How to Really Fix Your Problems

Despite your best efforts, are these your recurring thoughts and feelings?

“I am so sick of feeling this way.”
“I can’t believe I’m still dealing with this problem.”
“I thought we talked about this, why is this still happening?”

Irritated. Anxious. Annoyed. Upset. Angry. Paranoid. Threatened.

If so, it might be because your best attempts at “fixing a problem” only offer short-term solutions.

short term solution long term solution power choose

Whether about situations, people, or your relationships – these feelings and experiences are thee absolute worst!

AND, because you’re human, you are interested in getting rid of them ASAP.

You want to feel better.
You want to feel good.
You do not want to feel like this.

And you definitely do not want to feel like this, A-GAIN if you’ve felt it before.

You don’t want to find yourself in the same old conversation with your friend, sibling, significant other, parent, and so on.

Who can blame you?

You really want to fix your problems.

Perpetual problems suck.

They’re the most resistant to change. The best attempts at fixing them usually only buy you a short amount of time before it reveals itself, A-GAIN.

It might not be the very same situation.
Might not be with the same person.
Or it might.
It might be that exact conversation, A-GAIN.

These types of problems are super difficult to change.

They’re like the antibiotic-resistant superbug of relationships.
stuck in a problem

Your short-term solutions might be the problem.

Short-term solutions. You know. The things you do or say that alleviate the suffering immediately.
Maybe even for a few days.
Months, if you’re lucky.

And inevitably, it comes back.
In one way or another, it’s back.
And the short-term fix saw it’s day.

But let me be clear about something important…

Short-term fixes aren’t bad.

As a therapist, I actually encourage them.
They helps us learn more about the problem.
They offer answers to:

  • Why didn’t the short-term fix work?
  • How long did it last for?
  • When did it begin to become problematic again?
  • How did I recognize it again?
  • Who recognized it first?
  • How are they, and how am I, communicating about it?

As a therapist, I explore the ins and outs of the short-term fixes you’ve used in order to better understand THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM. It really, really helps!

But then, “The Crossroads.”

Now that you’ve got some answers, you have a whole new set of questions to ask yourself.
Questions that sound like:

  • Am I willing to begin to understand this problem in a new way?
  • Am I ready to acknowledge the fact that this problem is the same as the one before?
  • Am I ready to let go of the story I have been telling myself about this problem?
  • Am I ready to understand it from a new perspective?
  • Am I ready to recognize that I might not be able to blame the person or situation that I have been blaming for so long?
  • Am I ready to take accountability?
  • Am I ready to potentially risk losing control of a situation that I realize I actually have no control over at all?
  • Am I ready to face the fact that I might have to undergo a serious change? Or that someone I am connected might also have to?
  • Am I okay with the notion that this relationship might change in a big way?
  • Am I okay if I discover that I was allowing something else to be the problem because I really didn’t want to face this?

If you are feeling like the answer to many of these questions is “no” – then you’re not ready.

And you know what, you shouldn’t push it.
Because you’ll be left feeling very disappointed.

It’s okay not to change.

It is okay to stay the same. You just have to realign your expectations.

Expecting change if you are unwilling to do anything differently or look at yourself any differently will leave you feeling very disappointed.

If you’re answering “no” to the questions, stay the same. Seriously. Just adjust your expectations. And be aware that the suffering will likely continue.

It might be exactly the same. Or it might come up in a new way. But it will be back. And at the very least, you’re becoming a pro at Wackamole!

But really, it’s okay.  Just get used to the saying, “it is what it is.”

Now might not be the time for you to really fix your problems.

it is what it is and quotes

HOWEVER, if you find you’re saying “yes” to the second set of questions – CONGRATULATIONS!

That is one big-ass deal!

Not everyone is in a place to say yes to this sort of thing.

And that’s amazing because GUESS WHAT…

Long-term fixes are possible!

BUT they are really, super, unbelievably hard to do by yourself.

Yes, friends can be helpful.  So can family.

But, well-trained and experienced therapists are better.

Here’s 5 Reasons Why Support from Friends and Family Can Be A Problem

ONE: They love and care for you on deep emotional levels.

You might be thinking, “huh? – how can it be a problem if someone loves or cares for me on a deep emotional level?”

It makes it more challenging for them to be objective.

Objectivity is so necessary. So crucial to this process. It’s not easy for them to separate out their feelings.

They love you. They want you to feel well.

But that can sound whole lot like a bunch of linear suggestions.
Short-term linear solutions that you’ve probably already come up with on your own.

Often times they ask, “why do you feel that way?”
This only makes you feel worse about yourself. If someone doesn’t understand why you feel the way you do, it can contribute to feelings of shame, anxiety, embarrassment. And then, you’re back to many of the feelings you started with in the first place.

Other times they’ll say, “you shouldn’t feel that way.”
Now you’re left thinking you’re feeling a way you think you shouldn’t.
Then the thought becomes “something is wrong with me AND now people I love know about it.

Then there’s, “don’t feel that way.”
… “oh, okay, I’ll just stop.” Ha. Presto chango!

