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Old Keys, New Locks. Finding The Solution To Your Problem

I love this rusty old ring of keys. They’re originally from Germany, a land dotted with castles and drawbridges and ancient city walls.

And maybe these old keys were made to unlock some of those places. To get through those barriers. To unleash the secret spaces within.

But they certainly won’t open any door that stands before me now.

For the locks have changed.

(That seems pretty obvious. Slightly silly, even.)

Yet, so often, it can seem almost ‘natural’ to try our old, trusty (rusty?) approaches on the new problems in our path. To automatically bring our pre-loved habits or the stuff that’s worked before to new situations. To bring our old keys to new locks…

Have you caught yourself doing this sometimes? Trying to release yourself from a bind of some sort (emotional/relational/behavioural) by jamming the lock with your old keys, your old ways? Getting frustrated or angry or anxious when it just doesn’t work?

Maybe you’ve even succumbed to that so-called ‘definition of madness’:

doing the same thing over and over again,
but expecting different results

(I know I have…)

So if your ‘key’ or your approach isn’t working, maybe you’ve just kept trying it again and again anyway. Maybe just more forcefully this time. Continually shoving that particular key at the lock and wondering why it isn’t working.

It’s not usually much fun…

So what might it be like to just step back from the door for a moment? To invite a bit more mindfulness in. To really take note of the key in your hand – the stuff you’ve been trying so far – and to notice that it’s not working? To really contemplate the situation or the problem or the pain that stands before you. To get to know it. And then to see if maybe there’s other things you might try instead…

And if you don’t yet have those things on your ring of keys – if your life experience hasn’t yet led you to know how to unlock this particular problem – then what might it be like to just acknowledge that? To stop fruitlessly trying the same stuff over and over again. To just admit that you don’t yet know exactly how to get through this. Yet.

And, so, what might it be like to consciously go out in search of new ways of being? To find new ways of stretching yourself. To learn new responses, adopt different strategies, try new behaviours.

To find new keys…


Photos: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Old Keys, New Locks. Finding The Solution To Your Problem

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Old Keys, New Locks. Finding The Solution To Your Problem. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Jan 2011
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