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Hidden Problems: When Other People Notice Our Issues Before We Do
Do you ever feel like you’re completely blind to issues in your life, that your concerns are hidden? Somehow, others seem to see them clearly. Why do certain problems seem to elude us, when we are the ones who need to deal with them? As human beings, we are designed for self-preservation and that includes protecting ourselves from harm. We instinctively make attempts to not only survive but to thrive. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we don’t wake up every day ready to invite pain and difficulty into our lives as we explore our own behavior. Let’s look at some beneficial ways we can respond when others point our flaws.
Don’t Believe Everything you Hear
I learned a lesson many years ago that you can’t believe everything you read. Likewise, we can’t believe everything people say to us either. So, when it comes to others pointing out our flaws or weaknesses, it’s important to evaluate who it is and what authority they have. For example, if a close friend points out that you seem unwillingly to take chances, they are probably basing their comments on several personal experiences. But, if a stranger says the same thing, it doesn’t hold as much water.
The Three Strikes Rule
I tend to go by the three strikes rule. This means I look for more than one instance of the same comment before considering it worth working on. I wouldn’t say I get three strikes that often, but when I do, it usually an eye opening experience. As luck would have it, I just had a three-strike moment yesterday that I want to share with you.
- I’ve been participating in an indoor cycle class for the past 6-months or so. The instructor frequently looks as me when she tells the class that we look too tense. As we push our limits in riding strength and speed, it’s hard not to tense your upper body. And each time I hear the comment, I do have to consciously relax (My first strike that I’m too tense under pressure).
- Last week I had fingerprinting done at a local UPS store. A clerk started rolling my fingers on a glass plate and then stopped suddenly. He replied, “You have to relax for this to work.” Ok, once again I found myself consciously choosing to relax (strike two).
- Then yesterday the third strike came too. I took my first trip to the spa to use a gift certificate a friend had given me for a massage and facial. Sure enough, as my masseuse was working on my upper back and shoulders, she commented, “You’re really tense.”
Time to Take Notice of Hidden Info
All right already, point taken, I need to relax more often than when people tell me to. Honestly though, I don’t go throughout the day thinking I’m stressed or tense. Even though my shoulders are practically connected to my ears, I never took notice that this was an issue. Three strangers, who would not normally have ever told me that I was over-stressed, all spoke up as part of their professional duties. It was clearly time to listen and work on this issue.
Some things can’t be hidden, even if they don’t seem obvious to us. The cycle instructor looking at my posture couldn’t miss it. The UPS clerk who needed to work with my fingers couldn’t miss it either. And certainly, I couldn’t hide from the masseuse who had to touch my neck, shoulders, and back. So while normally strangers and acquaintances wouldn’t be high up on the trust worthy list, their professional observations were highly credible.
Resist the Urge to Defend Yourself
That protective nature is going to try to keep you in the dark and ensure the issue stays hidden. At this point, we may be tempted to ignore the comment. In my example above, I could assume the cycle instructor was speaking to the rest of the class and not me. I could have been annoyed at the UPS clerk for expecting too much from me. And I could have assumed the masseuse deals mostly with rich, carefree clients so rarely sees hard workers like me.
The problem with defensive responses is that they move us further away instead of closer to the solution. The first step in finding a real solution is accepting that you have a problem. Instead of pushing the people away who are bringing up sensitive issues, I challenge you to respond with a question that allows you to learn more. Let me give you some of the responses I could have used.
- Cycle instructor – After class I could have asked her if she had any suggestions for how to keep my upper body more relaxed during the ride.
- UPS Clerk – I could have asked if he sees many people with tense fingers or if I was one of the rare ones.
- Masseuse – It may have been helpful to ask about specific muscles that seemed overly tense and then I could research it more on my own.
Well, if you thought admitting the problem was hard, solution hunting has challenges of its own. In my case, I have to start with the question, “Why am I so tense?” Here are a few possibilities but you could probably add more. I’m just beginning my hunting game, so I’m having discovered my solution/s quite yet.
- My “Type A” personality.
- My desire to please others.
- Fear of doing something wrong.
- Lack of trust of others.
- Misplaced priorities.
- Not giving myself permission to relax.
- Too much responsibility in life.
- Have you had any “three strike moments” that deserve your attention?
- How do you tend to respond when friends point out something that you need to deal with? How about when strangers to the same?
- Do you have any additional ideas of why I walk around so tense all the time? (Feel free to leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com
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What’s Your Problem? Finding the Root of the Problem and Digging it Out
When was the last time you were really bothered by something? Maybe you felt extremely angry, in complete shock, saddened, or just irritated at a series of unfortunate events. It’s easy to see superficially, what caused your problem. You might say it was your spouse’s fault, or because of one of your children, or even the state of the world we live in. But, it’s not quite as easy to see deep down what really caused your emotional outburst. Why did you get so annoyed about that spilled glass of milk or the package that was lost in the mail? Today, we are going to roll back the covers and take a look at what’s under the sheets. We’re going to look for the root cause and the importance of digging it out.
