A New Mode of Problem Solving


Modes of Thinking Which Do Not Resolve Problems

“Discounting” is a model of how people sometimes think. Discounting means not consciously acknowledging information relevant to resolving problems and it is a psychological model developed in Transactional Analysis. It gives a visible structure to how we may ignore information at increasing levels of problem resolution and end up getting stuck. We each get stuck at different levels of the discounting model and each have our own specific ways of avoiding conscious problem solving. Discounting is a way of thinking which does not solve problems. We can be aware that this thinking is taking place by observing certain marked behaviours associated with it.

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them

-Albert Einstein

Firstly, we may ignore or pretend that there isn’t a problem. This is “Out of sight=out of mind” thinking, except that we ignore consciously acknowledging the problem. It’s like an unusual sound in your car’s engine that you are aware of hearing, but fail to acknowledge is a problem. You may even stop hearing it after a while because you actually don’t want to acknowledge that it’s there.

The second level is writing-off the significance of the problem. We may make excuses for the noise from the car, thinking to ourselves that “it can’t be anything serious”. We’ll let it get louder and louder until the car stops going, or worse.

The third level is ignoring that there are solutions to the problem. We discount that the noise in the car could be fixed by thinking “This car will always make a noise” or “The mechanic won’t be able to repair it”, or “The bill will be way too high so I won’t bother taking the car in”.

Fourthly we discount our own skills to resolve problems. Sabotaging ourselves by thinking “I can’t take the car to the workshop because I wouldn’t know what to tell the mechanic” for instance.

How can we tell if there is discounting going on? Luckily, there are behaviours which can flag this for us, they are called “Passive” Behaviours.

The behaviours which we may notice are:

  • doing nothing
  • overadaptation
  • agitation
  • incapacitation or violence

“Doing nothing” is about not taking action to solve a problem and instead using that potential energy to stop oneself from acting.

“Overadaptation” is about doing what we believe others want us to do without checking in with them about what they actually want or with ourselves about what we want. We comply with an imagined action.

“Agitation” is engaging in a useless and repetitive action instead of solving the problem. Finger-tapping, nail-biting, hair-twirling and wagging a pen or a foot are examples. Lengthy agitation builds up the energy to release “violence” below.

“Incapacitation” is disabling oneself in an attempt to get others to solve our problems. It may manifest as psychosomatic ailments or mental breakdown and substance abuse. “Violence” is an attempt to enforce the environment or others to solve our problems for us.

These behaviours are called “passive” as none of them are active attempts to solve problems.

The Good News!

We all discount to various degrees and we all display passive behaviours. Welcome to being human! There is hope.

By being curious about our lived experience in relation to problem solving we invite awareness and the possibility of change. We can unlearn old ways which do not serve us and create new ones which are helpful, or better yet highly productive, in awareness.

As a coach and coach supervisor it is my task to provide a safe and potent environment in which my clients can explore their attitudes to problem solving and reach insights which open up possibilities to personal and professional change.

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