WHAT IF . . .
after having fallen sleep tonight, a miracle happened and the problem you've been struggling with disappeared. It no longer exists. However, when you awaken you don't know this miracle has happened. So, how will you first begin to tell that the problem no longer exists. How will it not show up in your life? What will be there instead? This miracle allows you to begin to riff on possibilities not the impossibilities of your problem.
The miracle question. A simple and and elegant way to begin to shift your mindset and focus on solutions. That shift in focus is the miracle itself. This theory of helping (solution-focused brief therapy) believes that when you're having a problem you'll tend to keep repeating the same solution over and over. You'll change it up some; how often you attempt your solution, how intensely you apply that solution, or maybe how long you'll put that solution to work. But in the end it's the same solution only implemented differently. Which is being "stuck".
A concrete example of being stuck and repeating the "solution" would be if a window jam had been painted over and you wanted to get it unstuck and begin to enjoy the fresh fall air on a sunny weekend afternoon. You might grab a screwdriver and attempt to work it into the side of the widow and frame and give a little pull. You hear the cracking of wood and some paint begins to flake off and fall on the sill. Well, something's happening right? It's not opening, but something "moved" So, let's try it a little more. Soon out comes a hammer just to work the blade a little deeper into the crack and work that widow lose. Yes, you're cringing; partly because you've tried something like this before and you know where it's heading. It's only after 30 minutes of defacing the window frame and gouging a hunk of flesh out of your thumb that you've decided tyo wipe the sweat from you eyes and walk away.
Everyone is vulnerable to the "more of the same" trap when confronted with a problem. Whether it's doubling down on bad poker hand after bad poker hand, responding the same way to hurtful and unrewarding relationships time and time again, or yelling louder or more often at the kids to get them to behave; it's hard to break the "more of the same" cycle.
The miracle question helps to shift your frame of reference; to allow more room for possibilities. Because stuck relationships and stuck behaviors can be more challenging and often resit solutions more often than stuck windows.
SO WHAT'S THE POINT?
The answer to the question is that you're already doing something right when it comes to those relationships and behaviors because the "problem" isn't happening all the time! That's right, it can't be happening all the time. If you're trying to stop over eating, there have been times when you haven't over eaten, At least once--if only for a few seconds. What was different about that time?
But that's hard to think about when you're suffocating in the problem and repeating your solution in a thousand different variations without one bit of success. Someone asking you when the problem hasn't occurred, well, it ticks you off in a way. You're trying to explain how impossible this problem has become and so how intractable it really is and someone is interested in only trying to find a few seconds when it hasn't occurred? Piss off!
LOOKING FOR EXCEPTIONS
That's where the miracle question comes in. Here no one (not even you) is trying to imply you aren't trying. Indeed, not even saying your solution won't work. It's just an invitation to image "what if" and see where that takes you. If the problem is miraculously gone, what has taken its place, what would be different? And how would you first realize it absence?
These questions are sifting for the first clues to what could be the solution. And, more importantly, where you've already begun to "accidentally" have the solution occur. The miracle question allows you to first see what it would look like when the problem is no longer around, then you can ask yourself if there ever has been a time when you were doing that? Even a little bit? Even if it was only once? And if so, can you begin to do more of that now? Or maybe it was the day of the week or the time of day that's important. Can you put yourself in that situation again for the solution of occur?