How to fight a problem
Dr Robert Rich, M. Sc., Ph. D.
If something works, do more of it. If it doesn't work, do something else.
Everything occurs in a context:
- Where is the problem most likely to occur?
- When? (time of day, what day)
- Who else is there?
- What are you doing at the time?
- Are certain thoughts or feelings associated with the occurrence
of the problem?
- Is it preventing you from doing something you are relieved
not to have to do?
- What are the benefits of suffering the problem? (e.g.
do you get more attention, can put off a difficult decision, or what?)
- Is the occurrence of the problem predictable? Can you
tell when (under what circumstances) it will strike (or get worse),
when it will leave you alone (ease off)?
- Is it controllable? What can you do to influence it?
Problems feel 'universal', as if they
were 'always there'. Find exceptions: they are the clue to ways of fighting
What is the worst possible outcome of the current situation?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is that to happen?
What is the best possible outcome? Rate it too.
What is the most likely outcome? Rate it.
How controllable is it? (1: random and unpredictable. 10:
under your control).
Keep a problem diary. You may be tracking an action (yelling at my kids), a thought (I want to light up a cigarette), an emotion (fear, worry, depression). All of these are 'behaviors' though other people can't see them. The behavior may be something specific, or one of a class of things, eg., any thought that makes you crash back into grieving.
- when, where, with whom you were
- what happened immediately before the target behavior occurred
- unless you are tracking one specific behavior instead a type of behavior, write down what the behavior was
- what was the consequence of the behavior (eg., how did you feel after, what effects you had on other people).
Keeping a diary is in itself a behavior change agent. Sometimes, it is the only action necessary to eliminate a bad habit. It is a source of information allowing you to plan an attack on the distressing problem. And it makes you into an observer, so that you can distance yourself from unwanted emotions.
In fact, all the techniques listed here help by making the problem less pressing and immediate.
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