When we have a problem, we are constantly looking for a solution to that problem. The difficulty with that is that energy flows where attention goes – so if we’re not careful we can end up having all our energy sucked up in experiencing the problem, rather than looking for a solution.
When you have something wrong – whether it’s a physical sickness, or depression, or whatever you are focused on the problem. But that makes it grow even bigger in our minds, and sometimes in our bodies as well. If other people know about the problem, they are also focused on it and so the whole issue snowballs. The other aspect of this is that sometimes we get attention from other people because of our problems. That’s called secondary gain. Your problem attracts attention, so you go around telling people that you want to solve it, but you’re not really looking for a solution at all – or at least, not after the first few days, because you like the attention it brings you.
Another issue is called a double bind – you’ve probably experienced this sometime (I know I have!) We enjoy complaining about our problem, but it also gives us a reason not have the thing we want. Like if I don’t have the confidence to ask for business, but I also don’t really want to ask for business because I think that would be pushy, that’s a great double bind.
We’ve all been taught things that aren’t necessarily helpful or even true, but they shape the way we react and they tie us up in knots. It might be that you were taught that it was rude to ask personal questions – so you really want to know what’s going on in someone’s life, because you’ve hear rumours or seen things that make you concerned for them, but you truly believe it would be rude and prying to ask. So you say nothing, but you still want to know – or you do ask and feel embarrassed, as though you were eavesdropping.
Let me give you an actual example – I had a client who was in direct selling and she came into the office to do a process called Time Line Therapy™ which is about letting go of negative emotions from the unconscious level and it’s a process that takes as little as 2 minutes for most people to let go of a major negative emotion – we do it for anger, sadness, fear and guilt. So this lady comes in and we let go of anger perfectly, we let go of sadness perfectly, we got to fear – and we always ask the unconscious mind for permission to let go of the emotion. So I said, “Okay, so is it okay for your unconscious mind to let go of the negative emotion of fear today and for you to be aware of it consciously?” and she said, “No.”
So I reframed and said, “I want to remind your unconscious mind that its highest prime directive is to preserve your body and keep it safe and so holding on to this negative emotion is actually not in line with its highest prime directive. So, knowing that, would it be okay for your unconscious mind to support us in letting go of the fear today and for you to be aware of it consciously, knowing that we can keep the learning and let go of the negative emotion.” And she said, “No.”
I was pretty curious about this, because this is the first time that this had happened to me – most of the time, with a bit of a refrain to the unconscious mind it loosens it up and they say,”Yes.”
So I said, “Well, could you ask your unconscious mind why? Just tell me the first thing that comes up.”
And she replies, “Because if I let go of the fear then I won’t have an excuse.”
Ka-ching! Secondary gain! It’s a lot easier for people to accept you saying you’re afraid to make a cold call. They’ll accept that because fear is an acceptable excuse and then people will feel sorry for her and make excuses for her. Whereas if she says, “I don’t want to do it” which is what it was really about, people will say “Don’t be lazy, get over it.” So by having that excuse or hiding behind the fear I can be okay with the fact that I don’t want to do what I should do and what I have to do.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) teaches us that our unconscious mind wants clear direction. What could be a clearer direction than focusing your thoughts on something day-in, day-out? And if all your friends and relations are also focused on that thing then you really do have a problem! Maybe that’s why our forebears didn’t talk about their problems – and perhaps the idea of a stiff upper lip has its advantages – as long as we can channel our thoughts as well!
The challenge is really to find a healthy solution to the problem of energy flowing where attention goes.
Here’s the simple steps I teach my clients:
- Acknowledge the problem, name it, and recognise how big it is (or not) – as long as you pretend it doesn’t exist you can’t deal with it effectively;
- State clearly to yourself (and anyone else you talk to) that you are looking for a solution, and set a (short) timeline for action;
- Don’t talk about your problem, talk about potential solutions and acknowledge your deadline to anyone who asks;
- When your deadline comes, take the first step towards the best solution you have – it’s easier to guide a moving ship than one that’s dead in the water.
- Find something positive in your life and focus on making that even better.
If you take those simple steps you’ll find that although they take discipline, they don’t absorb your energy completely and the end result is that you still have energy to get on with your other responsibilities which means you’re not making the problem worse by letting other areas of your life get out of hand.
Meta Description: Problems need solutions, but we need to be careful not to give them too much attention or we’ll be consumed by them because energy flows where attention goes and the last thing you want is to put all your energy into a problem.