Community Built Knowledge Base => Library: Content to critique for possible feature articles => Topic started by: Skip on December 07, 2018, 10:45:43 AM

Title: Adopt a problem solving model ~ Skip
Post by: Skip on December 07, 2018, 10:45:43 AM
Skip Johnson

Having problems is part of life. People with BPD have limited cognitive skills to solve the problems life brings. They may need our support and leadership to learn how to problem solve and gain the skills necessary to be successful at it. Some problems are not ours to solve and those that call for our active involvement often require the use of high level interpersonal skills to be constructive.

When it is not our problem to solve

Our loved ones who suffer with BPD react emotionally to situations that occur in their lives. It's important that they self-soothe and we want to validate their emotions and perspectives and support them only to the point of helping create an opportunity for them to look at the situation or problem more logically. The meshing of their emotions and logical thought is called wisemind, the state of wisemind is where problem solving can begin. We don't have the power to solve other's problems and we can help lead them towards solving their own problems through validating questions that encourage exploration of their own feelings, desires and to their own solutions.

After we validate our loved one's feelings we have the opportunity to ask validating questions like:

    What do you think can be done?
    How would you like this to be different?
    What do you think might work?
    What do you think caused the problem?

Keep in mind that our intention is to show that we genuinely care about them; therefore, our validating questions will be asked in a kind, gentle, and respectful manner. It's important that our questions are validating and our responses to the questions remain validating. Invalidating questions (questions that begin with "Why?") invite defensiveness and will stop the problem solving process cold - avoid them.

Our BPD loved one's very often blame us for their problems and reject our ideas for solutions so it is best to leave the problem where it belongs, with them. Should a solution we offer fail to work we will be blamed once more so it is best to lead them to their own solutions and recognize their efforts to solve their own problems.

When we are part of the problem and part of the solution

We have four choices when there is a problem affecting our relationship with our BPD loved one:

1. Radically accept the problem
2. Change how we view/feel about the problem
3. Solve the problem
4. Stay stuck and miserable

Keeping in mind that we consistently have 3 goals at any given moment in time (objective effectiveness, relationship effectiveness, self respect effectiveness) we will need to increase our interpersonal effectiveness to be successful at cooperative problem solving. Using the DEAR MAN technique and strategizing to match our goals at the right time is crucial to problem solving success. An important aspect of our problem solving plan is finding what will motivate our loved one to want to problem solve. We must be willing to negotiate to achieve a win/win solution. When we have win/lose solutions; the relationship loses and that is outside of our goals.

Attitude is everything so before you begin it is important to remember to interpret things in the most benign way possible; to accept that there is no one or only absolute truth; recognize that everyone is doing the best they can in this moment; and to ask everyone to try harder:

1    Define the problem so that everyone agrees with the definition
2    Begin the problem solving discussion with something positive
3    Be specific/focused
4    Express your feelings
5    Identify your role in the problem
6    Deal with only one problem at a time
7    Summarize what the other person is saying (empathy)
8    Be mindful
9    Stay committed
Please remember to interpret things in the most benign way possible; to accept that there is no one or only absolute truth; recognize that everyone is doing the best they can in this moment; and to ask everyone to try harder.

Non-collaborative Problem Solving

Despite our best efforts our BPD loved ones will at times be unwilling to collaborate in the problem solving effort. Taking a step back and "tabling" the discussion until another time is advisable. Remember to observe your boundaries and limits, don't be afraid to say "no", and if needed take a "relationship vacation" to avoid burn out.

When burn out is at your doorstep because change just isn't happening practicing true Radical Acceptance reduces our intense suffering. True radical acceptance relieves the urge to force compliance, acknowledges our judgments while letting go of them and thereby reduces our feelings of anger. It also allows the space for us to accept that the problem still exists and our feelings (though less intense) are still there.

We have options to explore and skills to use to reduce our suffering while we wait for the right time and cooperation from our BPD loved one in problem solving:

    Understanding their choices in the context of their personal history

Acknowledging and accepting their cognitive limitations

Mindfully choose what we focus on, paying extra attention to the positive

Mindfully acknowledge negative thoughts and feelings while letting them float off

Title: Re: Adopt a problem solving model ~ Skip
Post by: Zakade on December 07, 2018, 11:13:24 AM

Good post.  I think that it covers a lot of the ways that it's our responsibility as nonBP to not lay down and take the emotions of the BP as our own.  The important part to any disagreement is to do what you said, define the problem.  I think a lot of times we get so caught up in blame and defending that we forget what the outcome of the conflict is really about... .solving the problem.  We totally miss step one.

I might add that it could be easier to start with confrontations that don't directly involve the nonBP.  It could be a safer way to practice these skills when you're not as emotionally invested in the topic.  Though there is the caution to make sure that you don't have the issue turned around to be your fault.


Title: Re: Adopt a problem solving model ~ Skip
Post by: snowglobe on January 02, 2019, 08:05:57 AM
What a wonderful dbt infused post, I reread it several times while measuring it against my usual modus operatus. Oftentimes, the non BPD can get fixated on “fixing the situation”, so much so, that it can actually backfire. I’ve been on the ricochet end of the “fixing the problem”, and it’s actually my triggers, being uncomfortable with someone else’s intense emotions have been a catalyst to many of our out of hand arguments and stances. Thank you Skip, I will try and follow those guidelines in my interaction