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The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person.

However, I know that when we get lost in our thinking, we can create problems that aren’t problems. If a problem was actually a problem, then we would all react to the ‘problem’ in the same way. However, it is our perception of our external reality, our thinking about what we perceive to be the problem. As we don’t all react to the ‘problem’ in the same way, the problem is not the problem. I’d like to explain this further, to help you see that this is the case.

I’ve worked with many people over time with such a broad range of presenting issues. I remember the heading ‘Presenting Problem’ being a prominent part of assessment tools that form part of the admission process across the range of mental health and addiction services.

Typical presenting problems have included:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Work pressures
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Assault
  • Progressive drug or alcohol use and possibly using substances via higher risk routes
  • Homelessness
  • A range of related physical health issues – DVT, Cancer, Diabetes, Asthma

I’d like to just briefly highlight some of the presenting problems that I’ve mentioned and show you that, through conversations that I’ve had with clients (respecting confidentiality of course), how we can learn quickly that the initial presentation is not the problem. Not only that, when the individual has realised this for themselves, it has changed their life.

Problem #1

‘Simon’ had a diagnosis of depression and was now starting to avoid social situations as he didn’t feel confident enough in groups. Through a conversation I learnt that Simon was just about holding down a full time job and was experiencing a lack of confidence in it – their boss was telling them that they need to improve their performance and was providing support systems in the workplace to do this.

We learnt together that Simon had once been told he ‘wasn’t good enough’ by his step-father and he carried that statement with him for almost 30 years. He’s generally been able to carry on with his life and feels confident most of the time.

Simon realised though, that the feedback from his boss had reminded him of being told he wasn’t good enough by his step-father many years ago. Simon gained an understanding that his feelings were as a result of his thinking in the moment, that he had carried an opinion from someone (which is not based on fact) over time and it had become part of his belief system. He had spent most of his life looking for confirmation to validate a statement made by one person.

This is why the comments from his boss (who he otherwise described as being very supportive) seemed to reinforce his step-father’s statement. He gained an insightful understanding that his experiences were actually coming from himself – his thinking.

I wonder if this is something you can relate to on any level?

Problem #2

Michelle was presented as suicidal and had recently experienced a miscarriage with what would have been her second child. Through a conversation, Michelle explained that she had become pregnant following a sexual assault. She had decided to keep the child, against the wishes of everyone in her family – including her husband. While they tried to be supportive, she felt they never really understood her and why she had wanted to keep the child.

Michelle realised that she had wanted to keep the child as a way to avoid ‘grieving’ following the sexual assault. She desperately wanted to have the child as a way of making something good out of the bad that had happened to her. She hadn’t had an opportunity to talk with someone who was listening impartially to her story. She felt that the miscarriage was now forcing her to grieve and she was scared of the feelings attached to the grieving.

Michelle gained a new perspective and realised that her feelings (all coming from her thinking associated with her situation) were natural and they were meant to be like that. She realised being fearful of the feelings were actually heightening her anxiety.

Problem #3

Peter presented with daily alcohol consumption and had recently started binging on cocaine on weekends. He was experiencing what he called a high level of stress and he felt the substances were helping him to cope with it.

During the conversation, Peter explained that he had inherited the family business following his fathers’ death. The business wasn’t new to him and he explained that he’d run the business for a long time whilst his father had been alive. The business had been in the family for over 40 years. 

Peter realised that the pressure was coming from himself to perform. He understood that he had been able to trust himself up until this point (he was now in his 50’s). Peter was able to see all the evidence, which pointed towards knowing that he can rely on himself. He had experience over many years running the business and didn’t want to let anybody down.

Through the insight, he found that his substance misuse behaviour totally changed and he became completely abstinent.

What’s really the problem?

On each of the examples I’ve mentioned, I’ve only briefly broken the conversations down and with that, tried to help you to see that what we think is our problem, might not be. It could be a symptom of the problem and very likely will be the case.

It is not that we need to delve into the past and talk about those issues to heal the now. That’s not my message. It’s more a case that we can realise we’ve carried certain feelings – attached to thoughts, which aren’t true. Catching on to that understanding is life changing. It was for me and also those clients I have reflected on.

It’s also not about being a positive thinker, which of course is great, but that would sound quite judgmental towards someone if they are being negative thinkers. It’s more than that, it runs deeper. It’s within you – it always is, always has been, and always will be.

By our design, we are meant to feel a particular way in relation to certain things and quite often fearing how we’re feeling about the problem, can be the problem. 

Consider a stream of water as a useful metaphor – or our ‘stream of thought.’ The end of the stream, if you like, being the presenting problem. By moving further up the stream – through a heartfelt and correctly guided conversation, the further we go, the closer we are to finding where the stream starts (or where the problem really is). We might also find that the problem we thought we had is not a problem.

Actually, all we need to remember is that everything is created with a thought and we can choose to think about those thoughts in a different way in any given moment.

What about this article resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts with us below!

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Dave Knight helps to change lives through a conversation that guides people back towards their innate health and wellbeing. With a background in mental health, addictions, business and sport, his time is being dedicated to educating people through Articles, his Bulletproof Yourself products, 1:1 work with clients; small groups, as well as articles. The focus of the work is to help people feel bulletproof against any area of challenge in their lives.

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Life

The Imbalanced Problem with Work/Life Balance

Balancing is for your checkbook, gymnastics, and nutrition; not for your people’s work/life ratio.

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Balance…it requires an equal distribution of value between two or more subjects to maintain steady composure and equitable proportionality. (more…)

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How to Find the Courage to Start New

Change is scary, but it’s a normal part of life.

