(This was a post I composed over a year ago and decided against posting on my blog as it was a bit of a sensitive subject. You will see by reading this how much my attitude towards depression and personal problems have changed.)

More ardent readers of my blog will recall a flash fiction story that I recently wrote called Confidant. The story was all about a person talking to somebody they trusted about personal problems while the person in question offered advice and potential solutions.

In the story, the speaker talks about an equation they use when it comes to problems and solving them. In the first draft of the story I went into great detail about this equation and how it works. After I’d written it I realised that, while the equation actually sounded quite good, it didn’t really suit what was supposed to be a nice bit of fiction that was easy to read. So, I took it out and changed it to what it ultimately became instead.

The equation itself has stuck with me since. I’ve wrestled with this equation a lot. The battle has mainly been one of conscience. Is it right for me to reduce a person’s problems, things that could be extremely emotional experiences, to a very logical equation? Would people be offended by me doing such a thing? Let’s face it: logic has little place in emotional business.

Having said that, could reducing emotional problems to a logical viewpoint actually be helpful in some way? Maybe we spend so much time over-complicating life that simplifying it every so often might be the answer.

I would like to stress that this equation is meant for more aesthetic issues. I am in no way suggesting that a person suffering from PTSD or other such major mental afflictions should apply this formula to their problems.

What is this equation?

As you can see from the title, the equation, as it stands, is a meaningless jumble of characters. Allow me to break it down in a bulleted list:

  • P represents the problem itself;
  • HW represents the hard work involved in solving the problem;
  • B represents the benefits of solving the problem;
  • R represents the overall resolution once the equation has been solved.

Now that I’ve broken down each part, we can see that the equation reads “Problem divided by Hard Work, multiply that value by the Benefits equals the Resolution”. The key is to achieve as high a resolution as possible. If you attach values then the equation starts to make some sense.

There is an anomaly when applying values, however. Let’s imagine that you attach a value of between one and ten to each part of the equation so that a tiny problem is one and a ginormous problem is ten, a tiny amount of work is one and an immense amount of work is ten, and benefits that aren’t amazing are one while incredible benefits are ten. Straightaway there’s a problem here.

Let’s imagine the problem is ginormous, the hard work immense, and the benefits incredible (so the equation reads (10/10)x10). Simple mathematics tells us that R=10. Now, let’s imagine the problem rates a one, but the hard work and benefits are still ten (to get the equation (1/10)x10). That gives us R=1. Well surely that isn’t right.

In order for the equation to work properly I’ve found that reversing the rating system for the problem works better: attach a higher value to the problem if it’s a small one and a lower value if it’s a big one. That way you can achieve a numerical value that properly reflects the situation.

From what I’ve discovered, a resolution of around five is about average. While it’s possible to get as high as a hundred, your problem really can’t even have been worth putting through the equation to achieve that. For it to work properly you need to be completely honest with yourself about the value of each facet.

Let’s imagine that brushing your teeth is the problem. Okay, brushing your teeth is a basic part of personal hygiene and hardly what one would call a problem per se. Nonetheless, it’s an action that requires effort and takes time away from doing other stuff that you actually want to do. Speaking personally, I would rate this problem a ten, as little a problem as I’ll face in a day. The hard work involved in brushing my teeth is minimal, although not as minimal as lifting a drink to my mouth, so I’ll rate the hard work a two. The benefits of brushing my teeth are tough to say. While my teeth are clean and my breath is fresh, the toothpaste and mouthwash mean I won’t be able to eat anything without it tasting funky for a bit. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless. With that in mind I’ll rate the benefits a seven.

That gives me an equation that reads thus: (10/2)x7. Using our mathematical knowledge, we find that gives me a total resolution of 35. That’s me being completely honest about the value of each facet. That’s the only way it works.

Realistically, if you have a problem that achieves a resolution of 10 or over then your problem is one you should definitely just sort out and stop procrastinating over. Between 5 and 10 is a problem with a bit more to chew over, though still a high enough score that you should quit beating yourself up over it and get it sorted. Less than five and we’re getting into the territory of more complex problems. If your problem rates lower than a 5 then you’re pretty much destined to get a low score overall unless the hard work to solve it is a low value and the benefits a high value. The likelihood of a big problem needing no hard work to solve is slim. If the problem is less than 5 then it’s likely that the hard work will be over 5.

