Verbal Hygiene

"What’s your problem?" - "Do you have a problem?" - "I don’t have a problem."

"Can you help me?"..."No problem."

"He is a real problem."

How many more colloquial phrases can we come up with that include a "problem" of some kind? How many times do we either use one of the expressions ourselves during a day or hear somebody else saying them? It seems as if our lives are filled up with them, these "problems". We all would rather see them solved, forget about them, push them under the carpet or even better: they should not exist at all in the first place.

For quite a while I have been wondering about a different approach, namely one of changing our perspective. Challenging perhaps, yet possibly worthwhile. We have been told many times that we cannot change somebody else. People keep reminding us that change needs to start with ourselves, that in fact the only person who I can cause to change is ME.

We could take a similar step as regards "problems".We could decide to look at them from a different angle. We could regard them as messages that are there to tell us something. Ignoring or not wanting them would be like shooting the messenger without realizing what s/he has to say and offer.

I firmly believe that there is a reason for everything that happens in this world. Dealing with our so-called "problems" differently would mean that we look for the teachings which each "problematic" situation includes for us. This might be a bit uncomfortable at first since we can’t push the responsibility away from us anymore. Accepting that each "problem" is a stepping stone for emotional and spiritual growth means that we can’t blame someone else any longer. People around us are not "the problem" anymore. We accept and take ownership of whatever the "problem" is. We acknowledge that it merely exists to further our own development into a more evolved human being. By doing that, the "problem" might lose its negativity and threat. What we perceived as huge, insurmountable boulders in our path then just might dissolve into ‘gravel on the road’.

A first step to acknowledge our new perspective could be to eliminate the words "problem" and "problematic" from our vocabulary. We could substitute them with more empowering terms that have less negative connotations. Don’t we feel much less burdened if we are facing a "challenge" instead of a "problem"?

Some verbal hygiene could also benefit us as regards the words "mistake" and "failure". From my perspective they are equally loaded with heaviness and judgement. We feel stressed out by a "problem". We make a "mistake" dealing with it and then feel like a "failure". As a result we get angry at ourselves, don’t like to admit that and let it out on somebody else instead. We all know the chain reaction that such behavior can start.

How differently would we feel if we were facing a "challenge", implying that it is within our power to handle it well. Whichever way we decide to deal with it would be fine because we look at the outcome as a means to learn something. There is no "right" or "wrong"; people just have their individual views and do things differently. We can look at the challenge and the way we deal with it as a learning opportunity. We can’t really fail since it contains a "lesson".

It is our choice if we judge a situation as a stumbling block which might cause us to end up flat on our nose. Or we could look at it as a stepping stone which implies that it will lead us to another growth opportunity.

A beneficial goal to add to our New Year’s resolutions could be to change our point of view: "There are no mistakes, only learning opportunities. There is no failure, there are only lessons. There are no problems, only stepping stones for personal growth."

It doesn’t seem to be a major thing to do yet by changing our mind we eventually will change our lives and how we feel about ourselves and others. Eliminating these three "PMF" words from frequent use would be a good start to create new perceptions in our mind. Exchanging them with phrases that allow us to stay in our power will make us feel better about the situations, although nothing tangible might have happened or changed. Yet the incredible change has been inside of us!

By Rica Gerhardt
First published in Tone Magazine, January 1999


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