It’s human nature to want more of what feels good, and less – or none – of what doesn’t. And so, when we experience problems, challenges and pain – emotional or physical - we just want
it to go away. Sometimes we’ll do anything to just “get rid of it” so we can feel good again. We wish there was a magic pill, and sometimes there is. We take it and we’re happy.
But does this lust for a quick fix get us into trouble?
There might be a cultural element too. All day long we see ads and commercials that portray an idyllic world. Buy this product and you could be beautiful and loved and desired and wealthy and admired. Don’t you deserve it? You could have the luxury and status that comes with this car. You could command the opposite (or same) sex to your wishes with this perfume. Eat this food and you’ll have the power of a superhero.
Our culture indirectly teaches us that life should be perfect. We should be happy, healthy, wealthy and successful… and if we’re not, there’s something wrong with us. In our interactions with each other, we reinforce this. If you’re down, people tell you to smile and think they need to cheer you up. If you’re anxious, people tell you to “relax!” our culture is based on a hidden assumption that manifests itself all over: we shouldn’t have problems.
The combination of our nature with this cultural mentality causes a major problem for us:
When things don’t go our way, we fight, resist, avoid and deny.
When we’re stuck, struggling or hurting, we think “it shouldn’t be that way”… “I shouldn’t have this problem”… “Why me?”… And all that leads to “I’ve got to get rid of this now.”
Each of us has an automatic and habitual response to problems. It is our default problems solving strategy… but often, it’s not a problem solving strategy at all.
Just this morning I heard a quote on TV: “We can’t choose what happens to us. All we can choose is what we do about it.”
Our default problems strategy arises naturally out of how we see and view probelms – the hidden assumptions we have about “problems” that naturally lead to behaviour.
Think of a problem or situation that is giving you trouble and take a moment to consider the following questions:
What do you believe about that “problem”?
How do you feel about it? With what states or feelings are you responding to it?
Often, when we continue to struggle with a problem, the beliefs we have about it are these:
I shouldn’t have this problem
It shouldn’t be this way
It shouldn’t be happening
I have to get rid of it
When this is our view of a situation we encounter, it send us into states of urgency and demandingness.
Do urgency and demandingness really help us solve problems?
In these states, we aren’t committed to change, we aren’t requesting it, we aren’t working towards it…. We are demanding it… NOW!
We just want to get rid of it, and we want a quick fix! Anything to make it go away. It’s a lust for change.
What is the real impact of urgency and demandingness?
These states only make things worse. Why? Because they cause us to resist what is. We end up in a battle with reality. Then, we find ourselves stuck in a loop as our efforts to “solve” the problem actually make it worse. The lust for results is like fuel on the fire. Urgency and demandingness crank up the intensity of a problem and make it harder to solve.
When it comes to our own psychology, what we resist persists. The more we resist and the more we demand, the worse it will get. These states actually prevent us from entering into the kind of state that really does help us solve problems: openness and curiosity.
Our default view of problems as “things to be gotten rid of” is often far from the reality. When we become aware of our beliefs and perceptions about situations and begin to question them, new things open up. We begin to see other facets of the situations we find ourselves in; what benefit or value they may have, where they may be leading us, how they might be an opportunity.
I am not saying “just see all problems as an opportunity.” What I am saying is inquire into your beliefs about problems and question them. You will see what comes and likely, find a deeper truth.
There is a Buddhist story that gives us some new insight into problems.
A man goes to see the Buddha for help with all kinds of troubles. Yet, to each one, the Buddha says he cannot help.
In shock, the man says “if you can’t help with these problems what good are you?”
The Buddha replies:
“You have 83 problems and I can’t help you with them. But I can help you with your 84th problem.”
“What’s that?” the man asks.
The buddha’s reply? “That you think you shouldn’t have problems.”