Do you have an area in your life where you’ve always struggled?
Maybe you think you’ve never lived up to your career potential.
Maybe your family relationships are a constant source of pain for you.
Maybe your love life has always been fraught and you can never seem to get what you want when it comes to relationships.
It seems so obvious that if you could just solve the problem, you’d be happier.
So it may surprise you to hear that there’s a strong chance you are actually addicted to having this problem.
Not just habituated to having it, but actually subconsciously wanting to have it.
I know this sounds bananas, but bear with me.
I have seen this with some of my clients. They come to get coaching because they have identified a problem in their life that they want to fix.
They think that if they just lost weight or got a promotion or marriage or divorce or had kids or could manage their kids better or moved somewhere else – if they could just FIX that problem, then they’d be happy.
And yet even when I teach them the tools to stop having their problem – when I teach them how to manage their minds so they can think, feel, and act differently and get different results in their lives – they don’t use them. Or they use them a little, and stop.
I used to find this mystifying. Frustrating, even. (I had to coach myself – as soon as I did, I realized that of course I do this too!)
And then I realized the obvious answer: The reason we don’t solve a problem is that we would rather have the problem than solve it.
Yes, you heard that right.
That intractable problem in your life you can never quite solve?
It’s because you subconsciously don’t want to solve it.
And the reason you don’t want to solve it is that you are attached to the fantasy that when you finally DO solve it, your life will be perfect and you will finally be happy all of the time.
Sometimes we even take action to solve a problem, and we solve the external thing – we stop drinking, start exercising, get divorced, get a new job, whatever it is.
But then we aren’t magically happy all the time. We still experience the full range of human emotions. We doubt and feel shame and anxiety and insecurity and sadness.
So we think, “oh, that didn’t work…let me try it again.”
So we start drinking again, stop exercising, or get into another relationship that we can blame for our unhappiness.
Like I said, this is all subconscious. We’re not aware that we’re doing it.
But it’s happening under the surface.
Many of us believe we are supposed to be happy all the time. We wouldn’t say we believe that intellectually – but whenever we have a negative emotion we think there’s an emergency and something has gone very wrong. We aren’t willing to have those feelings.
The problem is that if you are unwilling to have the full range of human experience, then you will always be looking for an escape hatch. You will always be looking for an exit route.
And you will create and recreate a problem over and over again so that you have something to try and “fix,” something to try to solve.
But what you are trying to fix or solve can’t be fixed or solved. There is no solution for having the human experience of both positive and negative emotion.
And we don’t NEED a solution, because the human condition is not actually a problem.
The only problem here stems from our unwillingness to have this experience.
There’s only a problem if you convince yourself that there SHOULD be an exit route, that you are supposed to be somewhere else – on that other road over there where nobody has any negative feelings and nothing ever goes wrong.
This ties right into perfectionist fantasies, or the belief that if you accomplish some idealized, fill-in-the-blank goal in your life, you’ll finally be happy. They’re both dreams about the time when a certain thing in your life will be perfect and you’ll feel great. And both skip over the day-to-day grind of being a human. Of trying and failing to achieve a goal, and experiencing lots of positive AND negative emotions along the way.
You know, the actual real experience of being a human.
We sacrifice the only thing that exists, our “now,” at the altar of “someday.”
The “now” is sometimes transcendent and sometimes excruciating.
That’s the human experience.
We are here to have the full range of human experience and emotion.
To love beyond measure and lose beyond measure.
To feel joy and grief.
To feel connected and alone.
To build incredible things, and to watch them fall apart.
If you’re not willing to be here, you will occupy yourself with a never-ending problem that you can never solve.
You will live in a world made of unnecessary suffering tempered by the fantasy of a relief that will never come.
But if you give up the resistance that causes the suffering, you won’t need the illusion of relief.
Because there’s actually no problem with having the full human experience.
It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s what we are here to do.
And that’s a good thing, because it’s the only option we have.