After my last post on decision making, I got a lot of emails. Being “stuck” seems to be a recurring theme – many people feel like victims of their situation and find it challenging to make a positive change.
Usually in these situations, a therapist might try a cognitive approach – getting the person to look at the underlying, often negative thoughts, that are causing distress. And while cognitive therapy makes sense theoretically, I find that people often get caught up in their thoughts and instead of being able to extricate themselves from the situation, they get entangled in the complexity of the situation, their feelings and thoughts.
Instead, I recommend an approach based in mindfulness, at least in the initial stages of problem solving.
Whenever you find yourself “stuck” or troubled in a situation that seems not to have a solution, I suggest that you try the following steps. In practice, these steps are aided by guided meditation for each of the cognitive/emotive sequences, but meanwhile, here are the 4 steps.
The SOAR technique:
Stop thinking about the problem. Stop trying to distract yourself. Stop trying to think of solutions. Just stop. Don’t run away. Don’t retreat into the past or into fantasies of the future. No
“should’ves or could’ves”.
See what is. Look at situation, not to analyse, but to understand, to witness, to observe. This is often the most difficult step of the SOAR technique and it is useful to practice mindfulness techniques.
In this step, you become mindfully aware of the situation – able to see the situation without minimizing it or blowing it out of proportion
Accept (Serenity Prayer):
Accept what you can change and what you cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. (thanks to the great Reinhold Neibuhr)
This is the easy part. Transformation – either of yourself, or the situation, but often both – will occur as a consequence of steps 1, 2, and 3. Once you calm your fears and anxieties, once you are able to see and observe
So there it is, Stop Observe, Accept , repeat as necessary.
Shyam Bhat MD