Category Archives: Problem-solving skills

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

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The “pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-or-I’ll-kick-your-butt” post

I saw this on Facebook today:

What Mr. Shaw has to say almost seems like a contradiction.  I mean, how can making mistakes be honorable and useful in life?

Some people just cannot stand failure.  For those folks their life equation goes something like this:

Trying + Failure = I’m a loser at life.

Because in their mind, failing is wrong.  No doubt, life, or their parents, taught them this.  These are the same people that say “Win at any cost” or “Failure is not an option.”  Those people are devastated by failure.  Those people sink into depression and despair and bitterness.  Those people are actually failing in life.

We don’t want to be THOSE people.

I could quote you how times geniuses of the last 100 or so years failed at something, but you already know about them (How many times DID Edison fail at making a useful lightbulb?).  But, let’s talk about failure and what it REALLY is, and what it really is not.  Let’s get out our dictionary, shall we?

fail |fāl|verb [ intrans. ]1 be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal : he failed in his attempt to secure election | [with infinitive ] they failed to be ranked in the top ten.

  • [ trans. ] be unsuccessful in (an examination, test, or interview) : she failed her finals.
  • [ trans. ] (of a person or a commodity) be unable to meet the standards set by (a test of quality or eligibility) : the player has failed a drug test.
  • [ trans. ] judge (someone, esp. in an examination) not to have passed.

2 neglect to do something : [with infinitive ] the firm failed to give adequate risk warnings.

  •  [with infinitive ] behave in a way contrary to hopes or expectations by not doing something : commuter chaos has again failed to materialize.
  •  ( cannot fail to be/do something) used to express a strong belief that something must be the case: you cannot fail to be deeply impressed.
  •  ( never fail to do something) used to indicate that something invariably happens: such comments never failed to annoy him.
  •  [ trans. ] desert or let down (someone): at the last moment her nerve failed her.

3 break down; cease to work well : a truck whose brakes had failed.

  • become weaker or of poorer quality; die away: the light began to fail | [as adj. ] ( failinghis failing health.
  • (esp. of a rain or a crop or supply) be lacking or insufficient when needed or expected.
  • (of a business or a person) be obliged to cease trading because of lack of funds; become bankrupt.

noun

  • a grade that is not high enough to pass an examination or test.

PHRASES: without fail absolutely predictably; with no exception : he writes every week without fail.

ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French faillir (verb), faille (noun), based on Latin fallere ‘deceive.’ An earlier sense of the noun was [failure to do or perform a duty,] surviving in the phrase without fail.

Interestingly, the antonyms to fail are “pass (as in pass an exam), thrive, work, improving, support.”

Okay, enough of that.

What failure IS:

  • Not reaching your goals
  • Falling down and scraping your hands and knees on life’s asphalt
  • Things not going as planned
  • An option
  • Losing a battle (not the war)
  • A learning opportunity

What failure is NOT:

  • The End of World (as you know it)
  • The losing of the war
  • The last chapter in the book
  • The period at the end of the sentence
  • The Grand Finale
  • A reason to quit trying

The two premises I want to focus on are “failure is a learning opportunity” and “failure is not a reason to quit trying.”  With very few exceptions, I firmly believe every problem has a solution and a way out.  Sometimes it takes more work to get there than other times.  Which is where “failure is a learning opportunity” comes in.  Seeing failure as a learning opportunity requires a certain outlook on problem-solving and critical-thinking.  It requires  you to believe that failing at something is OK.  As in, it’s OK.  As in, don’t be such as crybaby, or a wuss.  Because when you try something and fall down and scrap  your knees, you can pause and take a moment and and ask yourself, “What did I learn from this experience?” and, “What can I do differently next time it try?”  Then, you CAN try again.  And again. And again. And again.  Until you find the solution to your problem.

If you quit the first time you fail, what will have gained?  In my book (and apparently George’s book too) you have failed.  With a big, fat capital “F”.  If you’re happy being stuck there, then by all means, stay there.  But, if you’re like me, living a half-life kidding ourselves that we are REALLY living, when in fact we are not, is not an acceptable lifestyle choice. If deep in your heart of hearts you know that you need to keep going, then pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  Or, I’ll kick your butt.

Just ’cause your bigger than me doesn’t mean I can’t kick your butt.

Deal?

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So tell me, when have you failed at something?

Laziness is like a fat cat

I knew a fat cat once.  She had a genial disposition.  She’d let you pet her and would rub her fat little body all over your clothes.  But, she could barely get around on her stubby little legs with that huge belly in the way.

Okay, maybe she didn’t have the beer and TV remote…

She was content to eat food, use her litter box, and pretty much sleep the rest of the time.  In other words, she was lazy.

lazy |ˈlāzē|adjective ( lazier , laziest )

1 unwilling to work or use energy : I’m very lazy by nature | he was too lazy to cook.

