The “Problem” Is NOT the Problem©
Do you have any “problems” in your life? It’s just a natural “human thing,” right? Please indulge me for a moment and do an experiment with me. I want you to focus on—maybe even visualize—the problems you are dealing with in your life right now. As you scan them (I’d bet money on plural here!), please point to the biggest problem in your life with your index finger. Got it? Give it a name and hold that thought/image.
The following description of “Jane” is a composite/subset of life issues—“problems”—experienced by several of my clients over the years. “Jane” is an attractive, middle-aged, divorced mom (terrible marriage) rearing two adolescent children. She has some issues with a coworker at her job, and wants to find a relationship that “really works”. (By the way, I also know several “Jims” this description fits as well.) I suspect that most readers will recognize “Jane” (or “Jim”) as someone they know among their own friends and/or clients, maybe even themselves. Not surprising; everyone has “problems” of one sort or another; it’s life after all. The details are not important, but the phenomenon is pervasive.
Now, remember that set of life problems you visualized or focused on? Remember the biggest one? What or Who caused it? I often ask “Jane/Jim” to do the same experiment with me. I also ask them to tell me how big the problem is in terms of percentage of their life experience. Then I tell them, “It has been said that your experience of life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. And you have little or no control over any of that 10%. So, what percentage of that 10% is that biggest problem you just identified?” (By the way, I’m asking you the same question here … ).
One time when I asked that question, “Jill/Jim” answered “80%!”
I said, “Really? Of all the “problems” you identified, that one issue is 80% of what is bothering you? Really? What percentage is your second most bothersome to you?”
The reply came back, “60%!”
I said, “Wait a minute. 80% + 60% is way more than 100%, right? So, …?”
“Jill”/“Jim” replied, “Oh, I see. Let’s say 60% and 40%.”
So, I said, “And what about the third ’problem’ on your list? What percentage is that one?”
“Jill/Jim” responded, “Oh, about 20%.”
Then I said, … (you can see where this is going). To make a long story short, “Jill/Jim” ended up deciding that the biggest problem was about 20% of what was bothering her/him with the rest of the list eventually adding up to 100% total.
“OK.” I said. “So, 20% of 10% is what? Watch the decimal point.”
She/he finally responded: “Oh, I see. 0.20 x 0.10 = … 0.02?” (Notice how the magnitude of the “problem” was substantially overestimated by itself, but less so in context?)
To which I replied, “Yup. Two percent of your entire life experience is attributed to/caused by that one thing, and you have absolutely no control over that one thing, right? What do you have control over? … (I waited for a reply—seemed like forever).
I finally got a tentative “90%, I guess.”
“Yup. Ninety percent of your entire life experience is how you respond to the other 10%, and you have complete control over that. But it is your choice!”
In short, “What Is the Problem?” The “Problem” Is NOT the Problem. It is your reaction to the problem—every time! Your experience of life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. And since there are no “accidents” in life, everything that happens to you is in your life for a purpose, to provide another set of opportunities to choose to respond in a manner that aligns with Higher Self … or not. It is just a choice—your choice.
I previously wrote about what psychologists call the “Fundamental Attribution Error” and how it systematically leads to distortions of one’s perceptions and decision making. People tend to see (attribute) their own behavior as due to external factors (e.g., uncontrollable circumstances, no choice, etc.) while interpreting the behavior of others as due to internal factors (e.g., intention, ability, effort). But not always. If we perform a task, we tend to make internal attributions for our successes and external attributions for our failures. The opposite is true when we make attributions regarding the success or failure of others! “Reasoning,” as it turns out, is very often little more than “rationalizing,” an attempt to escape blame for failure and/or to accept kudos for success. And it all occurs subconsciously. But it is a choice, after all. As Pogo (1948-1975 syndicated newspaper comic strip character drawn by Walt Kelly) used to say, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”
Remember that experiment of pointing your index finger at your biggest problem? Visualize that clearly. Now look at the rest of your hand. Where are your middle, ring, and pinkie fingers pointed? Get the picture? We are not wired as a species to look for what those three fingers are pointing toward; we pay attention to the direction of the index finger. That is the Fundamental Attribution Error. But those three fingers are pointing out to us that we have life lessons yet to learn from the situation about which we are complaining.
• “It is a human tendency to blame others before reflecting on oneself. But if you do, you will never find the real cause of the problem, and there will be no real improvement.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda (1928-; Japanese Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, & and nuclear disarmament advocate)
• “The lesson will always repeat itself, unless you see yourself as the problem—not others.” Shannon L. Alder (American relationship author & therapist)
• “Blame is one of the surest ways to stay in a problem. In blaming another, we give away our power. Understanding enables us to rise above the issue and take control of our future.” ~ Louise Hay (1926-2017; American motivational author, speaker, & Founder of Hay House publishing)
But aside from our innate “perceptual wiring” as a species, there are uniquely individual factors involved as well. There are often good reasons why we have “problems” with certain situations, events, and (especially) some other people. These are the life lessons referred to earlier and are often accompanied by karma and/or trapped (mostly past-life) energy (see “Book 2: What’s Holding You Back?” in the Dancing with the Energy books).
• “If you have any fear, if you dislike a person, if you have any phobias or problems in your life, they have to come from somewhere; they began a long time ago and are stored in the soul memory. You have incarnations of memories not released—energy not released. The [Lower] Self holds on to this fear and uses it as a weapon to sabotage your moving forward and freeing yourself from the chains of slavery. For that is what past-life memory is; it is slavery to the past. Once it is gone, there is no more fear. Without the fear, everything is possible and can be achieved. With the fear, the door to possibility and opportunity stays closed.” ~ Maitreya (Newsletter #223, March 4, 2009)
A problem is only a “Problem” (with a capital “P”) if you choose to give undue attention to it, thus allowing its influence to expand in your life experience. Or, you can choose to allow the situation to offer the opportunity to learn important life lessons—maybe even balance a little karma and/or release some trapped energy along the way. There is no right or wrong choice here, only your choice, and you are in complete control of that.
• “I don’t fix my problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.” ~ Louise Hay
• “Accept what is as if you had chosen it, and avoid creating stories and hypothetical outcomes that don’t exist. You will avoid a lot of anxiety and stress if you simply accept what is happening and concentrate the mind in the present moment, without thinking about what could potentially happen as a result of this problem. The problem isn’t the problem. Your thoughts, attitudes, and emotions towards the problem is where the self-induced suffering will occur.” ~ Kurt Gillon (American sports trainer & speaker)
• “Let go of the need to be right, to be the victor. Do not give anything any energy. What does it matter except to the [Lower] Self who has to do this, because this is what it thinks it must do because of habit over years of life. Just walk away. Let it become the other person’s problem, not yours. Give it no energy at all. … The healing process starts immediately—as soon as you let go!” ~ Maitreya (Newsletter #232, May 31, 2010)
May all your choices have favorable endings. Have a great month!