Oh, the nagging problem, why does there always seem to be one?
Be it the work dilemma, the relationship conundrum or the friendship fight.
These problems can really get under our skin, or into our guts. We can’t get them out of our heads. They affect our health, our happiness and the overall quality of our daily experiences.
But why are they here?
Oh yeah, to teach us stuff.
And yes, we all get sick of this tough love approach to learning about ourselves but a problem doesn’t go away until it’s taught us what we need to learn.
So, the sooner you get down to doing your homework the better.
1. Get Specific
Sometimes a problem just feels like a general swarm of doom and gloom. We feel hot or cold, distracted, out-of-focus or maybe the problem just keeps running on repeat over and over again in our minds. When this is happening what is crucial, if we want to make a change, is to move out of the general and into the specific.
A pen and paper work great but talking to someone safe can be effective, too. What is needed is to write down or say out loud all the details of the problem, all the fears, all the different angles. No thought or sense of the problem is too weird or crazy.
For example this summer I felt terrorized by the thought that I was a failure. So, I took it to my journal and wrote down all the perceived ways I thought that I had failed in my adult life. When I looked over the complete list what I saw was in fact a normal life. There before me on the page was a description of the ups and downs of a normal life.
That perspective brought me so much freedom. I could see this when I got down to the specifics but when all I had was the thought of “I am a failure” floating around in my mind it was so believable. The specific details on paper weren’t as convincing.
So, don’t let a general idea that something is wrong torment you. Write it down, talk about it, get specific. I know you are scared to see it but really it’s just like a child who is scared of a shadow in the dark, when the light gets turned on the monster disappears.
2. Get Perspective
Sometimes I think about problems that I had one year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, problems that tortured me night and day. Issues I thought I would never resolve.
And now looking back can I even remember the details of those problems? Nope.
I don’t remember the dollar amounts I was so worried about, the grievances I had against my spouse or a friend that seemed so urgent, the career choices I couldn’t figure out how to make. If I remember any details at all I remember how I grew, or an epiphany I had while working through that problem that changed me.
Getting perspective is all about looking at the problem that feels so unmanageable today and seeing it’s impermanence, the fact that it will be but a faint memory we can barely grab on to in five or ten years.
And then I take getting perspective even further. I think about all the other people in the world that have ever had, have or will have this same problem.
How many people in the world right now are worrying about money, are scared about their health, or are wondering if they will ever find love?
Our problems are average, normal, even. We are all going through them. Does this make it hurt less? Probably, not. But it does remind us that we aren’t failures, we haven’t caused our problems. Instead we are just having experiences, like everyone else, and they will pass. A new one might come. But this one will pass.
3. Get Forgiving
What is the actual mechanism of forgiveness?
I have pondered this question long and hard. And I have to apologize here because I haven’t found the answer.
Forgiveness, it is so necessary, essential even in our quest to move forward. The places where we haven’t forgiven ourselves or others hold us back more than we could ever imagine. But forgiveness is elusive. It can’t be touched, it can’t be seen. And the feeling of forgiveness? Pretty hard to describe. But what is fairly easy to do is set an intention for forgiveness and may I suggest we start with ourselves.
Starting with a willingness to forgive ourselves for whatever perceived problem we find ourselves in is truly setting ourselves up for the journey of healing. Eventually on this journey we will feel a softness for ourselves and when we are ready we can slowly and gently let that softness expand to others, first, to others in similar pain and then when we are ready to others that we may have perceived as causing the pain.
What if we were able to see our lives as a work in progress?
From this perspective when we make a mistake we can view getting specific, getting perspective and getting forgiving as the cut and paste option. We can just move things around as necessary because nobody and I mean nobody gets it right the first time.
~ Ruth Lera
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: TheeErin at Flickr