The problem needs to be considered as a single thing when adding a value. If the problem is fixing a car then you need to score that as a problem, not what fixing a car necessitates. What fixing a car necessitates is the hard work and needs to be scored separately. The problem is simply whatever it is that ails you.

The hard work is a judgement call on your behalf. Only you can decide how hard the work will be to fix a problem. Using the car example again, I have absolutely no mechanical knowledge aside from the very basic things. If the engine is knackered then fixing the problem is a definite 10 for me.

Then you have to imagine how much better your life will be after the problem is solved. Either that or how practical solving the problem will prove to be. Brushing my teeth won’t make my life better, but it is certainly practical to prevent my teeth rotting and falling out of my head. It will prevent my life from getting worse one day.

The broken car example would read like this for me: (3/10)x6=1.8. All elements combined gives me the rather low resolution of 1.8; meaning that fixing my car myself really won’t be worth the stress, effort, time, etc. While having my car available will definitely be more convenient, it isn’t absolutely necessary for me to get by; therefore, it isn’t remotely worth me attempting to fix with my total lack of knowledge on how to do so. I’d likely just cause more problem than I’d solve.

What caused me to come up with this equation? Honestly, it was just a random musing. I rarely sit there thinking about simple things. I like to work things out. I like to make sense of the profound.

Depression is one thing that has always confounded me. I hear the term bandied around. It’s a word that’s very easy to say, yet apparently so tough to understand. As a former ‘sufferer’ of depression, I feel I’m in a position to be frank about the condition—I think it’s a myth. I don’t think depression is really real at all. I think it’s a label that people are quick to attach to themselves. There’s a great need people have to be a victim in some way nowadays and depression is always an easy one to go to as who can prove whether or not you’re depressed? If you say you are then we simply have to accept it. Maybe I’m wrong and depression does actually exist, but, thanks to its overuse as an excuse for people being miserable and its over-diagnosis, I’ve become convinced it’s simply just a buzzword.

The problem is that people are getting ‘depressed’ over trivial things, usually things that could easily be sorted out. Sort them out, sort out your ‘depression’. You hear people claim they’re ‘too depressed to sort things out’. Nonsense! What they mean is they enjoy wearing their victim tag.

I think applying an equation like this one could actually save the NHS money in resources. A simple self-assessment in the form of an equation like this could see a person’s ‘depression’ sorted out in one consultation with their GP. In a lot of cases, I think people are inadvertently rolling all of their problems into one and creating a vicious fire-breathing depressomonster. What they should do is prize each facet of the problem apart and create easier-to-deal-with bitesize chunks.

On the flipside, there are those who’ll make several problems out of one. Let’s imagine a person has no job, no money, and nowhere to live: three problems where two are rooted in one. The reason the person has no money is because they have no job. The reason they have nowhere to live is because they have no money because they have no job. Having no job is the real problem here. The other two are branches off that problem. The answer is to get a job in order to get money in order to afford a place to live. How hard it is to get a job comes down to the individual. Often people make it more difficult for themselves in those situations: rushing through application forms, a messy CV, etc.

There’s also this nugget when it comes to people who have problems: they won’t help themselves. By that I mean they won’t talk to anyone, they won’t analyse their problem, they won’t self-reflect, and they won’t do the basic things to help reduce the problem. Most annoyingly, they won’t entertain the idea of consulting their GP. They’ll claim that the problem can be fixed by themselves yet still suffer from it years later. Pride is a strange thing and is more often detrimental than beneficial.

This equation could be the very thing that helps a person make sense of things that erstwhile made no sense. Or maybe it won’t. Even if it doesn’t, at least that person actually tried to assist themselves in some way, which is a step on the road to fixing the issues that hold them back. I haven’t created this equation to try and make light of the problems people face. I’ve created it to help people.