  • characterized by lack of effort or activity : lazy summer days.
  • showing a lack of effort or care : lazy writing.
  • (of a river) slow-moving.

2 (of a livestock brand) placed on its side rather than upright : a logo with a lazy E.

DERIVATIVES

  • lazily |-zəlē| adverb
  • laziness noun

ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: perhaps related to Low German lasich ‘languid, idle.’

When  you look at Fluffy here, don’t you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel the urge to smack her owner senseless?  Are you asking yourself, “How could she let herself get this far?”  Do you feel the urge to take charge and put her on a diet?  How about if you look at yourself?  Do you have the same feelings?

If yes, keep reading.

If no, definitely keep reading.

When dealing with our own emotional difficulties, it is easy to become fat and content on the food of our own delusions.  We can pretend that all is well.  We can tell ourselves that changing is impossible.  We can say to the world, “But I was born this way!” and get out our beer and watch some TV.

Because, avoiding the truth is easier.

Deep down inside, we know the truth.  We know that the lazy, selfish manner in which we conduct our lives is not good for ourselves, or for the world we live in.  We know that living in a place of anger isn’t good for our romantic relationship.  We know that isolating ourselves isn’t good for us.  We know that our addiction is probably killing us.  We know that depression is keeping us from engaging in life.

Changing takes work.  It takes discipline.  It takes falling-down-in-dirt-and scraping-your-hands-and-knees-then-getting-back-up-again determination.  It takes recognizing and being honest about our own failures.  It takes will and perseverance.  It takes training.

This is who I’d rather be. Wouldn’t you?

Don’t be like that fat cat, happy and content on the gluttony of your willingness to  just eat and sleep and poop.

And never do anything else.

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Tell  me, do you know any fat cats?

The Paradox of Personality

Yesterday, I found inspiration in home group during our discussion on peace and God’s rest.  Someone was talking about how much they disliked certain characteristics about themselves and how that interferes with feeling any sort of peace.  That’s when a certain little belief I have popped into my brain.  I like to call it the “Paradox of Personality”.  You are what you are, but you are also what you want to be.

Paradoxes. They make my brain hurt…

I think that most people agree that each one of us is born with a certain basic set of personality traits that we inherited from our parents.  The mix that we get is unique to us and creates our own way of relating to our world.  Then life happens.  Learning and experiences happen.  We learn to respond through our personality traits to the world.  And this is where my little paradox comes in.

I believe that personality traits have a good side and a bad side.  Sort of like The Force.  We can use them for good, or we can use them for evil.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you’re a person that does not give up easily.  Let’s say you’re dogged and determined.  We’ll call that quality “tenacious.”  According to the New American Oxford Dictionary tenacious means:

  • not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle : a tenacious grip | he was the most tenacious politician in South Korea.
  • not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action : a tenacious local legend |you’re tenacious and you get at the truth.


This is a good thing, because that means that you don’t generally give up easily.  You stay with the problem longer (clearly you are genius of Einstein’s caliber.  Don’t believe me?  See the quote on the left from dear Albert).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the synonyms for “tenacious”:

  • persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable,resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable,unyielding, insistent; stubborn, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, stiff-necked; rock-ribbed; pertinacious.

Now, let’s divide these synonyms into groups.

Good side:

  • persevering
  • persistent
  • determined
  • dogged
  • strong-willed
  • tireless
  • indefatigable
  • resolute
  • patient
  • unflagging
  • staunch
  • steadfast
  • untiring
  • unwavering
  • unswerving
  • unshakable

Bad side:

  • unyielding
  • insistent
  • stubborn
  • intransigent
  • obstinate
  • obdurate
  • stiff-necked
  • rock-ribbed
  • pertinacious

Do you see the difference?  Tenacious can either mean you are persevering, or pertinacious.  Persevering stays with a problem longer, pertinacious is simply, and foolishly, sticking to their guns regardless of reason or wisdom.  A persevering person knows when to quit, a stubborn person does not.  People who persevere keeps relationships intact, stubborn people do not.  You get my drift?

See?  Good side, bad side.  You are what you are, but are you are also what you want to be.

So, you can either be this guy:

Nanny-nanny boo-boo!

Or this guy:

The I-just-stay-with-the-problem-longer guy.

Because,  you have a choice.  You can choose to use your personality for good, or you can choose too use your personality for evil.  You are not a slave to your own personality.  It’s up to you.  Which do you choose?

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So tell me, do you have a personality trait you would like to flip over and use for good?

When a problem can’t be overcome, it’s time to tango…

You’ve done all you can to overcome your problem.  And yet, day after day, it sits there like a faithful dog.  Waiting patiently for you to get out of bed so it can pounce on  you, lick your face, and leave hair all over your fancy work clothes.

How would you like to wake up to this guy?

Or this guy?

By definition, overcoming is the act prevailing over, overwhelming, or overpowering something.  When we overpower our emotions, we win and can keep fighting for another day.  Once we have won, we can walk away and leave the problem there.

But sometimes, something cannot be overcome.  Sometimes, we have to find a way to cope, to manage, to live with, to work with a problem.  Let me give you an example…

I have mentioned before that I have ADHD and some form of dyslexia. Brain chemistry cannot be permanently changed, it can only be managed.  I can take drugs to help reorganize, reduce, or increase the malfunctioning or missing chemicals.  However, if I stopped taking the medications, my brain would go back to the way it was before.  Medications help, but I still have to manage the emotional difficulties associated with this problem.

When two people tango, someone always leads, and it’s usually the guy.  Each partner has to “lock their frame” by making their arms strong and stiff in a semi-circle.  Like this:

Look spaghetti arms!  Lock your frame!

The leading partner gets to decide where the dancing couple is going, when they spin, or twirl, or dip.  The locked frame, the subtle pressures of the hands, certain movements indicate when the following partner is to move and where.  When managing your problem, you should be the leading partner, not the other way around.  You get to decide when you dip, and twirl, and go left.

But, you have decide that you want to lead, not follow.  You have decide that you want to make progress, not wallow in self-pity, or shame, or whatever you do with your problem.  You have to decide that you want to improve.  That’s the key.

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Tell me, do you have a problem that you have to manage?

The Squishy Middle, also titled “Using your critical thinking skills to solve, or overcome, your problems”

My brain has pretty crowded the past couple of days.  Me, myself, and I are a pretty close threesome.  Me is lying the couch, while I am (using my best Freudian pose) talking to myself.

At this point, you may be staring blankly at your computer screen right now wondering if I am some kind of babbling idiot.  And I would in my best in-your-face know-it-all voice, “Yeah, so?”

Anyhow, it’s hard to write a coherent sentence in the midst of all that self-talk.  It ain’t pretty but somebody has to do it.  It’s my process.

Whether you know it or not, you also have a process when faced with problems.  Some of you might run and hide and stand in denial.  Some of you might blame, finger-point, and shout a lot.  Others, might take time to think through a problem and come up with a solution (if that’s you, you can stop here) (if that’s not you, read on).

This blog is about overcoming your problems.  This means you have to find a way to overcome.  I am here to help.  So, now to help you find the answers you seek, I am going to make up a phrase.  I will call it the “squishy middle” (a.k.a. employing critical thinking skills).  Why do I say the  middle is squishy?  Because using your critical thinking skills rarely looks like this:

Problem-solving made easy.

If it were this easy, you wouldn’t need me, or your favorite counselor, fish, dog, friend, or coffee-slinger.

The reason that problem-solving is squishy-in-the-middle is because the process  that comes between point A and point B is rarely easy.  Rather, the process in the middle of point A and point B  usually looks something like this:

Dangerous curve ahead.

Or this:

This is me on problem-solving.  Any questions?

Or this:

How many different ways can you go from A to B?

Or this:

Who says problem solving can’t be fun?

See?  All of these methods are messy, and, you know, squishy.  So, now, if you are still with me you might feel like this is just too much.  Well, I’m here to tell you that problem-solving, no matter how squishy-in-the-middle the  process is for  you, can be accomplished with a few easy-to-remember concepts that anyone can use regardless of style:

  1. Admit that there is a problem to overcome. (a.k.a. Point A)(This is a toughie)
  2. Decide on your goal (another toughie)
  3. Be honest with yourself about your part in this problem (yet, another tough one)
  4. Be honest about anyone else’s part on this problem (Be nice about it)(Ok, so they’re all tough)
  5. Decide on a plan of action
  6. Implement the plan (a.k.a. Point B)(this is the toughest part)

The process in between A and B is what counts.  That squishy middle is very, very important.  How  you get there doesn’t matter much, as long as you get there.  Problem-solving techniques are part of what makes each person unique.  What matters most is that you are able to overcome your problem. Period.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The squishy middle is what build character as you practice critical thinking skills.

I wanted to mention something that may occur during this process.  You may fail.  It happens.  If that happens you can either a) Take your ball and go home, sulk on the couch, eat some dirt, then go to bed, or b) try again.  And, don’t stick your fingers in your ears while singing the theme song of “Spongebob Squarepants”  as loudly and annoyingly as possible, and then keep doing the same thing over and over again (i.e. the “definition” of insanity).  That just leads to a poverty of spirit which will lead to being an emotional couch potato.

So, stick with it friend.  Try something different if the first thing didn’t work.  It’s really important that you do so.  I mean, really important.  Not so sure?  You’ll just have to trust me on that.

And the next time this problem comes around (and by God, it will), you will have the last problem-solving session to refer back to to help you overcome your problem even more quickly than before.  Because overcoming your problems is the whole point of this exercise.  Right?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++So tell me, what’s your squishy middle look like?