THE LATE INSOO KIM BERG WAS A DOLPHINTHINKER’S DOLPHIN. ABOVE ALL, SHE WANTED REAL SOLUTIONS FOR HER THERAPY CLIENTS, AND SHE WANTED THEM NOW

The therapist was a tiny woman with dark, closely cropped hair, magnetic eyes and a ready, inviting smile. Her name was Insoo Kim Berg. She was born in Korea, came to the U.S. in 1957 to study and stayed.

The person closest to her was her husband, a jazz-musician-turned-psychotherapist named Steve de Shazer. She persuaded the tall, gangly, Sherlock-Holmes-loving de Shazer to follow her to Wisconsin from California and join her in her life passion: equipping psychotherapists to help people heal quickly, without years of expensive, slower-than-molasses Freudian-styled talk therapy.

The mainstay ideas in the therapeutic techniques developed by Berg (she was the primary creator) and de Shazer (he observed Berg, then wrote the books and training materials) address numerous critical themes about thinking that are central to dolphin thinking. (Berg and de Shazer both died unexpectedly a few years apart in the 2000s.) Among these idées puissantes:

• If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

• If it works, go with the flow.

• If it isn’t working, do something different.

• The solution to an issue—any issue—is almost never that closely related to the problem.

• This explains why the way people think and talk about problems is almost guaranteed to be different than the way they think and talk about solutions.

• The first place to look for solutions is to exceptions: ask yourself what has been working that you really hadn’t noticed all that much.

• The next best place to look for solutions is to what makes sense, now that you’ve thought a little more about it.

• What usually matters most are small, right, smart, good (that is, moral) next steps that may put you on the path to big changes.

• People need to be reminded (and none of us ever wants to forget) that the future is both created and negotiable.

• Not all change is a problem, and problems do not happen all the time. But change is inevitable.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Berg warned about that. Because thinking this way looks and sounds simple, people expect it to be easy. But she said it wasn’t. She said thinking this way is hard. The reason is that it isn’t enough simply to read somebody’s book, even if that book is called Strategy of the Dolphin, The Mother of All Minds or LEAP!, or take grad-school classes and grow familiar with using various techniques for guiding and dealing with change. Such accomplishments, while commendable, are often inadequate to the task at hand because they leave out, as Berg phrased it, “the art part.” She added, “The art part is about what to do when.”

Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer (photo courtesy of Psiholozi.com)

Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer (photo courtesy of Psiholozi.com)

So it is “the art part” that is hardest of all. The reason for this has to do with the way the universe is set up. The art part is what gets you through and beyond the complexity, and the way the universe works, the simplicity that harbors the solution nearly always lies on the other side of complexity. It’s like crocheting. You are most likely to get there, if you get there at all, if you have the kind of mind that can get you there one small, right, smart stitch—one right thing, one right move—at a time.

All our books and models and tools at Brain Technologies are about hastening and equipping that kind of a mind.

In the Twenty-First Century, anytime any of us leave home without this mind, we are asking for trouble. If we have it along, then the spirit is usually with us—the spirit of Insoo Kim Berg and all the others who, in the past half-century or so, have helped our species discover a tenacious new way to think about its challenges and an audacious new mindset with which to do the thinking.

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