The first stage of grief is often defined as denial, the “I can’t believe that he/she is gone” or “I can’t believe that this happened” stage. That is also the first stage (maybe the precursor is a better description) of dealing with problems in life. Recently this quote appeared in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –
“When you confront a problem, you begin to solve it.” (Rudy Giuliani)
Zig Zigler put it slightly differently – “ The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.”
I’ve posted here a few times about problem solving (see Problem Solving 101) and there are lots of great posts and article on line about how to resolve a problem, once you have identified it. There are fewer things devoted to recognizing the problem in the first place.
Confronting the problem means acknowledging that it exists. For many it is that first step that is missing. They can’t see the problem, especially if it is them – how they are acting in or living their life. Spousal abusers seldom see what they are doing as controlling or manipulative, much less as abusive. Addicts become too focused upon the next high to deal with their addiction. Sometimes it is hubris, as much as anything else that clouds the judgement of the problem; the arrogant and self-important people of the world see things that are considered wrong by others as rights or entitlements. For these people, who can’t see that they have a problem or that they are the problem, interventions by family or friends is often the only way to get them to confront the problem.
If denial is the first stage precursor to dealing with a problem, many times it is quickly replaced by excuses. The immediate response to any threat is fight or flight and excuses provide a little of both by providing a way to deflect blame for the problem by claiming that it someone else’s fault or caused by someone else. The wife beater may blame the actions of his wife to justify the beating with the comment that “she deserved it”. It is also easy to shift the blame for ones actions on some nebulous entity, such as society or everybody.
Do you remember what your mom told when you used the excuse that “everybody is doing it” to justify something stupid that you did as a youth? That advice still applies to your adult life. You can’t ignore or deny a problem that you might have by citing that excuse. Maybe the “everybody” that you know and to whom you are referring to is a big part of your problem. Recent Chevrolet commercials have used the tag line “Find new roads”; maybe you need to “Find new friends”.
Perhaps the third stage as a precursor to solving problems in your life is the feeling of isolation or loneliness that overcome you. It is a very lonely feeling when you have that “aha” moment and realize that you have a problem and that problem is within you. All of a sudden, everyone else seems to drop away and you are standing there by yourself with your problem. Or are you? That is the time when your faith can provide you with the support and strength to carry on. You are not alone. You are never alone. God is always there with you and ready to help. You just need to ask.
If you can get to that stage, where you ask God for help with your problem, you have broken through the stages of denial and blame and started to deal with the problem. That is huge! It is likely that the problem is not resolved just because you have taken that first step, but you are on your way in a new direction (the right direction). You have taken ownership and sought help. It may be that you need the help of others – therapists or councilors – but you already have God at your side, so that part is easier.
When you reach this stage, you should feel good about yourself, maybe for the first time in a long time. You may still find the next few steps in the problem solving process to be difficult, but they are rewarding as well. The problem is no longer in control of you. Now you are in control of the process to resolve it. Congratulations.
Start your day by asking for God’s help with whatever problems you have (or have been denying). Your day will go much better.