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When You Become Stuck, Play!

Have you ever been stuck0014583001542381374.jpg in life? Maybe you kept repeating the same conflictual patterns with a partner or family member. Or you faced a complex situation and could see only one solution, and that option was impossible.

I’ve developed a game that I like to use myself, and one I advocate for people who are stuck in a wide variety of situations.

It could apply to many home life situations.  For example, a couple gets into an argument over responsibilities every time they come home from work. A parent needs their teenage son or daughter to do something, but he or she consistently refuses. An adult child tries unsuccessfully to get an aging parent with beginning stage dementia to give up their driver’s license.

It also works well for situations at work or in a religious organization. A committee member fears expressing his or her opinion due to a domineering leader. A leader dreads a certain event each year, but is expected to participate. A worship leader has little time to prepare due to a series of last minute crises, but the congregation expects a top notch service.

Even situations involving only oneself that feel complex and conflictual, could benefit from using this game. For example, you may commit to an exercise program, then find yourself unable to follow through. Or you may struggle to make a personal decision out of guilt, or fear of past failures.

Edwin Friedman, author of Generation to GenerationFamily Process in Church and Synagogue  taught that when we are in a difficult situation or a hostile environment, we can decrease stress by increasing our range of responses. He also advocated laugher as a tool to decrease anxiety.

Using these principles, I developed a game called, Daily Life Brainstorming. It can assist people stuck in any difficult life situation. Here’s how to play.

The “Daily Life Brainstorming” Game

Daily Life Brainstorming is a structured way of exploring possibilities.

  • Think up as many possible responses to the current situation as you can. Don’t judge yourself. In fact coming up with impossible or unusual ideas is good because it loosens your mind which often helps generate more ideas. If one of your ideas gets you laughing, that’s great. Laughter helps thoughts to flow more freely.
  • Set a goal and use techniques to come up with more ideas. Possible approaches to this step include:
  • Write down a list of all of your ideas. Don’t leave anything out.
  • Challenge yourself to come up with 10 or 15 possibilities.
  • Challenge yourself to write ideas for 10 or 15 minutes. Include everything that comes to mind.
  • Use a human “lifeline”. Tell someone else your situation and ask for suggestions to add to your list. Keep the conversation quick and light. Ask for whatever comes to their mind first.
  • Use a computer “lifeline”. Type your situation into a search engine and see what you find.
  • Evaluate your ideas. Here’s the serious part. Go back through the list. Imagine yourself following through with each one of these ideas. Cross out any ideas that are unrealistic or not useful to you at this time. Do not cross out everything. A good final list will have three or four possibilities that you are willing to explore in more detail.

Your mind will become more flexible and creative each time you use this tool. It can help you to notice, consider, and explore a wider range of approaches and responses. Using the tool daily for situations that aren’t particularly weighty helps prepare you to use it when an intense or traumatic situation occurs.

Using this tool won’t make life easy and painless, but it might help you to cope just a little bit better.

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