Why Your Problem Isn’t Going Away

Do you have a problem or challenge that seems to continually behave like an uninvited guest in your life?

Those extra 10lbs around your waist line?

That annoying boss that is always micro-managing your every move?

That credit card debt that is quietly growing, not shrinking?

We all have “problems” that can be a constant thorn in our side and cause of frustration, disappointment or even depression.

But if it’s sticking around in your life longer than you want or need it to, you’ve got to ask WHY?

WHY does it continue to persist?

WHY have you allowed it to persist?

Despite all the resasons you might give, and what you say when you vent to your partner or best friend, they may not be the “right” reasons.

Changing something can be hard and when we face change we fight against our natural tendencies for maintaining our internal status quo.

We are hardwired for self-preservation. Some say that’s evolutionary, some say it’s passed down from generations. Either way, what research shows is that we are designed to conserve as much as possible…calories, physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy, etc.

In other words, we like the path of least resistance and this directly affects the decisions we make and the action we take.

And because we like the path of least resistance we generally respond to change in one of four ways:

a. Procrastinate – we intellectually know – and emotionally, are acutely aware – that something is off in our lives but we decide we can delay taking action until some later time (and be no worse off). It may not feel like a decision, but our behaviour shows that we have decided to not take the action necessary to resolve it.

b. Rationalize – we acknowledge the conflict but downplay it in our mind. We justify the problem for the time being even if it still stings but are convincing enough to allow it to persist. “It’s only 5lbs but I’m not as heavy as I was in 2008 and I don’t have any big social obligations coming up so I’ll just wear my bagging clothes until I need to change…”

c. Suppress – we try to completely ignore it or push it out of our minds. We turn our attention to more pressing matters, or convenient distractions that we can find in the moment. Chocolate or the office sweets jar are a common reprieve from the discomfort.

d. Accept – we acknowledge it yet tell ourselves that this is the way things are and there’s no point trying to change it. We adopt learned helplessness and play victim to the situation rendering us incapable of making it better. It may feel like that is true but this approach can erode our self-esteem, self-worth and resourcefulness to find a way…because there’s always a way if we want it badly enough.

When we engage in any of these behaviours we are effectively resolving our conflict in the moment but the reality is we’re not solving anything. It feels like we are because the tension goes away but we’re only delaying the eventual solution.

And when your action is only aimed at resolving your inner conflict (e.g. your feelings of stress, worrying, frustration, disappointment, etc) in the moment but don’t actually move closer to eliminating the real issue, you are directly and undeniably encouraging your problem to stick around.

So when you ask WHY the challenge continues to be present in your life, start measuring yourself against these four common responses.

  • Are you exhibiting one or more of these behaviours more than you should?
  • Are you doing it consciously and actively avoiding having to face the issue head on?
  • Or were you doing it unconsciously but now you can see how you are contributing to the lingering nature of the problem?

It’s time to take back control of yourself and be more mindful of how you respond to problems.

Just as you trained yourself to take the path of least resistance, you can train yourself to take the path of most effectiveness. You can make your default reaction more conscious, more honest, more courageous, more resourceful and cut off the chance of it sticking around longer than it needs to.

Which in turn, means you will have more energy and optimism for the things that really matter to you and to work on becoming the person you want to be.

If this post resonated with you, tell us why? How do you tend to respond and what do you think you could do differently in the future. Leave us a comment below or post on our facebook page.

 

Are you suffering from learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness. It’s not a common phrase but it’s a very common strategy we employ when we feel we’ve lost control of life, and we feel that the only way to get that control back is to act helpless. The roots of learned helplessness often occur in childhood and developed as a coping strategy to deal with emotional, psychological or physical abuse. Were you brought up by hyper critical parents? Do you find you often start things but give up quickly? Are you afraid of intimacy and making deeper connections? Do you always feel the need to be in control, albeit by acting either out of control or helpless?
Absent
Paul and Gina discuss ways in which you can recognise if you are suffering from learned helplessness and how you can take steps to move out of this self-sabotaging patterning to a place where you can feel more confident, and eventually stop playing the ‘small and helpless’ game.

You can find Gina’s original post here: http://www.actionpodcast.com/2010/05/ways-overcome-learned-helplessness-1525/

Ways to Overcome Learned Helplessness

UPDATE 7 May 2012: Gina and Paul talk about this blog post in our podcast on Learned Helplessness

Many of us have become experts at being ‘helpless’. And yes, it’s most often a subconscious act, for many of us developed these patterns in childhood as a way to cope with difficult or abusive situations, although learned helplessness can manifest at any age.

But like many habits, they have become so ingrained we don’t even know we are doing it. Learned helplessness can be the result of psychological and physical abuse, or we’ve mirrored it from watching caretakers and parents. Perhaps it was our only form of survival. And of course, this life strategy may have worked for us at one time, but it sure ain’t now.
Usually learned helplessness is a response to being out of control. Or dealing with situations in our lives where we feel we have absolutely no control. Essentially, it’s the ‘I give up’ route.
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