One of the most amazing concepts I have learned is … emotional vs. practical problems. Who knew there was a difference?
Practical problem–a situation that makes it difficult to achieve a goal
Emotional problem– a reaction to a practical problem
Practical Problem Emotional Problem
|My car broke down and I can’t get to work.||I’m so miserable. I’m going to sit here and worry about all the things I can’t do because I don’t have a car [and then I truly will be late for work and might lose my job].|
|I lost my job and I can’t pay my mortgage.||I’m so miserable. [and then I’m going to proceed to feel depressed so that I stay in bed and don’t get another job and then I really won’t be able to pay my mortgage].|
|I have asthma and I can’t run.||I’m so miserable. I’m going to give up visiting my running friends, because I can’t do what I enjoyed doing [so then I have no social life].|
|I lost the use of my legs and I can’t walk.||I’m so miserable. I’m going to give up all activities I enjoy [which then causes my entire body to deteriorate].|
|I have cancer and I’m going to die.||I’m so miserable. I’m going to isolate myself from life [so then I can squander what life I have left].|
My examples may seem harsh, because of what society teaches — that we should react in an exaggerated, emotional way when practical problems impose stumbling blocks to achieving our goals. My “get over it and move on” mentality doesn’t mean that unpleasant life events are not traumatic, are not unpleasant, or are not important to your state of being; unpleasant life events can be traumatic, unpleasant, and how they affect you is important. However, unpleasant life events don’t have to ruin the quality of your life (e.g. relationships, goals).
The truth is that oftentimes we tell ourselves that we are required to behave in a manner that reflects what is traumatic and unpleasant. In fact, we are conditioned by generations of people to think that misfortune is required to be reflected by miserable emotions and behaviors. If we are ‘telling ourselves’ to behave unhappily that means we are making a choice to behave unhappily. Choice is a voluntary action, and that’s good news, because it means that we can volunteer to make a different choice, a happier choice, a choice that is the opposite of the miserable choice.
I don’t know how many times I have thought or said, or heard someone say:
My life is ruined…
I don’t deserve this…
I can’t survive this…
I can’t stand this…
Those phrases are lies we choose to tell ourselves. Your life isn’t ruined because you have a choice to improve it. You ‘do’ deserve good things. You ‘can’ survive. You ‘can’ withstand the struggles that life throws at you.
Life is going to happen and you are the only one who decides how it’s going to happen to you. That’s the truth.
Victor vs. Victim Mentality
I have two “same story” scenarios to share with you. Each one has potential for success or failure:
1. I once spoke with a man who lost the love of his life … his wife. A few months after his wife’s death he met a woman he wanted to date. His children did not approve, because they felt he had not grieved long enough. Imagine that. He was choosing to let another person tell him how to feel and when it was socially acceptable for him to experience love and companionship. He agonized over how his children would treat him if he dated this woman; he had a “can’t stand it” mentality. “I can’t stand it for my children to be angry with me,” he said. I told him that if he wasn’t happy it wouldn’t matter what his children thought, so I encouraged him to do what was right for him and in the event his children didn’t approve he would either decide to let them rule his happiness or he would decide to rule his happiness.
2. I know a woman who was in the same situation. She married a man six months after her husband and best friend died. Her children disapproved. Her children got over it. She lived a “happily ever after” kind of life with him.
In these two scenarios, who chose to be the victim and who chose to be the victor?
Dear reader, I want you to have a “victor” mentality instead of a “victim” mentality. I want you to enjoy every last bit of life until the end of your life.
“Can’t Cope” Syndrome
Coming from an abusive childhood, John was trained to be a successful neurotic or — a person who exhibits emotions that are not congruent to the situation and who is riddled with anxiety. This is the vocation in which John excelled; as a matter of fact, he was so good at it that he was not much good at anything else. All his emotions ran to extremes. He took anti-anxiety medication to cope. When he observed that he was still having trouble coping with stress, John realized his fundamental emotional problem was related to how he was choosing to cope with his environment.
John’s low self-esteem and insecurities surmounted any attempt he made to find peace. Depending on the situation, he would become paranoid, defensive, critical, volatile, self-defeating, and/or depressed. He was not able to take criticism and his ability to endure conflict was inadequate.
John’s problems were emotional, because he dealt with what he was feeling about the situation instead of what was actually happening. People or situations were not interfering with his ability to attain inner peace. John was interfering with his ability to attain inner peace, because he chose a victim mentality.
One day John decided to choose to work toward possessing a positive outlook, a positive plan. Since his decision to think positive, John can imagine infinite possibilities of bad things that could happen in his life (e.g. lose his job, his car, his home, his physical ability, his family, his friends, his life). With practice, John harnessed the ability to use positive coping skills when dealing with practical problems. His positive coping skills are to:
- Have a time for disappointment or mourning
- Then weigh what can and can’t change
- Then set new goals
- Then move forward to execute new goals for successful living
Remember: The shorter the mourning period the better; don’t let it be forever.
Is Your Misery Your Peace?
I think that is a fair question. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, “Some people like misery, because it’s comfortable and being miserable takes much less effort, because you have a “reason” to not go to work, to not pay bills, to not take a bath, to not cope with conflict, to not [insert your reason here].
If you have an “I’m miserable, so I can’t do it” victim mentality, then give yourself the dignity of being honest about it by saying, “I like feeling miserable and I don’t want to do anything about it and I desire to have no goals that require physical or emotional energy”, and then be done with it.
For Those Wanting to Overcome Internal Conflict
Realize that most problems are emotional. If you can overcome your emotions, and defy the status quo victim mentality, then you will:
- Have more successful relationships
- Accomplish more goals
- Have a higher sense of confidence or … a lack of insecurity
- Have a more satisfying life
One Last Thought: If you are bent on blaming someone else then all I have to say is “More power to them” — literally — because you are letting them have your power. By not taking personal responsibility for who you are and what you do, you are giving your power away.
We all have equal power. How will you use yours?