Hope you’re not getting tired of this methodical discussion of when we turn problems into crises. I’m very determined to help communicate both how often we do this and in all the different ways we can do this…

Let’s see – we’ve discussed tires, earthquakes, lentils – what are the other possibilities?

We Have a Wide Variety of Choices…

Here are a series of questions to prompt your own thinking of where you might turn a problem into a crisis. It is key here to remember that NONE of these are crises in the Flight or Fight sense – none of them can eat your face off or destroy you immediately. These are problems, and will usually only get solved if they are treated AS problems:

Partners/Spouses/Significant Others: What if I make them upset? What if I disappoint them? What if they don’t like what I’m doing? What if they disapprove of what I’m doing, or even thinking of doing? What if I wind up alone/lose my partner?

On the other side of this coin – what if I never find anyone? What if I’m alone for the rest of my life? What if I can never have a family? What if I’m not pretty/handsome/thin/tall/etc. enough for someone else to find me attractive?

Work: What if I lose my job? What if I piss off my boss? What if a co-worker doesn’t like me? What if a client/vendor/customer gets mad at me? What if I make a mistake? What if I make a BIG mistake?

What if I can’t find another job/what if this is the only job anyone will EVER hire me for? What if I’m too old to get another job? What if I’m too young/too inexperienced to get another job? What if I’ll never have interesting work?

Money: What if I run out of money? (See work above.) What if I can’t support myself? What if I wind up on the streets/homeless/trapped? (See Partners/etc. above.) What if I have to live on welfare/the support of family and friends?

What if I can never buy a house/nicer car/go on vacation someplace exotic? What if I can’t afford to buy classy clothes? What if I’m JUST NOT COOL if I don’t have the money to buy/have/own this or that?

Success: What if I never reach my career goals? What if I’m stuck in a job I hate? (See work above.) What if my friends see me as a failure? What if I see myself as a failure? What if I never get that degree in school? What if I fail the expectations of my parents/significant other/co-workers/total strangers?

We Need to Re-think Our Thinking

Re-program is another great term for this discussion. The basic premise of this model of fear and anxiety is that the problem lies in our THINKING. This runs counter to how it FEELS, but that’s the origin of our embedded fears and worries, and that is where the effective work to unplug fear gets done.

This work means TAKING ON YOUR FEARS. In case you hadn’t noticed this can be a serious piece of work! We spend years, even decades, telling ourselves (and programming our Comfort Zones) that this or that problem-converted-to-crisis is just TOO scary or hard to face.

It is to be expected that when we make the decision, even flirt with that decision, that our Comfort Zones will flare up and make it clear that this isn’t anything you want to do, EVER. That’s alright. It’s just doing its job of trying to keep us safe…

In my last post I talked about the practice of seeing thinking as the root of anxiety and fear – something most of us either never learned, or have a hard time believing even when we hear it. It is crucial that we get that piece in place – everything else that needs to get done depends on this understanding.

Bring Us to DEFCON 5!

One more thing before I leave these examples behind. Flight or Fight runs deep in us – all it takes is for us to think a fearful thought (i.e., something we’ve told ourselves is scary or frightening) and we’ll activate that response system to some degree.

When you start examining your problems-converted-to-crises you’re bound to make your Comfort Zone scratchy – and activate Flight or Fight. Expect it. Prepare for it. Use the tools for relaxing and powering down I’ve described in this blog. Expect pushback from your Comfort Zone. Expect to be anywhere from uncomfortable to really anxious.

And allow this process to take a little time. You didn’t embed these fears overnight, and (as I seem to repeat here on a regular basis) it WILL take time to sort out and unpack.

One last thing to remember: because you’ll be bumping up against your Comfort Zone you’ll suddenly find all kinds of reasons to delay or stall or avoid this work. The room will need dusting, the laundry really wants your attention, you could just watch a little TV and do this later… etc. You know the drill.

By all means, take care of yourself. Just remember that taking care of yourself, ultimately, in this context, means unpacking the problems you’ve converted to crises – and converting them back to problems.

Next Up

I’m pressing on in the next several blog posts to the next skill needed to deal with anxiety effectively – learning to “discount” the physical and emotional responses of Flight or Fight that can scare us and shut us down. This for many of us is at least as scary as the problems-made-crises in our thinking.

Here’s the great news: this isn’t nearly as hard as our fears would have us believe. Don’t take my word for that (in fact don’t take my word for ANY of this material – try it out for yourself and find out!) The work itself will demonstrate what works…