July 2, 2010

Navigating through the complexity of life

"Life is going to be complex and the only way we're able navigate our way through it at all is by living as best we can and absorbing those experiences and somehow making intuitive responses in future situations that resemble them in some way."

~ Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant

Daniel Tammet is high-functioning British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. His life story is interesting from a solution-focused perspective because it illustrates how people can free themselves from the cages which are their diagnostic labels. Like I said in this post: "Often, just the way we look at realities determines whether we view them as problems or not. Surely, people diagnosed can have difficulties with social situations and change. At the same time, they can also be exceptional in their cognitive styles and achievements. So, what do we do? View AS a disorder and 'treat' them or focus on helping them develop a situational arrangement that works for them? ".

The quote above is also interesting from a solution-focused perspective. It has been said that one of the essences of the solution-focused approach is building a bridge between success in the past and success in the future (see this post). Tammet's quote also refers to this interplay between past experience and responses in future situations. Interestingly, he mentions 'somehow making intuitive responses'. This refers to the fact that we often lack conscious access to a large part of what we know and have learned.

In this post I have written about that: "It is normal to not be aware of the overwhelming amount of things that work well which surround us for second to second as we go through our lives. That our brains deal with these things automatically is an example of great efficiency. This efficiency has a downside, too. Sometimes, we are suddenly confronted with a problem and we don't have a clue about how to solve it. We may think we are not capable of solving it because we don't see what we can do. But we often underestimate ourselves. As solution-focused practice often shows, we have far more solutions than we consciously know. What solution-focused practice does is to focus your deliberate attention to find out what has been working well in relation to this specific problem (or goal). When we shine a light on what has worked well, we only begin to see what is there, which is often much more than we had hoped to find.In sum, we are often blind to what has worked well and this is a normal and a good thing. Because the number of things that work is so overwhelmingly great, dealing with them automatically is a highly efficient solution. Moreover, it helps to keep us modest. Sometimes, we need to bring a selection of all that works back to our conscious thinking. By deliberately focusing on what has worked before, we consistently rediscover patterns of effectiveness which then become available to our consciousness."


  1. Coert,

    It's a good point you mention about how we have so many automatic behaviors that are useful and that SF helps to bring these to light so we can use them to solve problems.

    One metaphor that helps is John Haidt's metaphor of the rider and the elephant. The Rider is our conscious mind. It has some control (but often feels it has more than it does).

    Then there is the elephant which is all of our unconscious processes and automatic tendencies. If the rider wants to go somewhere he must direct the elephant - and if the elephant is unwilling or defensive he's going to have a hard time.

    In SF you avoid defensiveness and make the elephant willing. You use the rider to find out what good things the elephant has been doing all this time. So it's no wonder the elephant is quite willing to work with the rider to create a solution.

  2. Hi Rodney, thanks for mentioning Haidt, I like his metaphor too. Nice connection to SF there. Thanks

  3. "..... somehow making intuitive responses in future situations that resemble them in some way."

    Food for tought...
    Very useful post,thanks Coert


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