The problem is the problem and you are not the problem. A bold statement but let me explain.

Say you want to give up cigarettes: the problem is cigarettes. You are you and cigarettes are the problem. Now talk to the problem of cigarettes like a third party. How long have you been in my life? Why did I let you into my life in the first place? What plans do you have for me in the future? You tell me you are my friend but are you really? Once you start having a dialogue with a problem you can see it for what it is rather than think the problem is part of you? You can use this approach to challenge any problem you have at work, with family or something very personal.

Let’s take another example: Say you want a boyfriend and are sick of being alone. Define the problem correctly first: “I can’t find a suitable boyfriend.” Now the problem is the problem okay. Ask the problem, When did this start being a problem? How often does this problem speak to me? How much effort have I really put into solving this problem? How could I go about solving it? What does suitable mean? How would my life change if I did not have this problem? Can I be happy without solving the problem? What is the problem really saying to me? What can I say to this problem today to diminish its affect on me?

Now shall we take a work problem of say the boss is giving me the shits and never appreciates that I can control my own work issues without him constantly telling me what to do. So the problem defined is, “My boss is a control freak”. Now the questions: When did the problem start to affect me? What do I want to say to the problem? What affect does the problem really have on me at work? Can I put up with the problem without it emotionally affecting me? What options do I have to solve the problem?

By searching for the answers the problem raises as the problem, our brains get a fuller and richer picture of what is worrying us with less emotion attached. By understanding the problem at a distance, rather than internalising it, we are in better position to address it.

With any issue based problem there are only four possible outcomes. These are: do nothing, change what can be changed, accept what can be accepted by negotiation or number four, which is not a good mental place to be, (get angry, hateful, depressed, annoyed and maybe bitter). In the end it is all about the choices we make to stay happier. So give it a go and try to solve problems at a distance by saying, “The problem is the problem and I am not the problem.” Take care my lovelies.

Gerry North is a couple’s counsellor and can be contacted at [email protected] or

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