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Problem Solving
and Inequity Resolving

by Melanie Anne Phillips

There are six items one can consider in evaluating troubles. They are Problem, Solution, Inequity, Equity, Focus and Direction. These six kinds of measurements are different ways of determining the best way to eliminate an irritation that our conscious minds have become aware of. Let's describe each item.

When one appreciates an irritation as a problem, one defines the nature of the irritation specifically. For example, a problem might be a leaky faucet. A Solution describes what might specifically be done to eliminate the irritation; in this case, put a new washer in. Rather than describing a specific irritation, an Inequity describes a category of irritation. In our example this might be that one has trouble sleeping at night. Equity, describes a category of changes that would diminish the irritation. In our scenario that might be making the bedroom more quiet. Focus describes the area in which the irritation is most apparent. In our scene this might be sounds made by non-organic things in the apartment. Direction describes the apparent efforts that can be made toward a remedy. In this case, perhaps adjusting the various items so they stop making noise.

The six items are connected as pairs - Problem with Solution, Inequity with Equity and Focus with Direction. Any two pairs can be selected as the group or "quad" to be used in evaluating a particular irritation. Only four should be used on the same irritation at the same time. Otherwise, the nature of the irritation becomes obscured and therefore the elimination of the irritation becomes less likely. The dynamics of the quad are such that when three of the items are measured, the value of the fourth suggests itself.

For example,

Inequity: Has trouble sleeping Focus: Things making sounds Direction: Adjust those things Equity: A quiet room.

Note that the Equity is not the solution to the inequity but rather a new state that improves the Inequity. In this case, there might be a train rumbling on outside or neighbors having an argument or indigestion that still remain and still hinder sleep. However, the purpose of achieving Equity is to salve enough of the irritation that the inequity is relieved (not necessarily resolved). In this case, making the room quiet aids in making it easier to sleep, but it still might not make it easy. If the Focus and Direction are properly chosen, the resulting equity will counter any further motivation to deal with the irritation. In effect, the irritation has been diminished below the level requiring response.

Let's look at another Quad,

Problem: A dripping faucet Inequity: trouble sleeping Equity: a quiet room Solution: A new washer

Here it is the dripping faucet or Problem that first rivets the attention. Only then does our tired individual realize they are having trouble sleeping. They clearly see that a quiet room would make things a lot better. So they get up and hunt for a new washer.

Any quad will work objectively. But we are not objective. Therefore the personal emphasis we place on each of these six items will determine which four should be employed together. If all six are used, we can go round in circles, never affecting the irritation level as illustrated in this example:

Problem: a dripping faucet Inequity: trouble sleeping Focus: things making sounds Direction: adjust those things Equity: a quiet room Solution: a new washer

What is a new washer doing after we have achieved a quiet room? Let's move it up one so that it fits better.

Problem: a dripping faucet Inequity: trouble sleeping Focus: things making sounds Direction: adjust those things Solution: a new washer Equity: a quiet room

But wait a minute.... now the only action we take to get rid of all the things that are making noise is to put a new washer in the faucet?

Its all a matter of emphasis. The difficulty is that if all six items are considered, the irritation becomes completely objectified and no emphasis can be placed. The emphasis is created (in a sense) by selecting which pair of items are a given, and therefore need not be considered. That puts a bias on the whole irritation and sets a foundation from which efforts can be launched.

The dynamics of all this lead to two different kinds of justification that can get us into trouble. The moment we select a pair as the givens, we will no longer look to them as the source of the irritation or means of diminishing it. We commit ourselves to one appreciation of our troubles, never thinking that it may be our own stubborn adherence to givens that is causing the irritation in the first place.

The other kind of justification occurs when we don't want to establish givens and try to be objective by using all six measurements. When we do this there is no way to prioritize one measurement as more important than another. As a result we go 'round in circles reconsidering the same issues over and over and accomplishing nothing.

So, in a sense, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Fortunately, there is a way out. We cannot tell when we begin if the problem is due to our givens or due to our lack of them. We must first explore. We can pick either model of justification and follow it through one and only one cycle. Either we use all three pairs or we select any combination of four . When we have finished, we can evaluate if we are satisfied with the impact we have made on the irritation. If so, we may retire from the effort. If not, we can go through the three pairs in a different order or select a different group of four. There are six orders we can go through the pairs and six possible groups of four. Once we have exhausted all of one method, if the irritation remains, we must jump to the other method. So, if all order of three pairs don't work, we then try the groups of four. If all groups of four don't work, we then try the three pairs.

If we have gone through all combinations of both methods the irritation must be improved unless the situation has changed while we were working through it. When this happens, there is nothing left to do but start over and try it all again. However, even though it is by no means sure, if one goes through both methods two times and still cannot improve the irritation, there are even odds that leaving the situation unresolved by either accepting the irritation or removing oneself from the situation is the best return on the effort.

Still, one must beware of leaving it at that. It is important to make a note that tomorrow or next week, month or year, one will return to evaluate the irritation anew and determine if things have changed so that it no longer exists or that one can confidently expect that further effort will finally eliminate it.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

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