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The Puzzle Box Analogy

Trish Blain December 31, 2020

As the facilitator, you might identify an important insight and talk about it with your client, but it just isn’t landing. It may be that there are layers that need to be uncovered or insights that need to be made before the person can understand what you are offering. Or another scenario may be that you are working on a particular issue for yourself or your client, where it feels like suddenly there is an insight that “That’s so obvious! why didn’t I see that before!” You or your client might feel like you been going the long way round and judge that as bad. However, this is often necessary.

An analogy that can be helpful is to think of our deeper core issues as a puzzle box. To unlock the insight, we may have to move some other pieces first. There can be an order to things. Especially with trauma, we may have to work with other layers of fear, power or belief for example before we can access a memory or make a connection. It may even be that what we think is the issue is just a piece that is keeping something else protected and “locked up.”

Sometimes there is a kingpin, some insight that unlocks a big “aha” and feels like it shifts things dramatically. It can be tempting to look for those kingpins, but more commonly than not, those kingpins are really just the last piece of the puzzle that got moved in order to access the information. Even if you as the facilitator can see the kingpin, that doesn’t mean the client or other person is going to be able to see it without the other pieces moving first.

This is different than the idea of getting at the root of something rather than looking at all the branches or leaves (to use another analogy). In this case, the root can’t be accessed without clearing the leaves and branches.

When to use this analogy:

It is helpful to use this analogy when:

  • the client is frustrated that they are not making faster progress.
  • when they feel like “it’s so obvious! Why didn’t I (or you) see it earlier!”
  • When they want you to just “give them the answer!”

Related analogies:
Deepening Spiral
Cork Popping
Leaves vs. Root of Issue


Japanese puzzle box