You got problems? There are plenty of solution-providers out there…

One major truism of contemporary life is that many of us often look for solutions for all sorts of things. When we can't find the solution ourselves, we look for solution providers. And more often than not, we find one, whatever our problem may be. That solution-seeking has become a modern epidemic was driven home to me recently when I noticed that the humble, hole-in-the-wall photocopying store that I usually pass on my way to work, had suddenly re-invented itself. Almost overnight, it had become a snazzier hole-in-the-wall and now sported swanky signage that said “Documentation Solutions”. So, in 21st century India, if you have a documentation problem (if you want something photocopied, that is), you look for a documentation solution provider. And if you look around you'll find a huge range of solution providers, who are waiting impatiently to provide customised, tailor-made solutions for all your needs.

Complex factors

What does this mean? Are we facing more problems than ever before? Or have we become too lazy to find our own solutions? Or do we realise we have problems every time we see someone advertising solutions? Or have we just become more sensitive and are in touch with problems and issues that our parents never had even an inkling of? A bit of all these, I would imagine. For, we do live in a more complex world today. Our choices have expanded quite bewilderingly. We are also much more sensitive to what's happening inside our heads, hearts and bodies. And more often than not, we possess neither the wherewithal nor the tools with which to solve the problems we face. And so, rather than sitting on the 'victim bandwagon', we try and find solution providers.

However, the key questions are, do we find the solutions we are seeking and having found them, are we truly better off for this? The short answers to these questions are 'Yes' and 'No' respectively. As mentioned earlier, for every problem, there is a solution-provider and therefore, we are more likely than not to find a solution to whatever it is that bedevils us. But, having done so, we do not necessarily experience a better quality of life. If the solution we have purchased is a comprehensive one, we will, for a while at least, experience a sense of relief. And this might or might not sustain us until we hit the next problem, for then we are constrained to start the process all over again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against solution-providers (I am one myself, remember?). I'm just saying that if we confine ourselves to looking only for immediate solutions to our problems, we don't truly empower ourselves, for we have purchased, not the technology of problem-solving, but only an immediate-term solution, which may or may not last. In a crisis, of course, immediate solutions are vital, but otherwise, we'd probably be better off, if we seek enhancement rather than solutions. Without doubt, we can get ourselves a bypass if our coronary arteries protest too much. This solution may make us feel we are good to go for another 10 to 15 years (at the end of which we can find ourselves a new heart or whatever medical science discovers for us), but as any cardiologist will tell you, lifestyle changes are the better way to empower yourself after a bypass, for, these are what will truly enhance the quality of your life.

One of the first assessments I make when a couple comes to see me is whether they are seeking solutions for their marital issues or enhancement of the quality of their marriage. As a rule of thumb, I have found that solution-seekers are so focussed on the problem at hand, that they are unable to see marriage as a larger picture that needs to be painted stroke by stroke. They tend to settle for quick fixes than look for lasting resolutions to their issues. And they wait for the therapist to tell them what to do, rather than owning the process of finding answers to the questions in the marriage.

Systemic overhaul

On the other hand, if a couple wants to take charge of their lives and the marriage, I think of them as enhancement-seekers, for, what they are looking for is a more general overhaul of their marriage. They are more likely to go deeper into their issues and see what all they need to do or change in order to have a more intimate relationship. They are also more likely to see the process through for they have realised that quick-fixes are not going to help them and they need to engage in active self-exploration if they are to find a remedy for the issues they face. When they do all of this, they truly own their problems and therefore the solutions as well.

I have found that enhancement-seekers benefit from therapy far more than do solution-seekers, whether in couples therapy or individual psychotherapy. I would imagine this to be true of any knotty problem we may come face to face with. Unless, of course, what you are seeking is a documentation solution. Then you know what to do!

The writer is the author of the just-launched Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy and can be contacted at vijay.nagaswami@gmail.com