Solving Problems by Increasing Options
Most problems can be solved, goals reached, if we have the courage to get out of our cage… self-imposed limitations in our thinking… and explore the abundant universe waiting to assist us.
Recognizing We’re Trapped!
This section will focus on self-evaluation… recognizing self-defeating beliefs and behaviors in your life, exploring models for effective living from a variety of sources, and thinking about positive changes you’d like to make. Understanding our past is paramount to changing our future so we’ll start with how our parents or early caregivers may have programmed or conditioned us to deal with problems.
Depending on which country, culture, religion, and individual family we’re born into, this scenario can be very different. We’ll look at a few examples in a minute, but basically parents and other early caregivers model or teach us three different kinds of approach:
To illustrate the first approach, I’ll use two examples. They’re over simplifications, but you’ll get the idea.
First example: If you were born in India to Hindu parents, you might be taught there are hundreds of gods controlling all aspects of human experience. You’d perform numerous rituals to please these gods so they would give you the things you need and want in life. On top of that you’d be taught reincarnation and karma … in previous lives you did things the gods were not pleased with so you’re being punished now for things you did then… or, you’re reaping what you sowed in previous lifetimes. The way to get out of this painful situation is to accept your hardships in life without complaining and hope you’ll be given a better life the next time around. And your problems would continue, or get worse!
Second example: Let’s say you were raised in a fundamental Christian home. In this scenario you’d be taught there is only one God, but he’s really three parts…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Very early in life you’d learn about heaven and hell…this lifetime is your one and only chance to understand life and live it properly, and what happens after it’s over is too horrible to even think about unless you accept Jesus as your savior and do everything he tells you in the only book fundamental Christians consider to be true, the Bible. You’d go to church several times a week and hear a minister explain all this, and outside of church you would study the Bible diligently and try to do what it says. Since the Bible is full of contradictions, that’s a tall order. Solving your personal problems would not be a high priority. You’d learn to sacrifice your wants and needs for a higher good…going to heaven when you die. And your problems would continue or get worse!
Same song, next verse, as you look at all closed belief systems in operation on the planet today. People in those organizations are limited in their problem-solving strategies to rules and regulations in their particular holy books.
Now let’s look at homes in which parents model the escape approach to problems. Homes in which all forms of addictions are present…alcohol, drugs, gambling, you name it. Anything to help parents escape from their feelings of despair and failure, or give a false sense of hope that they’ll get better. Details of how children suffer in these homes are varied, but in all cases children are confused and emotionally damaged. And the problems get worse and worse!
Unless something cataclysmic happens, parents who teach or model these first two approaches to problems, and the children who copy them, may end up trapped in cages for the rest of their lives, just as surely as Rhonda the raccoon on our Universal Perspective banner. Never free to live as their Creator intended.
That brings us to the third approach to problems…solve them. What does a home look like in which parents solve their problems objectively and teach their children to do the same? Now that’s a good question. Most of us have never seen one because, according to Dr. Charles Whitfield, in Healing the Child Within, there aren’t very many. He suggests that up to ninety-five of us come from dysfunctional homes. Homes in which we were not nurtured properly so we could grow up to be strong, independent problem solvers.
In Reality Therapy, Dr. William Glasser says that children who grow up without learning how to meet their needs or solve their problems in a healthy way, will try unrealistic means to do so. For many of us who started with parents who escaped from their problems through alcohol or other “drugs,” that often means turning to alcohol or drugs ourselves to escape. Or for millions of others, turning to the most fundamental of religious organizations for protection from life’s real or perceived dangers, and for rules and regulations that will hopefully bring sense, order, and predictability to our lives. And in taking this desperate step, we become encased in cages with two layers!!! Giving over the reigns of our lives to others because we don’t believe we can meet our own needs, solve our own problems is a condition called codependency. And our problems really get worse and worse!
If we’re trapped in these cages…self-imposed limitations in our thinking about problem-solving…why don’t we break free and start trying different ideas from other belief systems that might work better for us? One answer is FEAR!!! We’ll introduce a second answer in Breaking Free.
Fear comes from two sources:
- Our own sense of inadequacy in dealing with life’s problems or meeting our needs, and
- Destructive beliefs about sin, suffering, life and death acquired through religion.
Freedom comes from learning to solve our problems, using all the resources of an abundant universe, and challenging and changing these destructive beliefs. In the next section, that’s exactly what we’re going to start working on.
Before we move on, get out a notebook and pen or pencil and write down a few notes about the kind of home you grew up in. Because we’ll be writing down information from several categories as we go along, I recommend that you use a three-ring binder, with several divider pages, and both lined and unlined loose-leaf papers. Here are a few questions to get you started writing. You might label this section of your notebook “My Story” or any other heading that describes reflections on your life, or self-evaluation.
- Were you raised in a rigid religion such as fundamental
- Christianity, Judaism, or Islam?
- Were one or both of your parents alcoholics?
- What was it like to live in your home?
- What were some of the unresolved problems?
- What were some of the good things about it?
Next, let’s look at some illustrations that represent healthy growth and development in human beings from a variety of sources.
In Figure 1 we have a pyramid diagram that represents Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs found in his book, “Motivation and Personality”. Maslow states in his theory that the needs on the lower levels of the hierarchy must be met before we can meet our needs for self-sufficiency, then finally self-actualization, or becoming all that we are meant to be in this life-time.
Study this diagram for a few minutes and reflect further on strengths and weaknesses in the home in which you grew up, and in who you are right now. Continue to write down what you’re thinking in your notebook.
Figure 1. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”
Regardless of how or why we become fearful, dependent personalities, prone to allow others to tell us how to live our lives, the over-all solution to the problem is the same…we must become our own loving parents and give ourselves what they couldn’t give us so we could grow up into strong, healthy, self-reliant individuals. We must learn to recognize and meet our own needs, learn to solve our own problems.
David Tuffley from Australia wrote an excellent article entitled “Characteristics of Self-actualized People”. It’s now incorporated into a YouTube video by the same name or his short e-book, Being Happy.
Figure 2 below represents a key element in healthy self-development…self-reliance, or self-sufficiency as we see it written on the pyramid. This is a picture of a Xhosa woman in South Africa. I’m amazed whenever I look at it. Note that the woman is making bricks of mud, straw and water, seen to her left, then building her own house with these bricks! And she’ll soon make a thatched roof with the tall grass in the field behind her. She likely has a small garden nearby where she grows her vegetables, and a pen with a few goats for milk and meat. We went to South Africa as missionaries to convert these people to fundamental Christianity but they didn’t need our religion, for the Xhosa people were happy, peaceful and productive, despite their many hardships. They laughed and sang and seemed genuinely content with their lives. I believe it was because they were confident they could take care of themselves no matter what. In some of the strategies in the next sections, we’ll work on self-reliance.
Figure 2. Xhosa Woman in South Africa
Our third illustration is a clip from a beautiful song that expresses the powerful belief of the ancient Cherokee Indians about taking responsibility for your own well being. It’s called Seventh Direction and emphasizes that both self-responsibility and self-empowerment are within you. This is Tim Ryan’s rendition.
Wood Newton wrote this song and you can also obtain a copy of it on his album, “Just For the Love of it”. Both albums containing this song are available at most major music outlets.
This last example illustrates tremendous courage and self- determination, two more key elements in healthy human beings. People like the man in this video clip encourage us to keep trying, no matter what our obstacles.
No Arms, No Legs, No Worries
When you’re through writing down your thoughts on this section, we’ll move on to Breaking Free where you’ll find loads of good materials that will help you make your life all you want it to be.