If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that my problem is rarely my problem.
It’s always a symptom, not a source. What matters more is the thing behind the thing.
And so, when a substantial challenge surfaces, before I pull out the whip to start chastising myself, first I challenge myself to think about what else might be bothering me. Because there’s always something.
I struggled with stomach problems for years. Symptoms included bloating, burning and chronic abdominal pain, to name a few. Of course, the story I was making up was that diet was the problem.
And so, I immediately vowed to swear off carbs and soda and spicy foods and dairy and meat. Which helped me feel a little better, and even lose a few founds, but ultimately, my gastrointestinal issues persisted. For years. My doctors and therapists and mentors were baffled.
Until one day, I had an epiphany.
Wait a minute, I’m not lactose intolerant, I’m just a workaholic who’s trapped in a toxic codependent relationship with a manipulator. I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that I haven’t had a solid bowel movement in three years.
Who knew? Not surprisingly, my problem was not my problem. It was the thing behind the thing. And the moment I confronted and took extreme ownership of that deeper issue, my stomach issues magically melted away.
Like the very nacho cheese that I mistaken thought I was allergic to. God I love cheese.
The point is, it’s scary to face what else might be bothering us. But unless we dig beneath the surface of our problems and find the root cause, we may never heal fully.
Whatever symptoms you have, grant yourself the grace and space to feel them, but also give yourself the curiosity and wonderment to sneak behind the curtain and confront the source.
Whyte said it best in his amazing book about corporate poetry:
It is not the thing you fear that you must deal with, it is the mother of the thing you fear. At three in the morning, when we are alone, our defenses are down and we cannot sleep, the huge green hand rises from below and drags us into something hitherto ignored, deeper and more urgent.
Remember, don’t assume there isn’t a vein of pain until you’ve rooted around a little bit. After all, your problem is not your problem.
Uncover that which is outside of your immediate awareness and set yourself free.
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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