Don’t Succumb to a Numb, Glum Problem!

We all face problems of different intensity throughout our lives. Regardless of how good or bad a person’s life is there will always be challenges to face, some of which may seem insurmountable. In this months issue I want to teach you coping skills that can be applied to any challenge and to show you what you can do differently with any problem you face.
For most people, when they encounter a serious problem in their lives, there is frequently an overwhelming emotional response to it. Fear of the future or of other negative possibilities resulting from the original problem or judgment on their past can escalate a person’s reactive response, eventually leading to a form of numbness and ineffective action, which prevents active participation in getting positive outcomes.
People tend to focus on their problems, their minds going over and over that particular challenge, sometimes obsessively and to the exclusion of anything else. The whole problem develops a cast of grayness, which can affect all areas of a person’s life, making it quite glum indeed.
If you have read my previous Ezines, you are familiar with the concept that all our subconscious behaviors and emotional reactions are developed in our childhood, whether we are aware of them or not. Focusing on problems is yet another habit that many people have learned from their parents. It seems like a natural response, so what could possibly be wrong with it?
It is the odd person who, when encountering a problem, automatically starts looking for solutions, treating the problem as a challenge much like a puzzle to be solved. Of course there will always be elements of fear, but the fears are not dwelled upon or made bigger in their contemplation. Instead, an honest and emotionless assessment is made of a situation, trying to be aware of all factors, and then actions are chosen based on the information gathered. Opportunities present themselves in the process of looking forward with clarity, openness, and of course, patience. They also can appear in directions one would not normally think to look.
Simple in theory, but difficult in execution for those used to emotionally mulling over their problems. When you are experiencing any form of a challenge in your life if you stay focused on your problems, you miss opportunities to create solutions by staying in a limited form of linear thinking and you become susceptible to unknowingly making your own problems worse than what they are.
If we have this particular pattern of behavior, then our response is fairly predictable for each challenge that we encounter. The problem with that is that you don’t get any different results than the ones you usually get. Unless you can train yourself to think outside of the box, to take your focus off the problem and put it instead on creative ways to find solutions, you will remain numb and glum or with average results.
So how do you shift your perspective off of your problem? First of all, you need to step back from the emotions and fears. Write down all your fears and then for each one, consider the realistic probability of that event happening. Many fears are on the extreme edges of probability and are very unlikely to happen. Then there will be quite a few fears that are just unlikely to happen. Narrow it down by likelihood of happening until you are left with only one or two fears. Remember that anything is possible, but most things are highly improbable.
After you have used logic and removed some fears by assessing them honestly and without emotion, the next step is to think about the results that you would like to see happen. Be careful here, because you cannot undo the past, nor can you change people as your goal. You are focusing on what possible scenarios would you want for yourself.
Play around with this process. Again, write your thoughts down. Be creative in what possibilities you would like to see where your problem would be solved or your challenge will be dealt with. Take a few days to do this part of the process. You really want to think of all possible options.
Once you have completed this list, then look realistically and honestly at your list and cross off anything that has hidden negative outcomes in it. Also cross off the extremes. They may be possible at a later point, but when you are very troubled or in crisis, you need to break things down into small manageable steps to avoid being overwhelmed or giving up.
You will be left with a number of possibilities for how you would like to see things turn out. Again narrow your list until you have about 3 possibilities. Then for each one, write down what you would need to do, step by step to reach that goal. This is best done on a computer, so that you can keep breaking down the steps into increasingly smaller ones.
Don’t worry about how you will accomplish these steps at this point, you are just creating the steps that you think it will take to reach your possible outcomes. There will likely be some overlapping amongst the 3 items you are working on. Talk to people to see what they think it will take to reach a certain goal to see if you get any more ideas on how to add more steps. Do some research on the Internet for additional ideas.
If you skip this part of breaking the possible outcomes into as many smaller steps as possible, you will very likely get impatient and frustrated that things are not happening the way you want and as fast as you want it, give up and go back to worrying about your problem. Problem solving requires attention and effort. There is no magic, easy solution and vast patience is required in the process.
Once you have completed your list of 3 strong possible outcomes, broken down into steps, crumple up your pieces of paper with your lists and throw them out! Well, maybe not throw them out, but do put them aside and put them away. This exercise was not done for the reasons that you think.
Yes, I wanted you to take your focus off your problem, to learn how to alleviate your fears, and to calm your emotions. I also wanted you to become familiar with increasing your level of self-honesty in this process and using logic to work towards possible solutions. Those are all very important aspects of your growth.
The main purpose of doing this is to free your mind and heart to look around you, to take your head out of the sand where your problems lie and to look towards the horizon. Now I want you to practice looking around you in a 360 degree arc for the unexpected.
You see, you never know where you will really find your solutions. There are such an infinite number of possible outcomes that we just cannot anticipate precisely how our solution and outcome will appear and how it will play itself out.
Don’t skip any of these steps. They are all important for you to create a clear foucs on what you want and the possible steps you will have to take to reach your goals. You may need to change direction midstream when you see a new possibility opening up in a direction different than what you anticipated. Be proactive in looking for your answers.
In the meantime, here is a short version an old Taoist story about a farmer, whose hose horse ran away. When his neighbors heard the news, they ran over to see him. "What bad news," they said.
The farmer answered. "Maybe".
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
"This is such good news," his neighbors said excitedly.
"Maybe," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to tame one of the wild horses and was thrown off and broke his arm. The neighbors again offered their sympathy on such bad news.
"Maybe," said the farmer.
The very next day the army came through, drafting young men to fight for the emperor. The son couldn't serve because his leg was broken. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on the good news.
"Maybe" said the farmer.
Our lives are full of ups and downs; there is no way around that and every person has to go through them. This is the normal process of life. It is what we do when things happen to us that makes the biggest difference in our experience of life. Practice this and see for yourself.

Ewa Schwarz
I welcome your questions and comments on this article as well as suggestions for future articles: Ezine Comments and Suggestions. Thank you for your continued support.

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