There is an old story of a boilermaker who was hired to fix a huge steamship boiler system that was not working well.
Numerous people had been brought in previously to mend the system but they had all failed to find a solution.
After listening to the owner's description of the problems and asking a few questions, this latest boilermaker went to the boiler room. He looked at the maze of twisting pipes, listened to the thump of the boiler and the hiss of the escaping steam for a few minutes, and felt some pipes with his hands. Then he hummed softly to himself, reached into his overalls and took out a small hammer, and tapped a bright red valve once. Immediately, the entire system began working perfectly, and the boilermaker went home.
When the steamship owner received a bill for one thousand dollars, he became outraged and complained that the boilermaker had only been in the engine room for fifteen minutes and requested an itemized bill. So the boilermaker sent him a bill that reads as follows:
For tapping the valve: $.50
For knowing where to tap: $999.50
Point-to-remember: Lots of folks can & do “tap the valve” – very few know precisely where to tap & why. Be that tapper.
I love that little story!
Getting to the real root cause of a problem is so very important since otherwise we cannot really mend something. Sometimes we can do a “bodge job” and tinker about with what we can see but this will only produce temporary results rather than a permanent change.
I thought I would share a real life story from my own therapeutic practice to give you some idea of what I mean.
Linda (name changed) came to me with a fear of driving – at least that is what she said she needed help with.
I asked her some questions and discovered that she had seen numerous therapists, some offering the exact same therapies as myself. Nothing she had done had worked so far. She was getting desperate and told me that I was her last hope of finding an answer.
I listened to her as she discussed how her fear of driving affected her and how sad she felt. As I continued to listen I realised that her problem was not actually a fear of driving at all! All the other practitioners had taken her word for it that this was the issue and they had all followed that path to the root cause. My intuition told me that this was not a fear of driving but rather a fear of damaging something that was extremely precious to her. I asked her the following question:
“Have you ever had something which was very precious to you and it was damaged in some way?”
Linda went quiet for a little while as her mind processed this. Suddenly her entire face screwed up and her body shook as she became overwhelmed with emotion and large tears fell down her cheeks. “My dolly.....my poor little dolly (Linda was at this point in her 60’S)....I loved my little dolly so very much”.
Linda continued to cry softly as she recounted the story of her beloved dolly. Linda it turned out was one of 13 children and had been brought up in poverty. Every year around October time her dolly would “disappear” and then on Christmas Day she would reappear dressed in new clothes and looking all clean and shiny. This went on for years. Clearly her parents were doing the best they could with their limited resources.
One year however, the dolly did not return on Christmas Day and Linda was heartbroken but was told not to be so silly she was too grown up now for a dolly. Imagine her heartbreak then when a few days later she went for a walk and saw her dolly thrown carelessly in another child’s garden with its head ripped off and without any clothes. It seems her mother had given the doll away to another child who had clearly not valued it. Linda had never got over the pain of seeing something which meant so much to her, something she loved dearly, being destroyed in that manner.
It was this memory which had prevented her from being relaxed whilst driving her car. Linda had not learned to drive until much later in life and this was the first time she had been able to afford a car – it was very precious to her indeed. Every time she tried to drive anywhere the fear of damaging the vehicle was so great that she simply couldn’t drive! She was protecting her valued possession.
Needless to say it was the event in childhood which we worked on in therapy.
Linda left the clinic that day and phoned within a couple of hours to say she had been out driving and everything was great. She loved her new found freedom.
Once again, as in the boiler story above, it’s so very important whilst working therapeutically to “know where to tap”!