We all have unresolved issues we KNOW we should deal with: procrastination, anger management, personal or professional growth challenges, family matters.

Be wary of falling into the trap of deploying one or more of these three common but dysfunctional strategies/coping mechanisms:

1) Attacking: We think if we get mad at ourselves or if we whip and punish ourselves (can you hear that inner critic warming up?), we can beat our “bad” side into submission to our good side. We can also attack others: humans tend to get most annoyed at others for exhibiting the traits we most dislike or fear in ourselves.

2) Ignoring: Denial is a favorite; we disassociate, go numb, sweep it under the rug until it forms a mound we trip over constantly. Some manage to raise avoidance to an art form: Elephant? What elephant? If only they put same energy into finding a solution! Never run from your problems, it simply increases the distance to a solution!

3) Indulging: It’s who I am; I can’t/don’t want to change, I deserve a break, what harm can it really do? It’s too late anyway.

Attacking rarely works; if anything it causes the other side (even if it is just your dark side) to dig in even deeper. It is best to focus on removing restraining forces rather than increasing driving forces i.e. focus on why you wish to change this habit or deal with this issue, visualize in glowing, vivid, intricate detail the good that will come of it. The vision of the mountain top will strengthen and motivate you as you walk the valley. Create a strong enough “burning why” and you will find the power you need. For me, it is to create a masterpiece of a life for I deeply believe to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Ignoring v. Releasing: While some things can and should be released and become “water under the bridge”, feelings buried alive never die. It takes wisdom to know the difference and an intentional cultivation of balance; some things must be processed multiple times, each cycle at a higher level of successful release. Ultimately, as M. Scott Peck said in Road Less Traveled “Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of spirit.”

Indulging v. Acceptance: You don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly okay. Even saints must sleep and priests must play. However, while we all need to nourish, even on occasion pamper ourselves, in excess it becomes a self-sabotaging form of escapism. The key is to be honest with yourself, actively cultivating self-awareness, balance, wisdom, and courage: “The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we’re afraid.” (Richard Bach, ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, b.1936)

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier