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Solving Paradoxes 

Identifying and Accommodating Underlying Values is Key

Posted 2/13/2018

Revised 

Albert Einstein once stated that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”[1] Einstein was correct. We must look deeper than the surface, and draw the paradox from our subconscious thinking into our conscious awareness where we can interact with it. We must discover the values that we are holding upon which our paradox hinges.


In simplest terms, repairing the event that threw you into your paradox is what will remove it and return you to a state of homeostasis. Did a divorce cause you to ruminate and experience mental anguish? If so, then repairing that relationship will theoretically end your suffering. Is your child’s lack of consideration in picking up their own things creating anguish for you? Then having them put their own toys back ends that for you. What people do and say are the primary causes of most of our paradoxes. Here is one example.

Over the course of my professional career as a mental health counselor, I have helped many people solve many paradoxes. My favorite one however, involved an argument over toilet paper. The couple brought this concern to me because they had been unsuccessful in getting their mate to budge.


After demonstrating the Vortex Model to them, the wife explained that she had been ruminating about her husband’s excessive use of toilet paper while he ruminated about the grief she gave him about his obsession. It seems that the husband was wrapping his hand with it completely (all the way up to his elbow), so that there was no exposed flesh during each use. Clearly, he had some sort of childhood injury that resulted in a phobia. He could easily have been diagnosed with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and could have spent years in therapy trying to overcome it. The wife’s concern carried with it, a need to cut back on toilet paper usage because it was costing them a fortune each week at the grocery. It became obvious that money was an issue for this couple, and that years of therapy would be out-of-the-question because it would have been too costly for them to afford. Two sets of questions helped them get to the heart of the matter.


Upon asking the wife what her husband was fixated on, and valuing, she immediately responded “hygiene.” She was then asked what was morally wrong with valuing hygiene to which she responded nothing. Actually, most people might consider that hygiene is a good thing. We as people generally value and appreciate when those around us practice it with showers and deodorant.


Turning my attentions to the husband, he was then asked what the wife was fixated on and was valuing. He also immediately responded by stating “money.” He was then asked what was morally wrong with valuing a household budget to which he responded “nothing.” Once again, in actuality, most people consider frugality and budget making a good thing. There was indeed nothing wrong with what either were essentially valuing. The problem was that their values do not match up which meant that they were valuing different things in different amounts.


Over the years each partner had been attempting to get their partner to Compromise. In other words, they were trying to get each other to concede their position in their conflict. Personally, I hate the word compromise because it inherently suggests a win-lose outcome. You’ve heard it said, we want conflict resolutions to end with win-wins. This is the point that counselors experience their own paradoxes—what to do with this couple? What might you suggest? Over the years, I have heard many possible solutions. Some of the more ingenious have included latex gloves, a bidet for rinsing instead of paper use and corn cobs. It is important to note that most, if not all, of the solutions that have been offered over the years, have focused on the husband’s side of things and not the wife’s. It wasn’t until the wife revealed what she valued in toilet paper, did the answer begin to become apparent.


The wife stated that she preferred the quilted, 9 ply heavy-duty, lotioned and perfumed kind over cheaper brands. When the husband heard his wife say this, he quickly introjected that while he liked those things too, those qualities were not nearly as important to him as quantity. He stated further that he actually preferred the cheap stuff, that felt like sandpaper because it worked more effectively. Perhaps you now know how the paradox between them was solved? By purchasing the least expensive brand, in large volume cases, rather than individual packages, did the wife begin valuing what was important to both herself and to her husband.


Here is a major tip. Don’t get trapped into looking at the most prominent part of the paradox or else you might miss the best solution. The real answer came through the wife rather than the husband. As she valued and accommodated him as well as herself, the couple came to a peaceful resolution without having to pay thousands of dollars in therapy fees trying to fix a problem that had no guarantee that it could ever be fixed. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures have already told us how to do this when Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Because these verses are an equation, the converse is also true. Look not only to the interest of others, but also to your own interests. Resolutions should be equitable or else bitterness and resentment can set in, especially if one person is always the transactional loser.


All paradoxes can be solved in this manner. Some are a little more difficult because multiple values by both parties can make them more complex. The key to solving them is to find first everything that is being fixated on and then converting them to what is being valued. Once you have done that then you can compare each other’s values to find where they are conflicting, followed by a solution that accommodates what is important to both people.

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Works Cited:

[1] Retrieved 2/13/2018 from: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/87303.