There is probably an easier way of doing the equation that I’ve simply not seen. I’m a writer, not an algebraist. If there is an easier way then please inform me. The crux of all this, however, is that I believe personal problems not rooted in PTSD or other events beyond our control are solvable. We just have to take a step back from them and stop imagining them to be more complex than they are. Making things simpler is surely just good common sense. This equation could be the start to simplifying the complex. Give it a go and see how it works for you.

(I don’t know about you, but I cringed most of the way through that! Thank God for enlightenment!)

12 thoughts on “(P/HW)xB=R

  1. Also – As a math-minded person myself, I do get where you’re coming from with the equation. I have been known to make similar equations for myself before regarding my happiness in life. Of course, I look back on said equations and cringe, but still, I’ve done something similar!


  2. Isn’t it fascinating how drastically our views on something can change when we’re facing it ourselves head-on? I did a similar 180 when faced with infertility, which I’m sure I’ll blog about eventually. I look back on the misconceptions and judgments I used to have and definitely cringe.


  3. Agree with Keri completely here. I actually get what you’re trying to do with the formula. There’s probably a simpler way of doing it, but that isn’t what’s important. It’s the fact that you’re thinking of ways to help others and reduce the burden on a massively overstretched and under-funded NHS. Sometimes, people need to accept that their problems are quite possible to solve using their own logic rather than using up resources better served elsewhere. Thanks for having his back Keri. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bit difficult to wrap my brain around, but I truly enjoyed reading this. I definitely wouldn’t have unfollowed you because of it, as I love reading things I don’t agree with. (Does that make me weird? lol)
    I think that this post shows that even though you had quite a bit of a different approach to this subject a year ago, you still wanted to help. You still wanted to make a difference, you still wanted people to be able to become the best versions of themselves, and that’s something to give yourself credit for.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. I actually really appreciate this comment because you’re right. Yes, it perhaps was a slight at people who cry depression at breaking a finger nail, but, as you say, my quest is, and always has been, simply to help people and educate them. Even if the subject matter is somewhat sensitive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh, I agree with Summer. I would have unfollowed you immediately, lol. I’m not mathematically minded at all, so this equation made (makes) no sense to me whatsoever. Sorry! I wish depression were as simple as just “solving problems”. Try explaining this to an 8 year old struggling with depression, lol. Mine is an imbalance because even when I have no problems and it seems everything is fine, I can still be so depressed I just want to die. It can come up for no reason sometimes, which is the hardest part of it. Glad you don’t feel this way anymore (what you wrote about depression).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely more had adults in mind when I did it and it’s a nod towards people getting depressed over aesthetic issues that could be sorted if they were given the right push. You do get a lot of people who cry depression who simply won’t try to make positive changes. I think they’re the ones who keep stigma alive, which makes things harder for those genuinely struggling with depression.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One of the main reasons stigma still exists is the fact that people are realising they can get time off work and other benefits for ‘stress related’ issues, so obviously people have to exploit that. In turn, others who are more moralistic in that regard are annoyed that their jobs are being made harder by the absence of colleagues. That makes them susceptible to prejudge any one who claims to suffer from a mental health issue. Furthermore, they spread their belief. The best way of stopping the stigma is to find a better way of judging a person’s mental health. The answer to that alludes me unfortunately.


  6. Haha! I did some cringing too! If you had posted this a year ago I might have unfollowed you for your blatent insensitivity and oversimplification…but it’s ok to read it now…now you see the complexity of it all and now you have had your own personal experiences of the pain generated from mental health challenges. The equation is an interesting concept. Not being mathematically minded I struggle to fully get it; as my background is the scientific applications of human psychology, which can include very in-depth qualitative scrutiny as well as statistical number crunching. I have personally loved seeing your progression over the time I’ve read your work. I am not pleased you’re now hurting with anxiety and depression obviously, but I’m pleased your mind has opened up in a progressive and enlightened direction 🤗🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I told you about this post back when I wrote it and it didn’t sit too well with my conscience back then either (obviously, otherwise I’d have posted it). It is an interesting concept and I suppose has a faint essence of CBT about it. Moving away from the mental health side of it all, it could help people solve problems in general. Maybe…


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