The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Desiring a solution

Sometimes people believe they know the solution and assume that asking for it solves their problem. And most of us have learned a simple problem-solving technique as children, it is to ask for what one wants.

However, over time confusion sets in disturbing that problem-solving technique. It develops from people experiencing discomfort and seeking to have it disappear. It leads to an assumption that noticing one’s discomfort can be dealt with by informing others of it. The idea is that it enables them to alleviate the discomfort.

In many situations what happens is something like the following story.

It’s summer and it’s hot. Standing outside in the sun we see a group of people. Suddenly one member of the group complains that it is hot.

In that person’s mind, his discomfort connects with a sense of being thirsty. He now expects that based on his statement others will offer him something to drink. However, those overhearing that statement look slightly astonished and wonder why the person wears a fur coat.

In essence, what happened in that situation is that the person has become unaware of the problem, shares his discomfort, and hopes that others will deliver a solution. What that person is not doing is making himself aware of his discomfort. Hei neither reflects on it nor shares what he knows of it with the group. The former would have allowed him to pinpoint his thirst and ask for a drink. The latter would enable the group to discover facets of the discomfort together by sharing different perceptions or experiences. That would have been a process seeking to connect what the individuals see with what they experience, a process that is an effort to let the real problem emerge.

Using the above example, the group might discover that the person believed he asked a question, that he doesn’t know a fur coat isn’t appropriate or, maybe, that there is a reason he can’t take it off, as well as that he is the only one who is thirsty. All details that have not been talked about in the above scene after naming the discomfort, i.e. that it is too hot.

When people associate discomfort with a problem, it often happens that they ask for a solution assuming that providing it is simple. Those receiving the request, however, don’t know what to do. If they understood that there was a problem, they most certainly all had a different perception of the problem.

In the above situation, it can be assumed that the group didn’t even think about solving the problem they saw, assuming that everyone already did what they could to adapt to the hot summer temperatures. Whereas the individual didn’t make himself aware of the available options others used or he might apply himself.

It is probable that in this situation the group then became engaged in a conversation on why it is too hot and what to do about climate change.

Sometimes the challenge isn’t to ask for support or to describe a solution, it is to make the problems visible that can be addressed by the people involved in the given situation.


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