How do love addicts deal with their problems? Easy. We avoid them. We bury our head in the sand or, better yet, we bury ourselves in whatever relationship we happen to be in, good or bad. The worse the relationship the better. Why? Because the more we are forced to focus on some problem or issue outside ourselves, the more we can avoid facing our own personal problems, which are actually far scarier than any other facet of life. Our problems, and our lack of ability to manage our problems, is what drives our addiction. Love addiction is a problem solver. Or rather, a problem eraser. It removes the pain of life and it removes the idea that something big and scary needs to be managed. Ah, love!
Well, guess what… this method only works temporarily. And as soon as the relationship is over (God forbid!) the pain and suffering we think we feel for the loss of our PoA, is actually the pain and suffering of being exposed to Our Problems, which are staring us in the mirror, laughing maniacally, saying, We’re back!
They actually never went away. They are still there and we have still not figured out how to manage or cope with those problems, because instead, we’ve been focused and busy and working hard at our addiction. And here’s the thing… when you learn how to manage your problems a certain way (like avoiding them, or covering them up with love, or sex or food or alcohol or whatever), you get really good at! In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he says it takes about 10,000 hours of practice in your field to become a master. By the time I hit 40, I had logged so many hours of love addiction and avoidance, I was a professional. And I can’t help but wonder, if there was an actual service-oriented company specializing in Avoidance, would I have been their CEO? Of course, I probably would have never showed up for the job…
So, my question, is this (which I hope to answer): if in your state of addiction and acting out, you’ve spent a gazillion hours devoted to avoiding your problems and you’ve become really good at it, how do you switch “fields” and suddenly start to manage your problems in healthier ways?
Well, for starters, you face whatever life throws at you. And that’s probably the biggest hurdle to jump over. But how about this: when you realize why you don’t want to face any given problem, then it makes it a little easier to face because you now know what you need to work on first, before your problem solving skills improve on their own. In my case, I had four things going against me that created in me a need to avoid:
- I was never taught what healthy problem-solving looked like from parents and caretakers– many members of my family were alcoholics and co-dependents who also avoided
- I had zero faith in myself or in my ability to handle problems–a direct result of super low self-esteem and zero confidence
- I was not a risk taker. If I made a mistake or I failed at something, I never tried again. I gave up. And when you do that, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to figure out how to do it the right way, and so, you never become good at problem solving
- I probably also relied too heavily on others to resolve problems for me, and when no one would help me (Oh Rhett! What’ll I do? Where will I go?!) I would avoid
So, taking those three issues and working on improving them independently, has personally helped me become a better problem solver. And yet…I still have very far to go. Here are a few other tips to help you manage and cope with more strength and courage…
- You don’t need to dive in and deal with some issue as soon as it crops up. Taking a step back, waiting a few days, assessing the problem once your emotions have cooled might put you at a better advantage of knowing what to do or how to do it.
- Problems seem to be managed most effectively with logic and reason. Not impulsively with emotions. Again, wait until you regain a sense of logical thinking to determine how to handle an issue.
- Know your place: Is this my problem? Is this someone else’s problem? What role should I play in the resolution of this problem, if any? Sometimes we take on certain problems that are not even ours to take on.
- Ask for help or advice, but know what part of the problem you need to solve on your own, and what others can “help” you with. Are you being too needy? Or do you really need someone else to carry you through.
- Don’t take problems personally and don’t think God or the world is out to get you. A healthier perspective is that EVERY LAST STINKIN’ ONE OF US HAS PROBLEMS, not just you.
- Lose the worry: Worry complicates things. It NEVER solves anything. Worry is an emotion, not a functional tactic to resolve a problem. If need be, take a course on anxiety and panic management. Because until you get rid of your anxiety you will not be able to deal with problems logically.
- Know the stages of problem solving. Many businesses rely heavily on people with good problem solving skills. I have also included them above in the diagram.
- Ask God for three things: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Lastly, if you feel you are once again avoiding some issue or problem that you need to face (or that you’ve never faced before), write it out. Get to know it. Face it in ways you’ve never done. Talk to God about it. Confess to a friend. Write in a journal. Try to talk about it and work it into your life so that it doesn’t disappear into the background. And then, when you are ready, you will be more able to face it and deal with it. Easier said than done, I know. I have had a nagging problem for YEARS that I cannot seem to find an answer to, despite the fact that I face it all the time. Perhaps what’s holding me back is not so much a decision or action I must take, but rather, a change in perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes.