Trouble Shooting

Trouble Shooting

When it comes to the game of life, do you have trouble shooting? Or have you learned to shoot your troubles? Now I am not a violent person, but please work with my analogy: If we are going to protect our garden of emotions, we may have to shoot some predators! And life is full of them: work, deadlines, appointments, bills, illness…you get the point.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because life really is overwhelming. This is especially true for trauma survivors. Sometimes our problems pile up higher than dirty laundry…and we don’t even know where to start. Sometimes the best way to manage overwhelming emotions is start troubleshooting our stressors—one bullet at a time!

Here are 10 bullets to improve our aim. Now, instead of having “trouble shooting,” let’s shoot our troubles (Godley & Smith, 2016).

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions.
  3. Eliminate unwanted solutions.
  4. Select one possible solution.
  5. Identify possible obstacles.
  6. Address each obstacle with a plan.
  7. Try out the solution you selected.
  8. Evaluate the outcome.
  9. If necessary, try another solution!
  10. If you’re really stuck, make sure you have a trusted friend or counselor help you through this process.

First, let’s practice this together. Let’s troubleshoot the following problem:

Alexander is supposed to graduate this year. The only problem: He is currently failing ALL of his subjects.

Notice you have already completed Step 1!

  1. Define the problem:
    • Alexander is supposed to graduate this year. However, he is currently failing ALL of his subjects.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions.
    • Yell, swear, and throw random objects.
    • Complain to all of my friends.
    • Ground him for the rest of the school year (it’s currently October).
    • Schedule a meeting with all of his teachers and coaches.
  3. Eliminate unwanted solutions.
    • I always complain to all my friends. That never changes anything, but it does help me feel better. So that one stays. Yelling, swearing, and throwing random objects sounds tempting, but will probably not earn me the respect I need to deal with this situation. At least, not effectively. Grounding for the rest of the school also sounds tempting, but (A) I don’t actually want him around the house 24/7 for the next 7 months and (B) he might just give up completely, if he doesn’t have a chance to redeem himself. After all, he is very motivated by sports! Scheduling a meeting with the teachers and coaches is probably the most effective step to take.
  4. Select one possible solution.
    • I am going to select two solutions: Complain to all my friends AND schedule a meeting with all the teachers and coaches.
  5. Identify possible obstacles.
    • I might have to take time off from work.
    • My husband might have to take time off from work.
    • It’s a nightmare to get a meeting scheduled with just one teacher or coach, much less the whole lot of them at once!
  6. Address each obstacle with a plan.
    • Just getting this meeting scheduled is going to require lots of foresight, coordination, and flexibility. But I do know that the school faculty usually meets on Thursday mornings before school starts. If we can schedule a meeting then, we won’t have to finagle a gazillion different schedules, and my husband and I probably won’t even be that late to work.
  7. Try out the solution you selected.
    • I reached out to the guidance counselor with my concerns and suggestion for a Thursday meeting. She echoed my concerns and thought a Thursday meeting was a great idea, but we would have to meet before the faculty meeting. I said no problem!
  8. Evaluate the outcome.
    • My husband had to work first shift and he wasn’t able to take off for a non-emergency, so I went by myself. The meeting with the teachers and football coach went well. The teachers reported that the main reason Alexander’s grades were low was because of missing assignments that he had started but had not turned in yet. They were all willing to offer partial credit for late assignments, which would bring his grades up to passing. The football coach agreed to bench Alexander until all assignments were in. This will be a huge motivator for Alexander, because he was supposed to start this season. Also, if Alexander fails the semester, he will not be eligible for track in the spring either. Another big motivator!
  9. If necessary, try another solution.
    • Even though the meeting was much more of a success than I expected, I still want to complain to my friends!
  10. If you’re really stuck, make sure you have a trusted friend or counselor help you through this process.
    • If Alexander continues to fail his classes, I will need to reach out to the guidance counselor again. Maybe there are deeper issues here than just academics?