Part 2: The Shape Of A Problem

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Number 6 getting squashed by Rover
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Have you ever seen the 60’s cult TV series The Prisoner? It’s the one where Patrick McGoohan played Number 6, living in The Village and he couldn’t escape. He was constantly being chased by a large rubbery bubble called Rover, which would suffocate you if you got caught inside.

When you experience a problem, it’s very similar. The experience you have of your Problem is because you’re actually inside this bubble. When you get caught up inside them, sometimes you feel like you can’t get out. That’s because the rubbery walls stop you from doing so.

In this section, I’ll be proposing this bubble shape for this particular Model of Problems. The actual shape of your problems, internally in your mind, are probably nothing like this. When you really think about it:

How can Problems really have a shape as they only exist inside your mind?

The Problem Model I’m proposing here is merely used to provide us with a framework to dealing with Problems.

Important: How you actually represent things inside your mind may be different. It’s important to realise that this is simply a model. I can’t stress that enough! P

The journey is about to begin. Please hold onto your own reality.

Exercise: Bubbles In The Mind

Let’s begin our exploration.

I want you to imagine a bubble (or spherical balloon).

This bubble has an inside that has gases and other things that you probably know about but never really considered before.

The bubble has a wall. Imagine the wall to be a bit more like rubber – a bit like a balloon. This was serves 2 purposes:

  • firstly, to keep things locked in and
  • secondly, to keep things out.

The bubble also is everything that it is NOT (Read that again if you have to). All of the things outside of the bubble is what it isn’t. We’ll come to the importance of this later on.

For the moment, just realise that there are 3 parts to this bubble – 1) the inside, 2) the wall and 3) the outside.

Put another way: Or 1) what it is, 2) what it isn’t and 3) a barrier between the two.

Multiple Mind Bubbles

Are you with me so far? Good.

Now that you’ve imagined this bubble, you may be wondering: Zain… what the %$*& has to do with Problems? We’ll get to that shortly. It’s important to get a complete picture of this Model of Problem in order to work with them effectively.

Now that you’ve imagined this bubble, I want you to imagine a very large space that expands out beyond where you can see.

This space is filled with thousands of these bubbles – above and below you, in front of you, back and to the left, back and to the left – and these bubble spread out as far as you can see.

Mind Bubbles In Time & Space

Are you still with me? Excellent.

Now, looking around in this imaginary landscape filled with multiple Mind Bubble, pick a point (just point) where it feels natural to be the past. You already know where Now is. So where’s the future in this space?(Again, just point).

If you’re stuck, just think where would you be going to and that’s probably where your future is?

It’s okay – there’s no right and wrong here, so feel free to make this up however you like.

So, What Are These Mind Bubbles?

That’s a good question.

These bubbles represent “Events” in time and space. You could call them “memories”, although let us stick with the term “Event” as this provides us with a clearer picture of:

  1. time,
  2. space and
  3. a specific object

which is useful in this particular Model of Problems.

If you were to look back at some of these bubbles you might notice that some are brightly coloured – you can think of these as a Happy Events in the past that you’ve experienced – while others are dark. Can you also imagine looking forward to an Event and noticing how you can be excited by what’s coming?

Exercise: Playing With Your Mind, Bubbles?

Now, take a moment and just play with these “Mind Bubbles”.

Do you remember a time when you were really happy?

If you were to allow one of these Mind Bubbles to represent a “Happy” Event, then just go back there and step inside one.

Notice how you can re-experience all the feelings and emotions of that happy time. You may also hear sounds if you’re musically minded. Perhaps there are pictures or things you can see. Notice how the event plays out– what’s the story?

Notice what happens to you Now as you recall that happy time.

Are you smiling?

If you are smiling and you’re feeling happy, then just note the expression on your face – maybe even your posture – as you recall this Event in time.

Important: What you’ve just experienced is actually a neurological shift – your body had a physical change and reaction, although all I really did was to guide you to a happy thought. We’ll be exploring the significance of this in a later part of this series.

No, Really... What Does This Have To Do With Problems?

Well, your Problems have a similar shape, process and structure. The only difference is that the problems you face are dark and unpleasant. I just didn’t want to guide you into a negative thought (and it wasn’t necessary, as you’re now starting to get the idea!).

Now that you’ve experienced the “Happy” Mind Bubbles, you can start to get a sense of how the Problem Bubbles also exist.

The Problem Mind Bubble

The Prisoner: getting trapped by RoverInside of the Problem Vubble are feelings and emotions that are trapped.

If you pressed your face to the bubble’s walls, you’d be able see the happier Events outside but where you are, it’s practically impossible to escape.

What’s important to understand is that your Problems do have a structure. When you understand what this structure is, it makes it much easier to deal with them and remove them completely.

Dealing With The Problem Bubble

Just like balloons, you could let them deflate over time (as balloons do), although this is a very slow process depending on the size of your bubble and could take years.

Alternatively, you can blow up the bubble-balloon, so it gets bigger and bigger until it explodes. There are some therapies which actually do this. Essentially, you get ever increasing doses of what you don’t want to face until you short-circuit. Personally, this isn’t a course of action that I’d agree with, considering there are other options available (like the techniques used in NLP) to deal with Problems, which are much less traumatic (and can actually be quite fun!).

Finally, these rubbery bubbles can explode if you prick them with a pin. But consider for a moment:

What type of pin would you use, as Problem Bubbles really only exist in your mind?

Hold on to that question. We’ll have a look at the “pin” and how it’s used later on.

The Problem Bubble Summary

You can come back now.

If it helps, step into a Happy Mind Bubble again!

So, what have we discovered?

  • You can represent Events in the form of rubbery Bubbles in your mind.
  • Inside these Mind Bubbles can be different types of emotions, sounds, sights and stories.
  • Going back and stepping inside a Mind Bubble can cause a Neurological shift (an actual physical reaction).
  • A simple “suggestion” to recall an Event can cause an actual physical/biological change to happen.
  • Problem Bubbles are different because you can get trapped inside them!

I want you to keep this Model of Problems in the back of your mind as we continue to explore this topic in more depth.

Remember: These bubbles are simple representations – you can represent them to yourself in whichever way you’d like. I’m simply using these bubbles are an easy way of guiding you through understanding this particular Model of Problems.

The Anatomy Of A Problem Index:


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