06 July 2015

The Problem with Problems

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution.
If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds.

Norman Vincent Peale

I have a problem with problems.  While generally I tend to appreciate them and try to learn from them, there are some problems that make me feel much more stressed than others.  I can deal with problems in a project that I'm doing, problems with my students in the classroom, problems with schools or classes in general.  I can deal with problems with my car or with the house we're living in.  The problems that frustrate me the most, though, and the ones that are darned near debilitating, are the problems that seem to point to my worth as a person.  They are the misunderstandings that occur when words are interpreted in a way different from the way they were intended.  They're the problems that happen when someone else makes assumptions about me based on some random action or statement.

They are the problems that seem to say that I've done something wrong, even when I haven't.  Especially when I haven't.  They're the problems that deal with blame.

I got blamed for a lot of things when I was a kid.  All of us kids did--that's one of the dynamics of living in a family with an alcoholic parent.  We had at least one parent who was constantly looking for things that we did wrong in an attempt to compensate for his own actions.  Because he wasn't willing to look at what he was doing in an honestly critical fashion, he had to look for things that we were doing wrong to somehow make himself feel better about what he was doing.  After all, the drinking was justified when things were so bad at home, wasn't it?

So nowadays, whenever a problem arises that I may be blamed for, it feels like some sort of blanket is being thrown over me, making me incapable of seeing anything but the problem, and making me feel that no matter what I say or do, I'm going to be blamed unjustly for something that I didn't even do.  This, believe me, is an often overwhelming issue to be dealing with.  For much of my life, I've spent tons of time and energy trying to prevent any sort of problem from happening.  It didn't work well as a strategy, though, and I wasted a lot of time and energy on my efforts--often even making things worse or causing problems where there were none before.

Now, though, I realize that it's important for me to reframe such problems, to do my best to see them as temporary misunderstandings and not as permanent statements about who I am as a person.  I need to look at any problem that arises and try to find that seed inside of it that will allow me to deal with it effectively, for that seed also will help me to grow and develop as a person.

When I allow problems to overwhelm me, I'm not able to love and show compassion as much as I'd like to.  My energy is wrapped up in fear and damage control, and that's not where I want my energy to be.  Problems are what they are--simply problems--and it's up to me to make sure that I see them for what they really are and not blow them up into something they aren't.  I can learn from problems, and I can grow as I learn, and because of that, I can see problems as positive things.  Just because a problem arises that threatens to make others see me in a bad light doesn't change a thing about who I am, and it's important that I keep that in mind, no matter what seems to be happening.  I don't want to allow problems to threaten my self-worth, for once I lose that, I pretty much lose everything, don't I?

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