When I was a kid, I used to love magic. And there was a magician, a guy by the name of David Copperfield, that would often have specials and he would make things disappear. I remember he made an elephant disappear. He made a tank disappear. He made the Statue of Liberty disappear. And I wanted to watch all of them.
And then there was another magician, a guy by the name of David Blaine, who would go by “The Street Magician.” He’d walk by on the street and do magic. I was so fascinated by it. I could never do magic, but I was just so fascinated by it. And recently, I’ve been thinking about magic a lot as it compares to what we do in our work with clients.
To me, there’s a correlation there. And I want to highlight a couple of them in the way that we use Solution Focused Brief Therapy, because I do believe it’s magical, not mystical, but I do believe it is magical and incredible. When you view it through this lens, it’s kind of amazing.
So the first thing I’ll say is, even though magic is incredible, it still follows the rules of physics. A friend of mine is a magician and he does really cool tricks, really cool things. He does these amazing card tricks and he can do these slight of hand things. And I want him to tell me how he does these tricks.
One time I was talking to him like, “Tell me how you do these tricks.” And he said to me, “They’re not really tricks.” He said, “I still have to follow the laws of physics. What magic is, is getting very good at asking people to focus on this while I’m actually doing this. What magic is, is getting really good at shifting people’s attention to one thing while the other thing becomes less important.” And I was like, wow, that actually reminds me of Solution Focused Brief Therapy. And I wanna explain what I mean by this.
All people have problems. We all have flaws. We all have things in our lives that are difficult. But what if therapy wasn’t about solving problems? Because we’re always going to have them. No matter how much therapy you get, no matter what’s going on in your life, your life is never going to be perfect.
What if we ask the kind of questions that help people shift their focus to an outcome, to their resources, to something more desirable and healthy than the problem? What happens is the more you focus on outcomes and resources, you get an increase in hope, love, warmth, care, and joy. And that will dissipate the impact of the problem. As I think about that, I’m like, wow. To me, that really hits home on what Solution Focused Brief Therapy does in a session. Not that the problem is being ignored, but the problem is being attended to from the perspective of my hope, my wishes, my dreams, and my love. And that makes things different.
Let me give you a real concrete example about that. When you are focused on things that bring you joy and happiness, you tend to do a better job of dealing with hardships.
I’m in Colorado right now, and it’s been an amazing week hanging out with people that I’m really close to. It’s a special group that I’m a part of that brought me out here. And one of my friends in this group didn’t have a ride to the airport. In Durango, Colorado, where I am, you can’t really order a car. You can’t really depend on Uber. And she had to be at the airport at 4:15 in the morning. And even though it was really late, it was about one o’clock in the morning, I told her, I’ll give you a ride. So I set my alarm, I slept for two hours and drove her to the airport. I came back and had a really long day after such a short sleep.
Why could I do that? Because I’m focused on my love and care of this friend. If I were up for two hours because I wasn’t feeling well, if I were up two hours because of something that didn’t bring me joy, then I would be focused on how tired I am. But my focus actually is how much I love and care for my friend, and how much of an honor it is to do a favor for this friend, that I actually haven’t been bothered by it.
So you see what I mean? It’s not that the problem doesn’t exist, it’s just not being attended to. People think Solution Focused Brief Therpay ignores the problem. That’s not true. We all have them. Problems are there. We have to teach our brains to attend to something else. And that has a drastic impact on the way the problem shows up in our lives, which to me is magic.
That’s absolute magic. That’s exactly what magicians do. They ask you to pay attention to something else. While another thing is lying in the background. Let’s let our problems lie in the background cause they’re not important. My love and care for this friend is far more important than the problem, which in this case is being tired, and a little bit sleepless. So that’s what I want you to do.
And then the other thing that to me stands out about magic is people have to believe that something impossible is possible in order for magic to be impactful. Magic is doing something that was once perceived as impossible and then showing that it’s possible.
Sometimes our clients come into our offices and the thing that they want to achieve is seemingly impossible. Like, “I want to live without drugs or alcohol.” And they’ve been living with drugs now for so long that thinking of a life without it is impossible. They want to be living without the impact of a pain or a trauma, but they’ve been living with it for so long that just the thought that “you don’t have to” seems impossible.
When you accomplish something that you once thought was impossible, it triggers this wonderment inside of you, to make you believe in things more, to make you believe in dreams and wishes, and believe in yourself and believe in the really positive things that we want to believe in.
I think that’s what I loved as a kid when I would watch David Copperfield. I was living in a very difficult childhood, and if you watch him make the Statue of Liberty disappear or make an elephant disappear, whatever, it just makes you feel like anything is possible, including me getting through this difficult childhood.
So recognize that sometimes your client comes into therapy thinking something is impossible, which means therapy represents wonderment, therapy represents magic. And as the client starts to do things that they thought were impossible, they start to believe in themselves and believe in the world that they can accomplish anything. And I can’t think of anything more amazing.
So I’m very proud to be a therapist, but today I’ll think of myself as a little bit of a magician.