How We Do Problems: The Structure of Stuckness

Got problems?

Most people do, and lots of them. Emotions, habits, behaviours, addictions. Anxiety, depression, procrastination, self-sabotage. Fears, phobias and addictions.

What is the one problem you have not been able to solve?

Why is it so hard to solve problems? Because we are going about it the wrong way.

Whenever someone has a problem, an objective is implied. If someone says they want to overcome anxiety, the implied objective would be along the lines of peace, balance or health. If someone says they are broke, the implied objective is to have a certain amount of money. If they want to end depression the implication is that they want to be happy.

Every problem implies an objective, and without putting this objective on the table, it is difficult to solve the problem. If you are lost you need to know where you want to go, otherwise it will be impossible to get there.

Now here is where is gets interesting. What is it that is between you (with the problem) and your objective?

The answer is interferences.

What do I mean by interferences? Interferences can be:

Beliefs and belief systems
Inner conflicts
Fears and objections (which can link to the above)

When someone is unable to achieve a certain objective, the magical question is, “What stops you?” The problem is that what is in their way is likely out of awareness. When asking this question, often answers will be explanations, justifications and rationalizations. You can’t always trust what people say, or even what you think. To find what is really in the way, you have to dig deeper. You have to be deeply curious about what is really going on, and do what it takes to find out.

Often, to find out what stops someone from achieving what they want, I won’t even ask that question. I set out on the quest to find out, using that question to guide me. When you dig deeper and get to the real stuff, what you uncover is the structure which holds the problem in place.

This thinking is at the base of systems like NLP, yet this is not always explicity stated. I use it as a fundamental precept of my coaching in Montreal.

Let me give you an example.

In working with a client to eliminate anxiety (objective: peace and resourcefulness), I asked him, “What do you believe would happen if the anxiety were gone.” Now on the conscious level, someone might say, “Well that would be great!” But since he had learned to dig deeper, he found the real interferences.

“I wouldn’t be safe,” he said. “I need to be anxious to protect myself.”

Bingo! A belief system maintaining the problem, producing a certain result consistently. The anxiety was an unconscious method for protecting himself again perceived dangers. No, it’s not rational, no it is not logical, but to the mind, a mind designed for our survival, it makes perfect sense.

In exploring with another client who wanted to beat stress, I asked him, “What is it that you believe about stress?” He thought for a moment and said, “If I wasn’t stressed I’d be a vegetable. I wouldn’t do or accomplish anything.” With such a belief operating as software in the back of the mind, how could he ever beat stress? His stress is a strategy for motivation and achievements.

Any problem is held in place by an unconscious structure, a template that keeps it alive. To change it, you have to unmask it, put it on the table and update it. But if it remains out of awareness, it will be impossible to update.

What is hiding in the back of your mind keeping the one problem you want to solve in place?

David Kynan

David Kynan will get you there with practical cutting-edge methods for change and performance. President of Personis Coaching and Training ( and Former Vice President of the Canadian Association of NLP, David coaches, teaches and consults on how to make change happen when change is hard. He also lends his skills to individuals, professionals and businesses on topics related to strategic intervention, problem solving, marketing and sales. His expertise has landed him training and consulting contracts with companies such as Sun Life Financial, Medisca Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pure Water Technologies. He has been featured in the Montreal Mirror, interviewed on CTV and presented on his work at the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa.

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