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I am looking for a word or term for the concept of solving a problem that oneself created.

An example would be a solution to smog: if there wasn't so much emission and pollution, there would be no problem and so no need to find a solution.

I guess one could say it's solving a problem which was inadvertently created.


First off, many thanks to both Derezzed and Aldfrith for the answers and input.

I suppose auto,- or fault-correcting does in some sense cover the concept but it suggests an inherent fault in the code or the programming:

if CONDITION = X result = 'ok' else, if CONDITION = Y then result = 'autocorrect'

In other words the computer fixes the issue because it already knows the problem.

I guess what I'm looking for is different, in the sense that the problem is not inherent or perhaps fabricated and the solution more reactionary (with, or without intent).

  • An example with intent would be creating a computer virus and then figuring out the solution.
  • An example without intent would be building a bridge and discovering that one of the bases is threatening or interfering with a local fish population, thus creating the need to finding a solution for said fish population.

Though the intent was simply connecting point A to point B, nonetheless a new problem was created by happenstance. If we would not have built the bridge, there would be no problem and no need for a solution.

I guess the concept or word would be more in lines with auto-created-problem or, for lack of a better word :P, serendipitous problem.

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    "Digging yourself out of a hole" could be used in some contexts. "Mitigate" in others. – Hot Licks Dec 20 '14 at 15:49

12 Answers 12

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One word that comes to mind is undo, which carries the meaning of rolling back to a point before an action was carried out. To cover the whole process, though, you would still need to use another word like fault-correction.

There is also the more general term, process, which admittedly does not specifically indicate that there was a problem. However, your general situation is covered by this word.

It depends a little on how you plan to use the term.

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A word that may work for you is to atone.

verb (used without object), atoned, atoning.

  1. to make amends or reparation, as for an offense or a crime, or for an offender (usually followed by for): to atone for one's sins.
  2. to make up, as for errors or deficiencies (usually followed by for): to atone for one's failings.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atone

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It strikes me that you're discussion remediation or reparation.

remediation -

The action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage.

reparation -

The making of amends for a wrong one has done

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I am sure others may find better answers than I, but the idea of self or auto-mitigating came to mind; the idea that problems are resolved by a party by itself.

There may be terms more relevant depending on the scenario, since "problem" can be used quite broadly:

  • "This software is auto-correcting"
  • "Many organisms in biology exhibit the characteristic of self-repair"

However, the ability to completely ameliorate a self-inflicted issue may be more capable than the idea I've presented, whereas my examples moreso demonstrate a system or person is merely functional in the role of detecting and resolving a problem without outside stimuli. I would be interested in other answers as well.

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The clause about it being something you yourself caused is what makes this so difficult (in English), otherwise I'd recommend:

Regenerate: (of a living organism) regrow (new tissue) to replace lost or injured tissue.

You can also play around with some Latin if you have wiggle room, and either come up with a phrase, or perhaps formulate your own chimera of a word that works, even if it isn't currently defined. You may also want to look into German, too.

te ipsum: oneself, male
te ipsam: oneself, female
errat: err
renovo: renew, renovate, refurbish, repair, restore, regenerate

Just a caveat, I'm not fluent in Latin. I just Google-translated those words/phrases.

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    Very nice answer. I Googled te ipsum and found a very nice saying which is cura te ipsum. I love this site, I'm sure with all this input I'm bound to find it. Mucho thanks ☺ – kip Nov 6 '14 at 21:56
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    It seems like the original poster was looking for a way to make a short, derogatory reference to a cure for something that immediately reminds the audience of the fact that the cure is for a disease that was created by the person or entity that is advocating or implementing it. A nice side bonus would be if the word or phrase might be worded in such a way that it could be interpreted to mean a "cure for one's self", implying that the person or entity is a disease. "Cura te ipsum" is perfect. – Shavais Aug 26 '15 at 17:57
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Prefix self- to synonyms of mitigate. For example self-correct or self-mitigate

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If you're looking for a phrase I would say something like:

Unraveling the knot I tied myself in.

Extraditing myself from the mess I put myself in.

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I would call it "damage control," which phrase can be applied to damage created by oneself or by others equally well.

The above answers are very good when applied to situations where there is plainly a "fault" or "wrong" in play. I like "mitigate" for instances in which fault is less one-sided or there is less actual culpability on the part of the mitigator. But these words don't work for a situation such as the bridge, the leg of which is upsetting the marine life--a wholly unintended and possibly unforeseeable consequence of the original (beneficial) action: the building of the bridge. In a case like this you could express the intention to "act promptly to remedy the side issue which arose as a result of the bridge project." This is short and sweet, takes ownership of the fish problem, and simply incorporates it by this reference into the larger project of building the bridge, as an almost natural extension of that project, rather than expanding its negative aspect any further. (Can you tell I've worked for lawyers? lol)

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Just formalizing the comments under Kaylee's answer in an actual answer:

Cura te ipsum: A solution that is proposed, advocated, or implemented by the same person or entity who inadvertently created the problem.

"When multi-year studies finally proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that their inadequately tested plastic liners do in fact cause cancer and birth defects, the corporation's cura te ipsum was to quickly create a new inadequately tested plastic liner, which was made from a material that was almost the same as the original, and offer limited recall replacements of certain recently sold, high profile items."

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There are lots of words that mean "make up for", but you're looking for one that bears a strong implication that the person making up for things is the same one who was at fault to begin with.

I like Bookeater's suggestion of "atone" for this reason. One alternative with similar meaning but less of a moral/religious connotation might be "compensate", which is defined by Merriam-Webster as "to offset an error, defect, or undesired effect".

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THere are two terms. Iatrogenic, usually used in medicine and disaster response to mean causing harm when trying to help. The other is Unintended Consequence, referring to creating a new set of problems when solving a single problem.

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    But that does not answer the question, now does it? – NVZ Aug 2 '17 at 19:04
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Hegelian dialectic is the phrase to create a problem so you / someone can solve it. The Hegelian dialectic reduced to its simplest form could be summed up as problem, reaction, solution. The “agent of change” employing the strategy creates the problem or crisis, foments the reaction (tension), then attempt to control the outcome by providing the solution (resolution).

  • Erm..."Higalean" or Higelian"? – Cascabel Apr 6 at 4:14
  • @Cascabel actually it's Hegelian dialectic. – Chappo Apr 7 at 6:02
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    Hi Wivema37, welcome to EL&U. Unfortunately EL&U's quality algorithm has flagged your answer as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. I recommend you edit your answer to provide the correct spelling, and evidence (with links) to demonstrate that your explanation of the dialectic is correct. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour. :-) – Chappo Apr 7 at 6:10

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