What I want to explore this week is a different way of relating to our problems. Many things present in our lives as problems, like - procrastination, overthinking, low self confidence, being stuck, disorganisation etc - and while yes, they're pretty problematic, quite often they're not the real problem.
From what I've learned, a lot of these kinds of behaviours or actions (or inactions) are actually a symptom of the root problem.
Coming to understand this and shifting from seeing the problem as a 'problem' and investigating the thinking about & around it is a game-changer.
Here's one profound way I've seen this play out for me. When I was experiencing an eating disorder, the problem of course seemed to be centred around food and my body. That's what many people would naturally think is the issue, because that's what it looks like the 'problem' is.
And that's how it was managed in some therapy sessions I attended (ones that I then stopped attending). But when I actually fully recovered was when the therapist's focus was not on looking at the manifestation of the problem but actually solving the root cause of it.
When I restored my sense of self, when I went on a journey of self discovery, self love and began cultivating self-esteem, that's when the behaviours disappeared. That's when I realised my body wasn't the problem, it was the scapegoat I used to project my 'not good enough syndrome' onto; it was what I used to try and gain control, the food was soothing or numbing emotional distress, my body was the physical punching bag for my inner turmoil.
So by solving that through mindset, healing and consistently building a sense of who I am and why I matter, I also solved the associated 'problems' of being extremely depressed, anxious, fearing leaving the house and generally feeling totally incompetent, inadequate and insignificant.
Why am I telling you this? Because this understanding could empower you to start making change that lasts by seeing beyond your problems. And how can you do that?
Here's three ways to start looking at things differently and getting from symptom to root:
We're always making up what things mean so that we can make sense of the world. Our thinking about our problems can keep us stuck in them. Uncovering the meanings we make up about ourselves as a result of this thinking can be the key to setting us free.
For example, if I'm always procrastinating, I could make up the meaning that I am terrible at getting things done or that I'm a failure or that I'm obviously incapable of taking control of my life.
But if I get curious about the problem and ask, what do I believe this means about me? Then I can start seeing the thinking that's created the problem.
Following that line of thinking back - that I'm terrible/a failure/incompetent - it definitely sounds like this thinking could be creating other problems in my life. So this is where the work really is.
If we start looking at our problems as if we are co-creating them we make a powerful shift in our thinking too. Not only does it give us back the power to actually do something about it but it also gives us the perspective of the problem's purpose. Why might I be procrastinating? What does it give me? If I was intentionally doing this, what would the reason be?
Well I get to avoid doing other things that might be scaring me, I get to keep busy, I get to look as if I'm being productive. So maybe the purpose of it is to protect me from feelings I don't want to feel? This presents another opportunity for inner exploration.
The problems that we have become perpetual when we get really mad about them. By this I mean, the more I get frustrated by the procrastination, the more it does not change. What we resist persists. And so, quite often we'll use our problems against ourselves as ammunition to prove our meanest selves right.
So if our thinking is that we're useless, and then we procrastinate and don't do the things we really want to be doing, we 'prove' that thinking right, and that creates... more of the same problem (and potentially others too.)
But if we actually have compassion for ourselves experiencing the problem, we become more understanding and end up creating less need for the problem.
Most of the actions we take that we wish we didn't are coming from a place of fear not love. Fear of rejection, of not being enough, of being a failure, of not belonging.
We're just trying to protect ourselves and stay safe, comfortable or essentially - away from pain.
So what if we started coming at our problems from a place of love and compassion? Understanding that they have a reason (one that isn't just because we're terrible) and we could learn, grow or get stronger by finding a way to overcome them. What if we chose to move forward with more love and understanding for ourselves instead of resorting to disappointment and judgment when our problems present themselves?
I wholeheartedly believe, we're doing the best we can with the resources we have. And we have been since we were little.
We don't need more harshness, we just need to uproot some weeds that no longer serve us and plant the seeds we want to experience more of.