ them.
So, in a session, I am more likely to ask questions such as ‘how do you know when to have a panic attack’? ‘How do you depress’? ‘When you think about the last time you did a phobia, do you get an image’? ‘How do you do your anxiety’? ‘How do you know when to overeat’? ‘When don’t you depress/panic…..’?
Do you experience a problem you want to change? What difference does it make if you ask yourself questions like this? Maybe you begin to analyse the ‘process’ differently, maybe you become more detached from it, maybe you notice how it comes ………….and goes…………..maybe it makes you think about what else you could do to change it, and to move on………..
OH, A WARNING - thinking about problem states can lead you to accessing those states very effectively. If you find this happening, just 'break' the state by thinking of an image of love or ask yourself 'what does popcorn smell like'?