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It’s 2023, a new year, new you, right? But how do we start over? How do we make the changes in our lives that we crave so much to see?  (more…)

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Failing is More Important Than Succeeding

Failure is an integral part of life as life is incomplete without failures.

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People often consider failure a stigma.  Society often doesn’t respect the people who failed and avoids and criticizes their actions. Failure is an integral part of life as life is incomplete without failures. Not to have endeavored is worse than failing in life as at some stage of your life you regret not having tried in your life.  (more…)

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Life

5 Indicators of Unresolved Attachment Trauma

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Emotional Attachment Trauma

Trauma caused during specific stages of a child’s development, known as attachment trauma, can have lasting effects on a person’s sense of safety, security, predictability, and trust. This type of trauma is often the result of abuse, neglect, or inconsistent care from a primary caregiver.

Individuals who have not fully processed attachment trauma may display similar patterns of behavior and physical or psychological symptoms that negatively impact their adult lives, including the choices they make in relationships and business.

Unfortunately, many people may not even be aware that they are struggling with trauma. Research estimates that 6% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime, with a majority of males and females having experienced significant trauma.

Unresolved attachment trauma can significantly impair the overall quality of a person’s life, including their ability to form healthy relationships and make positive choices for themselves. One well-known effect of unhealed attachment trauma is the compulsion to repeat past wounds by unconsciously selecting romantic partners who trigger their developmental trauma.

However, there are other less recognized but equally detrimental signs of unprocessed developmental trauma.

 

Five possible indications of unresolved attachment trauma are:

 

1.  Unconscious Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a common pattern among individuals with unprocessed attachment trauma. This cycle often begins with hurting others, which is then followed by hurting oneself. It is also common for those with attachment trauma to have heightened emotional sensitivity, which can trigger this cycle.

This pattern can manifest in lashing out, shutting down, or impulsive behavior that leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

Many people with attachment trauma are not aware of their wounds and operate on survival mode, unconsciously testing or challenging the emotional investment of those around them, and pushing them away out of self-preservation and fear of abandonment.

This can lead to a pattern of making poor choices for themselves based on impulsivity.

 

2. Persistent Pain

 
Chronic pain is a common symptom that can stem from early trauma. Studies have shown a connection between physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, muscle aches, back pain, chest pain, and chronic fatigue with the aftermath of chronic developmental trauma, particularly physical abuse.
 
Research has found that individuals with insecure attachment styles, such as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized, have a higher incidence of somatic symptoms and a history of physical and emotional abuse in childhood compared to those with a secure attachment style.
 
 

3. Behaviors That Block Out Trauma

 
Trauma blocking practises are used to avoid the pain and memories connected with traumatic events.
 
Emotional numbing, avoidance, and escape via briefly pleasurable activities that distract from terrible memories or suffering are common examples. Unfortunately, this escape habit stops people from successfully processing and recovering from their trauma.
 
Furthermore, when the pain resurfaces, more and more diversions are necessary to continue ignoring it. This can be seen in compulsive behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction, emotional eating, numbing oneself through relationships, workaholism, excessive or dangerous exercise routines, compulsive internet or technology use, or any other compulsive behaviour used to distract yoursef from intrusive thoughts and emotions.
 
These actions have the potential to prolong a cycle of avoidance and repression, preventing persons from healing and progressing.
 

4. A strong need for control

 
It’s understandable that some people may struggle with control issues in their adult lives, especially if they felt helpless or vulnerable during their childhood.
 
This can happen if someone had an overbearing caregiver who didn’t let them make their own choices, expected too much from them, or didn’t take care of them properly. As adults, they might try to control everything in their life to feel more in control and less anxious or scared. This might be because they didn’t feel like they had control over their life when they were a child.
 
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences are different and it’s okay to seek help if you’re struggling with control issues.
 
 

5. Psychological Symptoms That Are Not Explained

 
Individuals with a history of developmental trauma may experience a range of psychological symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive behavior, intense mood swings, irritability, anger, depression, emotional numbing, or severe anxiety.
 
These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur intermittently throughout the day. People with this type of trauma may attempt to “distract” themselves from these symptoms by denying or rationalizing them, or may resort to substance abuse or behavioral addictions as coping mechanisms. This can be a maladaptive way of trying to numb their symptoms.
 
 

What to do next if you’re suffering from emotional attachment trauma?

 
Everyone’s experience of healing from trauma is unique. It’s important to be aware of whether you have experienced childhood developmental trauma and how it may be affecting your relationships as an adult. Sometimes, the effects of trauma can be overwhelming and we may try to push them away or avoid them.
 
If you notice that you’re engaging in these behaviors, it’s important to seek help from a trauma therapist who can support you on your healing journey. Remember, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start healing.
 

There are several ways that people can work to overcome emotional attachment trauma:

  1. Therapy: One of the most effective ways to overcome emotional attachment trauma is through therapy. A therapist can help you process your experiences, understand the impact of your trauma on your life, and develop coping strategies to manage symptoms.
  2. Support groups: Joining a support group of people who have had similar experiences can be a great way to find validation, empathy, and a sense of community.
  3. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, pilates, prayer time with God or journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and develop a sense of spiritual connection and self-regulation.
  4. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT): This is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals process and recover from traumatic events.
  5. Building a safety net: Building a support system of people you trust, who are there for you when you need them, can help you feel more secure and safe in your life.

It’s important to remember that healing from emotional attachment trauma is a process and it may take time. It’s also important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating trauma, who you feel comfortable talking with, and who can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

 
 
If you desire to work with me on healing your wounds and unlocking the aspects of you that were never realized so you can achieve more success in your life then head over to awebliss.com and join my weekly LIVE online mentorship calls.
 
 
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