The Problem Map – From Structure to Solution

One of the problems with problems is that we think they are problems.

In actuality, every problem is an achievement. Every problem is a feat of the mind, an complex skill that you have mastered until it becomes as natural and automatic as riding a bike.

When we begin to look at problems as achievement, everything changes.

Every human experience has a structure, and such is the case with problems.

If you have a problem that you have not been able to solve, have you ever explored how it works? What do you have to do to keep it going? What do you have to think, believe, imagine to produce that result? What do you have to value? What purpose is the problem serving? What is the intention of this system? What would happen if it were gone?

Every problem has a structure. Anxiety, depression, stuttering, fears, weight problems, addictions… and even personality disorders. When you map out the structure of a problem, the whole thing makes sense. From there, you can use the map as a guide to solve the issue.

We can map out any psychological problem and create a model of how it works. That map is then the key to resolving it.

Whenever I work with a client, I want to find how the problem works. I want to know how my client manages to produce the same result methodically, consistently and without fail. I am intensely curious and in my role I am like a Sherlocke Holmes of the mind. I have to have a methodology to uncover the building blocks of the problem and the pieces that make it up. I’ve got to find how the system works and what keeps it in place.

Therapy looks for why. I want to know how.

Using an extended version of The Instruction Manual for the Mind as my guide, I uncover the pieces and create a map. When a client sees this map and becomes aware of the system keeping the problem in place, the experience is often liberating. For so long they were living in mystery, wondering why they had the problem and why they couldn’t solve it. The map allows them to step out of it, step back from it and examine it with a crude eye.

Often I will ask a client to step back from the map and tell me what they think of it. I get answers like, “Well now that I see that it seems ridiculous,” or “When it is all up there like that it’s like it loses its energy.” Together we pull back the curtain so they can see the little man hiding behind.

What is fascinating about any problem is that the elements that make it up and keep it in place are usually completely out of awareness. Our conscious attention is limited. When we have a problem we are usually aware of the symptoms, not the underlying structure. Struggling to resolve the symptoms can only lead to failure.

Think of an iceberg. You see the tip sticking out above the water, but the majority of it is hidden from view beneath the surface.

The elements of a problem and what keep it in place are out of conscious awareness, and if they are unconscious it’s nearly impossible to alter, rearrange, reorganize them in a way that will be more useful.

Since any problem is an achievement, my client is the expert in their problem. What they don’t realize is that they have acquired a skill in producing the same result methodically and consistently. I use them as an advisor, and as we explore the building blocks of the problem, I ask them: How do you do this?

They dive in the process of exploration with me with a sense of curiosty. We find the pieces and put together the puzzle.

Every problem is a system. Every problem has a structure. When we look for the structure we can find:

What are the building blocks?
How does the system work?
What holds in in place?

And with those approach, incredible things can happen.

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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One Response to The Problem Map – From Structure to Solution

  1. Patrick says:

    Great read!

    It is amazing how liberating it can be to focus on the “how” we are keeping our achievements in place VS “Why” did they get there.

    Symptoms are also a big “wild goose chase”, since they are the obvious thing to focus on the surface, but the root always persists.

    People love the known, even when it’s riddled with pitfalls and traps. Most of our answers to things we have not achieved yet reside in the unknown part, where we do not think to go.

    So connecting with the deeper how, is an amazing skill that we all poses, when properly guided.

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