In counseling, when our patients are stuck with a difficult problem, we can use this simple toolbox to help them shift gears and get unstuck.
Make sure we validate and acknowledge their experiences first, and when ready, shift to structured problem solving.
Most folks will instinctively go to Avoidance and Anger to solve their “unsolvable” problems. This may lead to them being “stuck”. This may lead to hopelessness and powerlessness.
If we can help our patients to shift from the X-Axis of avoidance and anger, to the Y-Axis of defusion/acceptance of what is IS, and move forward with Assertiveness in line with their values and what they can change, then a better outcome can be achieved.
Sometimes, especially working with children and parenting, I would refer to the X-Axis as the “old brain” function of fight or flight.
Y-Axis represents more of the “new brain” function of “stop, think, and do”, rather than be emotionally reactive.
Of course, shifting gears from X-Axis to Y-Axis is very difficult particularly when stressed. Awareness, stepping back with defusion/detachment, and acknowledging that one is on the X-Axis in the first place, is key to that shift.
Shifting gears sounds simple but it’s definitely not easy. As humans, we don’t really have a good working “clutch” as yet to shift gears elegantly, and in a timely manner. It’s awfully clunky at present in our human evolution. Having said that, the more we are aware, the more we practice, the better we get.