My Personal Outbursts
I wouldn’t be in a position to talk about this topic if I hadn’t lived through it myself. While I started out life rather shy, I was never one to hide my feelings. If I were mad about something, everybody in the room would know it. I’m not proud of this behavior, but it was how I lived for many years.
What bothered me most was feeling left of something intentionally. You know three of my friends would get together and intentionally leave me out. Dividing for sports teams was another touchy area for me. Who was going to pick the shortest, non-athletic, overweight girl?
And my all-time favorite, being stood up. I can’t say that I was ever stood up for an actual date, but I was forgotten about numerous times for routine things. Someone would say they would give me a call, stop by, offer help, go somewhere with me and they wouldn’t follow through. Sometimes it might be a last-minute cancellation for something better. Other times it might be a no-show. Either way the pain I experienced became anger and resulted in bad behavior on my part.
Ignoring the Problem
What would you expect any irate person to do? Blame someone else of course. I’d think to myself, look what so and so did to me. I might go a step further and plot revenge if I was mad enough. Or I might feel so rejected that a sense of depression would set it.
Regardless of my response, I was ignoring the real problem. I was allowing someone’s behavior to control my feelings. And I wasn’t taking ownership of my own poor action. Mature, healthy behavior does not include revenge plots, spiraling into a depressive state, or shattering glass with an anger outburst. It involves being willing to dig deep inside yourself, find the real problem, and deal with it!
Start Digging, Heading for the Root
Did you ever get in trouble for digging somewhere you shouldn’t have? My two dogs do all the time. I’m not sure what precious riches they expect to find under the soil. Or if it’s just something fun to do. But we have had holes in our yard that were large enough to store things.
While there certainly are times when you need to obey the “Keep Out” signs, when it comes to extreme emotions and inappropriate outbursts, you have permission to dig. It’s not hard to start but the first thing you need to do is accept that it is ok. The second thing is that you have to pick up the shovel. Your shovel can come in many shapes and sizes. You shovel can be a counselor, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. But it can also be an author, a songwriter, a video producer, or meditative thought.
Keep Moving Toward the Root
This is the part where many well-intentioned folks fall off the track. It takes a bit of nerve to crack the surface knowing a problem lies beneath the soil. But, it takes determination and perseverance to continue. Unfortunately, many people are not up for the challenge. So, instead of continuing to dig deeper in search of roots, they cover the hole back up and put away their shovel.
Using a medical example, the only way to remove a bullet is to dig into where it is and get it. Yes, it will cause pain along the way. And it is likely to take a while to heal completely afterwards too. But, what is the alternative, living with a bullet inside of you that can cause damage at any time? When you think about it, not digging in and dealing with the problem may be even more dangerous and painful than tackling the issue.
Count on Progress in Digging out the Root
Some experiences in life leave us with more scars than others. Someone who has had their personal safety violated or threatened may have difficulty with trusting anyone enough to let them help. But even someone whose issue may appear minor can have deep wounds. Our personality, talents, coping mechanisms, and faith also play big factors in how we handle adversity and healing.
I already told you it would not be easy. But I can also tell you reap what you sow in life and if you make the effort to work on a problem, progress will happen. Everyone’s personal healing happens in a different way and in a different amount of time. So, it doesn’t help to compare yourself with someone else. Instead, stay focused on the progress you are making and keeping the effort going. If it gets too tough at some point in the process, take a break but don’t give up.
The Ugly Alternatives
Congratulations if you made it this far in the post. That means you are serious about growing into a better version of yourself. Those who need the following information may never read it. So, I’m going to share it with those of you who are reading, in case you need a little extra motivation or find yourself in a conversation about this subject.
If you refuse to dig, refuse to suffer any pain for a greater purpose, and refuse to deal with problems that are surfacing, you will either stay the way you are or get worse. Like serious infections, problems that are not dealt with rarely get better on their own. Infections continue to grow. They can even grow to the point where you entire bloodstream is infected (septicemia) and you may no longer be able to sustain life.
In summary, I urge you to view digging inside yourself a worthwhile effort. Locating the root of a problem takes time and hard work. But the rewards are totally worth it. Imagine being able to control those anger outbursts, or never have them occur in the first place. Think about letting rejection and disappointment roll off you like beads of sweat. What is you were not bothered by being left off an invitation list or excluded from something that might have been fun. Instead, you will learn to make your own fun, and enjoying life to the fullest each and every day. It is possible, if you’re willing to dig and keep on digging.
- What sets off emotional turmoil in you?
- Is it time to start a digging expedition in order to find the root of the problem?
- Do you have a counselor, trusted friend, or someone who can support you through this process?
If there is any way I can help you head in the right direction, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can use the contact form on my website or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.