Problems are for eliminating. The toughest problems are the mysterious ones, the pervasive, persistent drags that we can’t seem to figure out no matter what we do. The key to an easy, happy life is to methodically chase down and drive out these persistent problems. Break them up into tiny pieces, make them specific, and finally crush them. Bring them into the tangible, physical world. Strategize, somatize, financialize, pulverize.
Strategic thinking is about looking at the big picture. What’s the aerial view? What about this problem is universal? Who else has had this problem? How did they solve it? Almost all problems are so common that they’re stereotypes, such as struggling to pay off debt or being an exhausted new parent. Strategizing is about looking for the root cause and doing something about it. Usually this can be done by googling the problem and finding a how-to list, tutorial, or video.
Somatizing is exhibiting a problem physically, in the body. Usually this happens when we turn stress into illness, when our suppressed or denied emotions make us sick. Traditionally, it’s permitted to share physical complaints such as headaches or back pain, while sharing our negative emotions is rejected. It can be the only way that people close to us will offer any kind of validation, privacy, or consideration. Sometimes there can be gaslighting around emotional experience. “I feel X.” “No you don’t.” “That’s crazy.” We can only go so far down those roads alone. That’s why we tend not to be aware that there is a positive way to somatize, too.
Building physical power and strength eliminates an astonishing range of pain and illness. We can’t know how many of our weird physical issues are related to lifestyle inputs until we change them and feel the effects for ourselves. I speak from experience. When I quadrupled my consumption of cruciferous vegetables, I stopped having migraines and night terrors, started sleeping more, and lost weight. Feeling physically capable and powerful put me in an entirely different emotional and mental universe, a world I’d never known. If anyone had tried to tell me that all these great things would happen just through “living a healthy lifestyle,” I would have forcefully resisted and rejected the idea. Now I somatize whenever I can.
Financializing is a similar strategy, a way of defining a problem with money. It isn’t always accurate. “Gee, if only I were rich,” so I could trade my current problems for rich-person problems? The funny thing is, though, that usually even a minor shift in earning or spending can produce outsize effects. Earning 5% more or spending 1% less might make the difference between paying off debt, chasing off creditors, or having an emergency cushion. Feeling broke is more of a mindset problem. Scarcity mindset convinces us that there are no better opportunities, that there’s no point in negotiating lower interest rates, spending slightly more for the durable option, or pursuing a higher-paying career.
I spent so many years feeling broke and struggling that it took a while to realize I had gotten on top of it. I was renting my own mini house. I had no roommates, no credit card debt, no car payment, no unpaid bills. I could buy groceries with my debit card without cringing and waiting for the card to be declined. One day, I had a talk with myself. It was time to learn to enjoy myself. I used to cry myself to sleep at night over financial problems that I no longer had. Financially, I had everything I ever wanted (peace of mind, privacy) and if I didn’t appreciate it today, then I never would. Any problems I had from now on would be problems of relationships or personal philosophy.
Contentment comes from within. We can’t buy it. We can’t get contentment through money or consumer goods, but we can find it through gratitude and the realization that we have enough. There is plenty and there will always be plenty more. We can’t get contentment through fashion or beauty, because they are fleeting and subjective. We can, though, find contentment by being centered in the body. Health and vitality, strength and agility, grit and self-confidence have a tendency to set new emotional norms. Fully inhabiting ourselves, dissolving the artificial and contrived sense of separation between mind and body, is a necessity for inner peace.
Maybe there’s a way to feel total serenity through denial of everything on the physical plane. I doubt it. The body sends us sensations of pain, stress, hunger, and thirst because we’re biologically required to move and eat in certain ways. Being alive means we simply have certain needs. When we handle our physical needs with the minimum of fuss and focus, we can return our awareness to higher things. Maybe most or all of our problems can be boiled down to the material world. What if we solved our biggest distractions through care for the body and attention to our financial affairs? Strategize, somatize, financialize, realize.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.