We all have the times in our lives when we feel like absolutely nothing is going our way. The daily stresses we face can make us feel completely inundated with bad luck. Perhaps we have too many problems to face, and do not even see a way out of our difficulties. How can one even begin to start solving so many problems?
This question plagued me and I decided to do an activity with my class the other night. I asked my human service college students to create a “fictional client” with a large assortment of problems. I was dumbfounded when one of the teams came up with the following “client:”
Our “fictional client” can be described as a 36-year-old, undocumented male; married with three children; worked in the plumbing field but contracted a horrible Staph infection from injury and exposure on the job, and no longer able to work; can no longer afford to pay for diapers for youngest child; electricity has been shut off; late on rent check; wife unemployed; no transportation to get to medical appointments.
The next step of the classroom activity that I assigned was to start solving ALL of the problems. I directed the students to some resources and asked them to work on finding a solution to every problem listed. My students did an amazing job and solved all of the problems (besides the infection itself, which they left to the medical professionals). It took them no more than ten minutes to figure out possible solutions.
If this activity was so easy, why do we sometimes find ourselves feeling paralyzed when faced with problems of our own? The one main difference is that with this classroom activity, everyone was removed from the problems. Because our clients were “made up” nobody felt a personal connection to these issues. It can be much easier to solve problems that are not considered personal to our own life. We might find it easy to give advice to our friends, but we may not find it as easy to give advice to ourselves.
Albert Ellis said, “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.” Maybe we have spent more time blaming our problems on factors that we cannot control, and meanwhile, did not even work on fixing them. If we feel stuck in our present circumstances, we may not believe that there is a way out of them.
This leads me to question, could solving our own problems be as simple as listing them out and thinking about a concrete solution to each problem? Could it lie in taking more responsibility for our circumstances? I don’t know about you, but next time I face difficulties I may just try this activity on my REAL life.