Problem Management — examples

The Emperor's New Clothes (Hysterical Version)

This might take longer to read than the typical humorous tale, and you might find the introduction somewhat boring, but one really does need the setup to fully appreciate what follows.

And note that while females typically find this story hilarious, many males inexplicably develop uncomfortable mixed feelings about it.


First one must understand the concept of a paradigm, the things we take completely for granted about the world. For instance, a story about a trip from Washington to New York wouldn't mention that the people wore clothes or that most of the journey took place above ground. No one would mention such things because it would never occur to them that any other situation could exist. But a few centuries from now people will live in a completely different world and might have a completely different view of things.

More than two thousand years ago, the pagan doctrine of dualism separated the world into two parts: the spiritual mind (good) and the physical world (evil). Immortal souls trapped within physical bodies had to overcome the evil desires and activities presented by the world. When Christianity spread through Europe, the Roman church adopted this dualism doctrine, where it remains dominant even today.

Sexual lust belongs to the physical world and as such it degrades one's spiritual self. Procreation (commanded of us by God) requires the physical act, but one must control that animal nature by restricting it to its original purpose and not using it for pleasure. The Roman church bans all contraceptives for exactly this reason.

Now males must experience orgasm to successfully procreate, but females do not. The very idea that a female could experience any equivalent of the male orgasm simply could not exist. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world's paradigm did not include this possibility. That males cannot experience pregnancy, that females cannot have orgasms, and that pigs cannot fly, presented such ridiculous images that these obvious truths went without saying.


Webster defines hysteria as a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions. These symptoms (and others, such as irritability and tension) afflicted mostly women, and so naturally the medical profession of the first millennium attributed the syndrome to a dislodged uterus, and named it after the Greek word for womb, hystera (as in hysterectomy).

For centuries physicians treated this disease with various drugs and remedies, but with very little success. Then, sometime during the dark ages of the first millennium, someone, somehow, discovered a therapeutic method that would induce the uterus to experience muscular contractions. These contractions would strengthen the uterus and allow it to return to its proper place, thereby curing the disease.

This miraculous technique required nothing more complicated than simply massaging the external parts of the patient's vulva until the uterine spasms occurred. After a treatment women felt much better, relieved of their tensions and irritability. Relaxed and happy they could finally sleep well at night. But the symptoms typically returned after a few days, and many often had to endure one or two treatments every week.


This arrangement continued for over a thousand years with little change. The therapists found their work both tedious and laborious, with some patients often requiring an hour or more before responding successfully. (Also keep in mind that people traditionally married in June because they traditionally bathed in May.)

Finally in the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution freed mankind from boring repetitive labour. Technology developed new machines that, one by one, replaced manual labour with mechanization, and physicians eagerly accepted the new mechanized treatments for hysteria.

Soon women began receiving their treatments from huge machines full of pipes and gears and wires that appeared in doctors offices everywhere. Some practitioners even opened treatment centers with half a dozen machines running at once.

Over the next few decades, smaller, more efficient, and cheaper versions appeared. Eventually their diminishing size and cost permitted them to fit into people's houses and budgets for use as home appliances. Mail order catalogues (e.g. Sears Roebuck) devoted several pages to the various models available from the major manufacturers (e.g. General Electric), and full page ads appeared in women's journals, knitting magazines, and various other popular publications. These personal female massage devices achieved such sophistication that some even came with attachments for grinding coffee, mixing dough, and churning butter. The vibrator had truly arrived on the scene.

Paradigm Lost

The 20th century brought the end of the Victorian era, the erosion of the Roman church's dominance, and an explosion in information, entertainment, communication, and personal freedom. Along with this came new knowledge that, just as with the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes, many found difficult to admit.

Pigs still couldn't fly, males still couldn't experience pregnancy, but perhaps after all, females really could experience orgasm, and perhaps the symptoms of hysteria actually had nothing at all to do with a displaced uterus, but had everything to do with sexual suppression.

Yet despite the growing obviousness of the truth, the situation continued for decades as if nothing had changed, well into the second half of the 20th century.

Eventually the medical profession did drop hysteria from their catalogue of diseases, and mysteriously all mention of it disappeared from text books, even those that dealt with the history of disease and treatment. One might very well think the whole thing had never happened.

Yet even into the 1990s, between their electric blankets and their hair dryers. catalogue stores such as Consumers Distributing continue to advertise one or two models of personal vibrator.