Category Archives: The solving circle

Updated Solving Circle

by Dr. Ken Larsen

I remember reading “Choice Theory” for the first time. One of the ideas Dr. Glasser presented was “The Solving Circle.”

I think it is time to revisit the teaching contained in the Solving Circle and apply that teaching to some of the contentious issues that have brought us to a non-shooting civil war in this country.

reconciliationThe context of the solving circle was to work with a couple who are having difficulties in their relationship. Let’s apply these principles to a country such as ours where our citizens are having difficulty in our relationships.

Dr. Glasser started out by asking the couple if they really wanted to work it out between them. If they were just playing at reconciliation, he suggested they not waste their time or his.

He would then suggest they draw an imaginary circle around the two of them. The next step is to recognize that there are three entities within the circle. There are the two parties in conflict with the third element being the relationship between them.

If they really wanted to work it out to recover or retain the relationship, he simply asked them to answer some simple questions.

To start, he asked them to briefly state what was wrong in the relationship.

Once this was laid out, he then asked them to tell him what was right in the relationship. What was good and attractive and the stuff that would hold them together.

He then challenged each of the two to do something in the coming week that would be supportive of the relationship. That would bring them closer together. This “something” had to be what each one could do on their own without depending on the other.

Then he asked them if they were willing to do something even beyond the one thing, to do something extra to enhance the relationship and makes the bonds a bit stronger.

His overriding guidance for this process was to have each one ask themselves the following question before doing anything. “Is what I am doing (or going to do) going to bring us closer together or drive us further apart?”

He then asked to revisit the couple in a week to encourage progress.

If we were to apply these principles to the divisive issues in our country, we would quickly be able to name what we perceived as being “wrong”. The challenge would be to look for and acknowledge what is right and good in our shared citizenship in a country such as ours. Do we want to have a relationship with our fellow citizens? If we cannot do this, we are indeed in a civil war.

Are we willing to do something to strengthen the bonds that hold us together? Are we willing to do that something on our own and unilaterally, not expecting anything from anyone outside ourselves? Are we willing to act on the challenge given us by President Kennedy? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country?” Or have we grown too sophisticated and cynical to think in such simple terms?

Finally, are we willing to accept responsibility for understanding our responsibility for the common good of all of us by seeking to say and do things that bring us together rather than continue to drive us apart?

If we can apply these principles, I believe our personal and collective mental health and happiness will take a step up.