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    Problem Solving 201

    If you desire, please read my last post, “Problem Solving 101”, before exposing yourself to the following self revealing madness.

             For most of my life, when I ran into difficulties, especially emotional ones, I resisted seeking help. I kept my pain inside. Because from what I could tell, people just made my difficulties worse. If I wasn’t shamed for having the problem in the first place, then my overriding experience was that people were unsympathetic. This was based largely on my childhood experience of going to adults for help, and rarely having it turn out much better. When it came to helping me ease my pain, adults didn’t appear to know what the fuck they were doing.
            This is no way of an indictment of my parents. Whatever I learned or internalized or interpreted (or misinterpreted) from them isn’t their problem anymore. It’s mine. Whatever character flaws they passed onto me, or whatever bad lessons they inadvertently taught me, it’s my responsibility to decide who I want to be now, and it’s up to me to become that person. Understanding my past is only useful if it’s part of a comprehensive plan to move forward. Think of trying to get to an unfamiliar, but desired, destination in your car. Knowing where you’ve been helps you figure out where you’re at (and maybe why) so that you can find a way to get to where you want to be.
            But my experience is a great example of how consistent negative and traumatic events in childhood can deeply impact a person’s perspective as they mature. Even if the circumstances improve, if a kid is unaware, as most kid’s are, of how their world view is shaped by their limited experience, then they internalize this perspective and become completely invested in it without even knowing it. Then we carry that into adulthood, and if we remain unconscious, we never even realize that our current lives are still being shaped by our past. We can change that only if we become conscious and choose a path of enlightenment over automatic response and conditioning. It takes time, it takes work, it takes help. But the payoff is a more conscious life. A more enlightened self. And vastly greater potential for happiness, fulfillment, joy, and intimacy.
            This unconscious and all pervasive belief that problems did not, could not, be solved led me to feel trapped. I was in a giant cage called life, and in that cage, life was something that happened to me. I wasn’t something that happened to life. I felt like a victim all too often, like I had no control over anything, least of all me.
            As a child, this was more or less true. Children don’t have a lot of control over their environment or their circumstances. And their control over themselves is certainly still developing. But I, like most kids with this experience, carried this into my adolescence and into my adulthood without even realizing it. And that’s when the fun really started.
            I hid this belief very well. It operated on a very deep level, and I didn’t feel it all the time. But it was always there. Sometimes this rather pessimistic outlook permeated my entire existence, and it would manifest itself as severe depression. Sometimes it was just below the surface, and it felt like low grade depression and moderate anxiety. And sometimes, it just sat inside of me and stank, coloring every experience, even the joyous ones, with little dabs of dull achy grey.
            With this perspective, it was impossible for me to receive help because I didn’t believe help was possible. But I knew I could help people, because I did. And I enjoyed it. But when it came to me, I was “different”. My problems were too complicated, or not “normal”, or I believed that I was just simply so fucked up that my problems were equally as fucked up, and therefore unsolvable. I didn’t see a way out. Of anything.
            My only out was to keep running emotionally so that I couldn’t catch myself. Like chasing one’s tail, pretty soon it doesn’t matter if you ever catch it or not. You become so invested in chasing your own tail that you forget what you’re doing and keep doing it because it’s all you know. Your life doesn’t become chasing your tail so much as chasing your tail becomes your life. The action of chasing it is what you live for, unconsciously of course, like an addict who’s addicted but doesn’t know it.
            What helped me start to shift this, years ago, was when I started going to therapy. At least now I was talking about what the hell was going on inside of me. At about the same time, or a little before, I started reading self help books, and whatever I could on psychology, spirituality, and the like. I had been introspective for many years, but now I was taking the next critical steps in the education of self. I was trying to find some answers instead of just asking questions.
            Personal growth workshops, seminars, and group therapy were next. Eventually, I made it to al-anon, which was a huge wake up call. Here were people sharing very difficult stories and internal struggles with others. They were not only sharing, but getting help. Getting relief. Connecting to others in marvelous ways. I wanted more of that. So I kept going.
            What all of this did for me was show me that there was help out there. That difficulties can be shared. And that people can help. It changed my long standing and stubborn belief that problems don’t get solved.
            I re-wrote my own book. I didn’t have to keep everything inside. I could open up and become more part of the emotional human race. I wasn’t in this life all alone if I didn’t want to be. That gave me hope. And strength. And more than I could possibly say.
            I’ve gone from despair to hope. From loneliness to connection. From can’t to can. I’ve been there. On both sides of the proverbial fence. I’ve been on the fence itself. And I’ve been a hundred miles from that fence as well. Let me tell you. It’s better over here.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and an open book of Wrongs) Reserved.

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