We may think that problems just automatically show up in our lives, but they don’t.
Oh, I am not saying that problems don’t blind side us and appear unexpectedly. Of course they do. And I’m not saying that we consciously invite difficult situations into our lives. But we are wise to remember that, on some level, we draw into our lives the problems that we encounter. We are creators of our own personal issues. How does this happen? How do we draw problems to ourselves? Here is an explanation for you to consider.
First of all we form a belief system about ourselves, and our relationship with the world around us, then we adapt to it. Next, we try to behave within the boundaries of those beliefs about our self and how we fit into the world. In conforming to this belief system, we draw on many judgments of both our self and others. Using these judgments we, in turn, make choices. Problems are then drawn to us by virtue of the way we perceive, judge and choose.
When we perceive behavior, or the outcome of some activity that does not conform to our way of believing we judge it as objectionable. It’s a problem. On the other hand when actions and behavior conform to the belief about who we are and how be fit in the world then a positive judgment is made.
Lets say that a landlord wants his rent by the fifth day of the month. The renter is already two month behind, and tells the landlord that the rent will be paid in its entirety, but another month’s time is needed before he can put the money together. The renter, Tom, acknowledges the problem, and immediately blames the landlord for the lack of empathy, and the unwillingness to be patient.
Tom feels guilty about his problem because he was raised to believe that bills must be paid on time, and people should live within their financial means. As a matter of fact Tom has criticized a couple of his friends who he claims are in debt because they spend more than they earn. One friend has obligated himself to huge car payments, while the other is deluged with credit card debt.
How was Tom’s problem created? Tom brought this problem to himself. He created it. Tom has predisposed himself to financial problems and more specifically the issues presently developing with the landlord. He has surrounded himself with men and women who perpetuate high-spending lifestyles. He and coworkers are struggling for recognition. Most desire a promotion; an admirable professional title; and a higher salary. He works in an office inundated with shakers and movers. All of who are hell-bent on demonstrating that they are “money.” To a large measure these co-workers are flagrant spenders.
Tom not only finds the behavior of debt-ridden friends; competitive co-workers; and insensitive landlord to be unacceptable, but somewhere deep down within his self he realizes that he is the source of his own problems. He realizes that he is incessantly in pursuit of acceptability. This knowledge intensifies his frustration, because it increases the level of guilt that he carries.
Tom is in a pickle. On one hand he believes in the values that were espoused by his parents, but on the other hand he rationalizes his thoughts and behavior with the idea that his parents lived in a different time. Life was easier for them. Simple values were more applicable when his parents were younger; things were more black and white. They enjoyed more freedom, and experienced less stress; and were not judged as harshly by friends and peers. His justifications are tethered to the idea that his parents did not have to live in a world that was as demanding as the world is now. They were not burdened with the idea that they must continually prove their acceptability. Tom has convinced himself that he has no choice other than to live what his parents call a “charade.” If he wants to be successful, he must demonstrate that he possesses the spoils of success. Hence, he obligated himself to the foreboding situation with his landlord. Toms says that this so-called “charade” is in fact his reality.
This whole attitude in which Tom spends his day is congruent with causing and perpetuating his problems.
Like Tom, most of us learn from our earliest years on, to determine good from bad; and right from wrong. More profoundly however, we learn to differentiate the acceptable from unacceptable. Then, we organize our thoughts and activities so we are perceived as acceptable. Often otherwise good and righteous behavior must be trumped by actions that elevate one’s perceived acceptability. Tom’s self-promoting actions are created out of the desire to be judged by others as acceptable. More specifically he wants to be perceived as a savant amongst his peer group and career competitors. Any input that challenges these aspirations is viewed as a problem. Vigilantly, his self-image is guarded.
After continually making judgments based on pre-determined beliefs about our acceptability and how we fit into the world, we then habitually repeat, with slight variation, an automatic way of behaving.
Tom feels guilty because he is behaving in a way that inconsistent with values passed on by his parents, however the contradictory behavior is predictable because his desire for acceptability overrides the inclination to conform with learned values and beliefs.
Tom continually contradicts his beliefs. And, he denies that he does so. He rationalizes his contradictory actions by convincing himself that if you want to have money, you’ve got to look “money,” and he says he is just walking his talk. His self-talk provides the needed justification for living above his means. It promotes the identity that he is so ardently trying to project. Defining who he is, in a large part by his home address, gives Tom a needed edge in sustaining the perception of one who is earning a high income. It gives him prestige and makes him feel like he belongs to more acceptable group.
Our identity is defined by boundaries that mark the limits of our reality, and retard our ability to enter another reality. So our perceptions and judgments are confined within those boundaries. Thusly we may live an entire life with only a glimpse of the Divine peace and freedom that lies beyond the limits of our self-promoting thoughts. So we continually roam the same reality, with the same thoughts, in search of a way to justify who we are and how we fit in the world.
A dog confined to the boundaries of the back yard will eventually revisit and reinvestigate every inch of that space. Like the pet dog, we roam a territory confined within the limits of our own reality. Because we remain within the established boundaries of our reality, we do little more than revisit the thoughts that we have previously entertained. We rehash the same thoughts and project the same point-of-view. And, this is why we repeat old patterns over again. We become very predictable in the choices we will make. Thusly we draw into our lives problems that fester because this mental confinement.
It is difficult for us to get beyond our own self-confining perceptions and judgments. Like the dog that eventually finds himself over again in one particular spot or another, similarly we find ourselves re-roaming the same mental and emotional turf. We process our thoughts through an established conduit of preprogrammed parameters, an end up presenting the mind with the repeated expectation to process the same issues, concepts and thoughts. We judge present situations just like we did prior situations. So, our choices seem to be determined automatically. This repeated pattern of choices causes the same problem to surface over and over. It may manifest itself in a new way, or with a different person. But all the same, each problem grows from the same source root.
We may look for a way out of particular problems by jumping from person to person, relationship to relationship, friend to friend, and job to job. We may look for a way out through spending money. It’s not uncommon however to discover that the next romance, person, job, activity or purchase is not the way out. Why? More next time.