How to Open Possibilities
Possibilities, by themselves, are endless. There are billions of alternatives in life. Possibilities become limited when a person is seeking a specific outcome. It is our view of the outcome that opens up or diminishes possibilities.
If someone comes into therapy and they want their husband to, “clean the house because then I would know that he loved me,” there are very little possibilities in the person’s goal. There is only one possible outcome. The husband must clean the house in order for her to know he loves her.
Redefine the Outcome
Defining or redefining the required outcome opens up possibilities. If the goal is for her to feel that her husband loves her, there are many possible ways the goal can occur. He can hug her, provide gifts, do acts of kindness, and verbalize love. She can perform acts of love toward him, and focus on what is present in the relationship, and experience herself in the relationship differently.
If the goal is to have a clean house, there are many possible ways a clean house can occur. The couple can clean together, hire a maid, make a chore list, create an incentive, not get it messy in the first place, renegotiate roles, discuss expectations, develop a schedule, or any number of things. There are many paths to achieving a clean home.
The problem is that when we live with someone, we define the outcome we want, and then we define the solution. The solution oftentimes involves our spouse changing. It also involves them doing something that they are not likely to do. When we rigidly define the desired goal and we predetermine the path to achieve the goal, we limit possibilities. When we limit possibilities to a single path that our partner must take, we become upset at our partner for causing us misery and holding us back. Very often, the truth is that our definition of the problem is holding us back. If we redefine the problem and let go of the predetermined solution, we can see that there are many paths to our destination.
Change the Destination
If a path is not visible, the destination can be changed. With the example above, the real problem is that the wife might be tired. The feeling of being tired or overwhelmed could be influencing feelings of unappreciation. A clean house, might not be the destination that has to occur. Instead the trajectory of the goal destination could be pointed towards becoming rested or invigorated. This opens up many possibilities, since there are many ways a person can feel rejuvenated.
Maybe the person will desire to feel less overwhelmed. This goal also changes the trajectory of the path and opens up different possible solutions. A person can limit their expectations, change their to-do list, hire help, or take better care of themselves so they have more energy.