- May 10, 2016 in Columnists
When bad shit happens
Bad shit comes in many forms. Relationships capsize. People betray us. We lose jobs, homes and loved ones. Sometimes, it feels unbearable and we just want to know what we did to deserve such horrible treatment. At some point, we have to brush ourselves off and do something.
Almost three decades ago, a priestess named Cathey taught me the “IOB Method of Problem Solving.”
Identify, Objectify and Banish.
Since then, I have pulled myself back from many dangerous ledges using that method of attack.
Identify the bad shit
Be clear and honest in defining the bad shit. “My boyfriend is cheating” sounds specific, but it can mean any or all of the following:
- I found irrefutable evidence
- I am afraid I am not important enough to keep him
- I know he is untrustworthy and therefore, I do not trust him
- I am cheating on him and if I can cheat, anyone can and will
- I do not believe I deserve to be treated well, so I expect to be treated poorly
“We don’t have enough money” can mean:
- We need an additional income stream to remain financially solvent
- We have a temporary money glitch that we can soon rectify
- We are careless with the money we do have
- We have enough for our basic needs, but not enough for our wants
- We do not have enough money to live as well as those people over there
How we label our issues can conceal an underlying problem. Until we manage the root problem, situations will manifest to draw our attention to it, often on a grander scale than before. Like a disease, if you treat the symptoms rather than managing the disease, the disease grows progressively worse. We must identify the real problem causing the symptoms.
What emotions does the situation trigger? Anger is born from fear, frustration, or hurt. Worry comes from lack of faith in yourself to manage a situation effectively. Resentment comes from disappointment from placing expectations on others that they did not fulfill. Be clear on what you feel and why you feel it.
Feel what you feel. Honor it. Claim it. “I am PISSED OFF!” “I am HURT!” “I am HUMILIATED.” You do not have to rage and take on casualties, but admit to yourself what you feel and let it wash over you. “I” describes. “You” accuses. Keep the power with you instead of someone else.
When I counsel people, I hear things like, “This is the worst thing!” or “I cannot recover from this!” Those categorizations are usually exaggerated. Catastrophic language amplifies the feelings around a situation. Phrases such as “This is so challenging” or “She is very difficult to love sometimes” reframe a situation in such a way that while still true, the situation feels more manageable. Avoid absolutes like “always” and “never,” superlatives like “worst,” or catastrophic words like “disaster.”
Journal. Talk to friends. Get advice from people you trust. Meditate. These behaviors will help you to find any underlying problems.
Establish what you can and cannot change. Blame and accountability are very different beasts. Blaming others for the problems is destructive. Accountability and wise discretion about what you can change can be productive. Know what is your problem to manage and what is not. Distance yourself from what is not.
You are responsible for your own feelings, emotions and reactions. No one “makes” you feel or act a certain way. They may trigger emotions in you, but you are accountable for how you behave and react. You are not responsible for how others behave. NEVER take on someone else’s drama if you can avoid it. You can be sympathetic without collapsing into their situation.
Objectify the bad shit
Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We become so embroiled with the emotions of what we feel that we get lost in their madness and cannot see clearly. We must step outside of the problem, whatever it is, and view it objectively to gain perspective.
Write it out. List pros and cons, possible solutions, etc.
What advice would you offer a friend who came to you with the same dilemma?
When we ask ourselves, “What is the answer?” our brain becomes like a deer trapped in headlights and we feel put on the spot. Instead, we can ask, “If I did know the answer, what would it be?” This can be especially productive when meditating.
Visualize a wise counselor, deity figure or a spirit animal, and ask them what you need to know about the situation. Imagine that you are holding a scroll with the answer on it. Open the scroll and see what is there. You can also ask these questions right before sleeping to receive answers in dream time.
Banish the bad shit
Our goal is to resolve a problem or release our attachment to the outcome of it. If there is anything we can do to resolve the issue, we must be accountable and do so. If we have done all we can do, we must disengage and let the situation progress rather than worrying it to death.
There is good psychological wisdom in disengaging from a problem once you have done all you can do. Banishing is not only about resolving the issue. It is about removing the hooks the bad shit dug into you and freeing yourself from emotional attachment to the problem.
Clients tell me, “But I can’t! That’s too harrrrrd.” It is hard, but it is necessary and you can do it. Sometimes, you have to take a break from all that feeling and work and step outside of the situation for a while. Imagine that the crisis needs a break from you just as much as you need a break from it. Trust me that there will be one of two outcomes: It will either be there when you get back or it will work itself out in your absence.
The only attachment one cannot willfully banish is grief. Grief over death or relationship loss takes as long as it takes. Each person grieves differently and no one has the right to tell another person how they should respond to grief.
We are all confronted with conflicts and problems that seem unsolvable. We are down on the Wheel of Life, then we are up, then we are under it. When it is your turn to face a formidable challenge, try the IOB strategy.