There are really only two kinds of problems: the one you're having right now, and the one you're not. For instance, I don't have a problem with my cat clawing my couch because I don't have a cat. When I do have a problem, such as my neighbor backing over my mailbox with a moving van, I tend to forget all about the problems I don't have and focus on the one that I do. The worst problems are the perpetual kind, the problems that won't go away for years on end, if they ever do.
Some problems go away on their own. Teeth, for example. Ignore them and eventually they go away.
Other problems are situational and of brief duration. Aggressive drivers, neighbors setting off fireworks during all of July, that person whose fragrance has just filled the elevator - these are temporary. Better to wait them out and not let them disrupt your equilibrium. When I feel stuck in a frustrating scenario, I think about... sand. Just sand, nothing but sand all the way to the horizon. By the time I'm done picturing the sand, the situation has usually resolved itself.
Perpetual problems are worth study. If nothing changes, then nothing changes, and then nothing changes. Right? The pattern has to be disrupted. Somehow, something about the problem has to change. What is it? As soon as the perpetual problem is recognized for what it is, the pattern tends to reveal itself. That is the secret behind how to kill off the problem.
Relationships. I used to have a cheating boyfriend. I tortured myself about it. It was nauseous. I mean I would feel physically ill when I thought about him with another woman. I couldn't stop asking myself what I could do differently to keep his attention and get him to stop. Then one day, I had finally had enough, and I broke up with him. He cried. I realized that his behavior had nothing to do with me; he would have acted the same way no matter whom he was with. After that, I started communicating my expectations about fidelity at the very beginning of new relationships. That is reassuring to people who feel the same way.
Money. I used to be in debt. Right after graduation, I had so many payments on various debts that I had exactly $30 in spending money at the end of each month. That debt was all I could think about. I had a spreadsheet. I checked all my account balances each and every day. I worked really hard, scrimped and saved, and paid everything off. Now, I don't have to think about debt anymore.
Health. I used to get migraines. It runs in the family, and I always figured I was stuck with them. I had a long list of triggers, a list that kept getting longer, as the migraines got longer in duration. Four days of not fun. Somehow, I stumbled across variables that affected my migraines, none of which were what I thought they were. (1. Body weight and 2. Micronutrients). Suddenly, I can eat spicy food, go to high altitudes, and even be dehydrated or sleep deprived without getting one. It's been almost three years now. I still carry Aleve in my purse everywhere I go, as insurance, only now I offer them to other people.
I don't believe in problems anymore. That is because I believe in challenge, not difficulty. There is always a way to reframe a situation, communicate differently, change my behavior, or get out of the situation. Usually there are ten thousand ways. It starts with the belief that I DON'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS. I don't have to have a perpetual problem in my life.
I have to wait in line sometimes, but I don't care. I don't care at all. I just play with my phone or think about sand.
I have to listen to one half of someone else's cell phone conversation sometimes, and that's distracting, but I don't really care. I'm learning to tune it out. I can't in fairness judge anyone for doing something that I myself have done.
I don't mind being polite or tolerating other people's foibles, because I like it when others return the favor to me. These are very, very minor problems in the grand scheme of things.
What I don't have to do is to engage in relationships that are exploitive, fake, emotionally damaging, or otherwise not to my liking. There are seven billion people in the outermost circle, and the few who get through the next five layers are a statical anomaly. Everyone may have my benign regard and occasional altruistic acts. Almost nobody may have my trust or my confidences. This includes lovers, obviously, but also friends and family. If you don't want people in your business, stop keeping them informed.
I also don't have to stay in an unfulfilling job. I never did. In my twenties, I was a temp, and I changed jobs whenever I felt like it. If nothing else in my life works out, I can always fall back on my trade, which is administrative support. When you're a secretary, one job is as good as another. Live beneath your means, save like mad, have a cushion, and feel free. It's much easier to contribute at your highest level when you feel that you are participating voluntarily.
I don't have to have money problems because I can always earn more money and/or renegotiate terms.
I don't have to have health problems. By that I mean chronic health problems. The more I research, the more I read medical journal articles, the more I work on optimizing my own behaviors, the less I have any health issues at all. Common cold, food poisoning, migraines? Nah, not really problems for me. In the last few years, my biggest problems have been stinging nettle, fire ants, mosquitos, skinning my knee, and tendinitis. My cancer scare at age 23 set me on the path to REFUSING TO ACCEPT a "diagnosis." Diagnose me with whatever you want, doc, I'm hitting the books and I'm beating this thing. There is no reason to believe that everything possible is known about a particular condition. That is unscientific. It is a wrong thought. I'll die one day, but I'll pass knowing that I always did whatever I could to take care of myself.
It's amazing how much the background noise of PROBLEMS fades when the focus turns to prevention. Being organized, being kind to people, saving money, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, being personally accountable, and avoiding bogus situations will eliminate the vast majority of perpetual problems.
What's left? The problems we can't seem to step away from. WHY does this person act this way?? (Doesn't matter. Once you know that this is the way the person acts, you have all the information you need to make a decision). I'VE TRIED EVERYTHING. No, no you haven't. Unless it's a problem for literally everyone, such as gravity or the loss of loved ones, then there is something different about what you're doing compared to those who do not have the problem. WHY CAN'T...? Because. That's why. As a general rule, get out of the situation first, and examine what used to be a perpetual problem at leisure.
Paradoxically, refusal to accept that a situation IS WHAT IT IS tends to perpetuate the situation. We can't stop thinking about it and obsessing over it, we can't detach emotionally, we can't let it go, and therefore we are stuck with it. As soon as we have a clear vision of something better, it's much easier to realize that the perpetual problem is really an illusion. I don't have to go out with this guy. I don't have to work here anymore. I won't be in debt forever. I can change my body. I can learn new things. I can socialize with people who share my value system. I can improve my communication and my behavior. I expect better from myself, and I also expect better FOR myself.
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.