Martha Beck’s Designated Issue Theory (and why you need to know about it).
Martha Beck. I’ve mentioned her a couple of times before (here and here, namely). She’s on my Top Ten list of coaches I love. She seeped into my brain through Oprah articles that I read when I was living in Poland. I would buy an Oprah magazine at an exorbitant price at a store called “The American Bookstore” (for reals) and I would delight in the fact that I had a magazine that I loved, in English, in my hands.
I didn’t know who Martha Beck was at the time, but her coaching articles were right on the money, every single month. It was like she was reading my mind and giving me exactly what I needed to work with myself and my patients. I waiting every month for the new issue of O Magazine to come out so I could get at that article.
Throughout the years, there is one article that has stayed with me. I read it at my office at Novum, an infertility center in Warsaw, Poland. I stopped working there in 2011 and right now it’s 2018 – so at least 7 years have passed and I still give the exercise from that article to my patients on a regular basis.
At the time of the article, I was working with women every day who assumed that as soon as they solved the problem of ‘having a baby’, their lives would be set – happy and fulfilled. And no amount of talking about it would change their minds. I watched these women get pregnant, have children and then return to me for help with anxiety, depression, weight, back pain and a host of other problems that crept up in place of trying to conceive.
Martha taught us all how to break down that thought process – how to handle the ONE BIG PROBLEM in your life that you just know, if it was solved, everything would be better. It would be just like if a fairy godmother came along, bibbity bobbity boo’ed her way through your life and left it full of shiny moments and diamonds.
That ONE BIG PROBLEM? Martha calls it a designated issue. And here are the steps to working through it.
- Pretend this problem NEVER existed. It’s gone. Magic wand. Poof.
- Write down your top 3 problems that you’d have to deal with if your designated issue didn’t exist.
- Choose 1 of the top 3 problems and take 1 step toward solving it.
- Go back to thinking about your designated issue.
Yes. That last step is right. Your designated issue has been helping you to manage all the chaos that is going on in your brain all the time. It gives you a focus. It takes up space. It allows you to ignore all the other crap that you don’t currently feel like dealing with. I have noticed through the years that the most common designated issues are health issues. Health issues are so important and really prevent us from thinking about anything else, so they are the perfect designated issues.
I have seen patients:
- having migraines instead of dealing with toxic mothers.
- with severe low back pain instead of telling the extended family to manage their own relationships.
- suffering through restless leg syndrome that was allowing the patient to not ‘notice’ infidelity.
And on and on and on.
You might be amazed at what you uncover when you go through this process. I use it regularly with myself (because, seriously, we ALLLLL do this. All of us).
If you want to read about this in Martha’s words (which I recommend, she’s got quite a way with them), you can check out the article here.
Now, get to it. Don’t waste any time. Your improved life and health are waiting.