TWO: They aren’t trained to understand their bias.

Your friends and family have schema. A technical term used to describe a way they see things. A way they see themselves. A way they see others. You. The world. Relationships. And they make sense out of your problem by using the schemas that they’ve been born into and nurtured throughout their own lives.

They aren’t trained to recognize how their experiences and feelings create their schema. They don’t know how their schema are impacting their advice when they’re trying to help you to feel better.

Therapists are. Deeply so.

Especially if they’ve gone through a Psychodynamic training program. (More on training orientations some other time, though!)

THREE: They only get the parts of you that you reveal to them.

You are more varied and layered than any one person can understand.

Hell, you are more varied and layered than YOU understand.

You can’t know all the ins and outs of yourself. And even the ones you do know, do you really share them all with one person?

People who love us know us in parts. Maybe many parts. But usually not all.

So if their advice or support is based off of parts, it’s not so easy. And quite frankly, likely much less accurate. Because they don’t have the whole of it. Especially if you’re withholding certain details that would alter the way they support you.

FOUR: People get worn out and relationships weaken.

If you’re really talking about a long-term, perpetual problem, you’re talking about something that comes up over and over and over again. This poses two new problems.

I don’t care how saintly or kind the person is, they’re going to get sick of hearing about it.
They may not say that to your face (or they might!).
But they’re going to get sick of it.

Before you know it, they’ll be right there just as bewildered as you are.
Out of options.
Then they start feeling like a failure.
Which makes you feel like a failure.
And now you have new set of problems in addition to the problem you started with.

fighting and yelling and communication

It’s going to wear at your relationship with the person.

I see this most often in couples.
Lots of expectations for Partner A to help Partner B.
To mirror them. Enlighten them. Teach them. Evolve them.

While this is a fabulous part of a healthy, intimate relationship – it gets over-utilized.

It can become a pattern of relating.
It can evolve into the ONLY way of relating.
Right under your nose. And you didn’t even see it happening.

Next thing you know, the power balance is off.

All sorts of other manifestations take place in attempt to balance the power.

New problems emerge. Distraction a’plenty.

And none of it is sexy.
Or any of those amazing things that we ideally want love to be all about.

FIVE: Your go-to person might be part of the original problem.

This is a real tricky one. Because the root of what’s going on for you in the situation will most likely require the other person to also be willing to change. Require the other person to say “yes” to that long list of questions you just read about readiness for change.

And if they aren’t ready, guess what?
It ain’t happening.
Which is why a lot of people stay the same.
Which is why the short-term solutions continue to feel like THE ONLY solutions.

So what’s my point here?

I hope I’ve made this point: the support of friends and family to engage in long-term, permanent solutions to your problems is very limited.

I hope I’ve made the point that therapists, well-trained and deeply experienced, are an amazing option.

Let’s review the pros and cons of the short-term versus long-term solutions.

Short-term Solution

  • feel some level of better immediately
  • very little has to change
  • delude yourself into thinking that the problem is no longer a problem
  • deal with the problem again in the near future
  • feel terrible that you’re dealing with it again
  • rinse and repeat

Long-term Solution

  • potentially feel worse immediately
  • potentially feel even more worse as you do the work
  • maybe even start to question the meaning of life
  • gain incredible awareness
  • turn that awareness into insight
  • turn all this deliciousness into action
  • seriously reduce the likelihood of it being a problem again in the future
  • feel amazing about yourself, all the work you put in, and your new, bright-ass future

It’s sort of like the difference between buying cheap versus quality materials to fix something in your house.

If you buy the cheapest product and go with the cheapest labor, what happens?
Well, you don’t have the problem right now. But, the problem is only put off for a little while. It’ll be back.

And then you’ll have to deal with it again.

Potentially paying the same amount again.

And now, with both bills, you’ve spent the same OR MORE than you would have spent if you did it right the first time.

But if you’re about to sell the house, or don’t really love it, then the short-term solution makes sense!
You pass the problem onto the next person.

But either way, it doesn’t get dealt with.
Someone, someway has to deal with it later.

If you’re NOT about to sell the house, it’s a different story.

You love the house.
You’re staying.
You want the house to last.

Well, now you might dig a little deeper into your pocket to invest in the quality material.

Hire the proper labor.

And actually fix the problem in a permanent way.

You see, neither way is inherently wrong.

It’s all about what you feel like dealing with.

It’s about the level of commitment you have to the house (read: yourself, another person, a relationship).

Just know: There’s a major difference between the way you attempt to solve your really difficult problems and the way you could.

Know that the way you COULD might be outside of your ability to achieve alone.

To be objective.
To honor and respect you.
To care about you, your past, your present, and your future.
To sit with you in the repeated “yuck” that you are struggling to get away from.


Til next time…
-Dr. D.
let go street art

Dr. Dena Dinardo

Dr. Dena DiNardo is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Pennsylvania.  She serves as adjunct faculty to the Counseling and Family Therapy Program at La Salle University. Her private practice is located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia where she serves individuals, couples, families, and small businesses.

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