Last month I was on the receiving end of a technique meant to help people feel better about themselves and their lives.
Well, maybe technique is the wrong word. You could probably call it a movement, since it’s gained many followers. And I was game to try it, at least once.
So there I was: Answering the questions. Committing to the process. And eventually coming up with the requisite insight.
But the thing is, the insight didn’t last. Not because I lost awareness of it, but because another insight floated up right underneath it. And then an inner voice called out: This is all about fixing you. And you don’t need to be fixed.
MAKING THINGS WORSE
So much of the self-help and personal growth industry focuses on what’s wrong with the human machine and how to fix it.
Got a screw loose? You better tighten it.
Engine running rough? Let’s tune her up.
Fluid leaking? There’s a quick patch for that.
But what if trying to fix ourselves actually makes things worse? What if it leads us into the trap of believing that there’s some right answer, a right way, to deal with the challenges of life? (Trust me, there’s not).
THERE IS ANOTHER WAY
Recently I learned that Carl Jung, the founder of archetypal psychology who was, somewhat ironically, also a significant influence on the field of personal growth, wasn’t too concerned about whether his patients overcame their problems, in the traditional sense.
Simply put, he couldn’t care less about techniques or tools or strategies or fixing things.
But he was interested in helping people look within to create deeper connections with their inner lives. He cared very much about heart and soul and relationship: transcending the boundaries of conscious life and getting to know the buried wisdom lurking way down in the psyche.
And, no surprise, with this approach people did change. But not in the self-helpish way we’ve been conditioned to think about change. Not in the I’ll-learn-to-stop-procrastinating way. Or the I’ll-whip-my-worry-into-submission way. Or even the I’ll-finally-get-myself-organized way.
No, this was different. This kind of change was about deep transformation, self-expression, and self acceptance.
And to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, it was about embracing this truth:
It doesn’t take much to see that our problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Here’s looking at you, kid.
WHEW, WHAT A RELIEF
Let me tell you, from my perspective as a procrastinating, disorganized, worry-wart, this is indeed a relief. But it’s not really a surprise.
Because I remember that my procrastination takes a hike when I trust that my intuition will pull me through. And my disorganization doesn’t matter much when I’m in the flow of my creative nature. Not to mention that my internal worry-wart recedes into the background when I focus on the heart-centered bond I experience with clients, friends, and family.
To be sure, the problems don’t go away. They don’t get fixed. But if I’m honoring the inner life of my intuition, creativity, and heart, they don’t need to be fixed.
And they certainly don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Kid.
So here’s a question to ponder: which of your problems don’t amount to a hill of beans and don’t need to be fixed?
p.s. Here’s looking at you!
A most excellent insight, thank you.
It is interesting that the focus is on fixing or on what is wrong – My focus is more “why” do I think that way and what I am I getting out of doing it like that? I think I am a pretty interesting person – so the experience is about knowing that person over “fixing” her.
For me – when I have a set idea as to what we are going to do and someone just “changes” it… It takes me a little minute or five to relax into the new idea. It isn’t worth a hill of beans!
Happy December Patty.
I so agree. The entire school system, medical, psychiatric, etc, all geared toward fixing some alleged weakness. I don’t believe in weaknesses, I just believe in focusing on your strengths and often what’s supposedly a weakness is what makes your strength possible.
How can I be a rebel and a polite, good girl at the same time?
And don’t get me started on pharmaceuticals! that industry tries to fix — for the most part — something that’s working correctly — they just make these absurdly narrow ranges and announce all who fall outside of this supposed normal range are abnormal.
Take a walk in the woods and look up at the trees against the sky. Then you realize that you’re just a speck in a bigger speck and problems are not problems — they are just distractions that keep us from living a kickass life down here!
Hi Patty! This was great! Why oh why do we always focus on what we think is “wrong” with us? In my 30’s I was hell bent on self-improvement. Read everything I could get my hands on. In my 40’s it continued but with a spiritual component. In my 50’s I thought I was mentally ill or something because I went from one project to another, eventually finishing things but I always had more going, distraction I was sure was a BAD thing.
Ah 60’s! I am who I am and by golly I accept me and love me – and I’ve so not wasted any more of my time trying to analyze myself or my life. I’ve got the time now to LIVE it, which I think is the whole point! An attitude of gratitude (as trite as that may sound) rules my days!
Patty, I wholeheartedly agree. Self-help “techniques” feed our hungry quest for finding THE answer, the magic pill to solve our problems. Your message is a good reminder that what we really need to do is sit quietly with ourselves and really listen to our inner voice. Be still and know….Meditation is a great way to do this. And it takes very little technique! Just sit, be aware of your breath and stare into that beautiful indigo 3rd eye.
So very true, there really are no problems, nothing that needs to be fixed. We can choose to transform, we can choose a different perspective, etc. Great thoughts!
Patty — As usual you take on a subject and give it the special “Patty” twist. I loved you approached the constant meed to fix ourselves, when what we really need to do is accept and trust ourselves.
My favorite lines in this post were these, “Because I remember that my procrastination takes a hike when I trust that my intuition will pull me through. And my disorganization doesn’t matter much when I’m in the flow of my creative nature. Not to mention that my internal worry-wart recedes into the background when I focus on the heart-centered bond I experience with clients, friends, and family.”
Well said. I love how you remind me that I can avoid fixing what’s not broken by paying attention to my own intuition, nurturing my creative nature and focusing on the heart-centered bond I have with people in my life.
Thanks for this:~)
Long time no visit your blog…so glad I did today!!
I spent the better part of my 20’s and 30’s running in circles on the crazy go-round trying to fix what was wrong with me. But what was wrong with me was only wrong in the eyes of someone else…silly me for believing that!!
I then embraced my 40’s with a journey that has been nothing short of a miracle. And came to the conclusion that I AM – and that is more than enough. Better than good enough. And thoroughly freeing.
Thank you! What relief to hear from someone else!
In raising my children and in relating with the world, I open my heart. I am who I am, all of me..when I open my heart “me” doesn’t matter much, but the experience does and is amazing!
Living on the boat has taught me when I fix one thing, the next needs fixing–a constant improvement project..and I could wait until they are “all done”…or I could choose to put improvements on hold and sail out to the islands where it doesn’t matter if the varnish is perfect or the interior is “straightened”..I choose to sail..much like I do in life:)
I like what you say about procrastination going away when you are able to trust yourself — as opposed to, it sounds like, second-guessing your work out of perfectionism or a desire to make sure it isn’t criticized or something along those lines. This is definitely true in my experience — that the most important factor in the amount of work I’ll be able to do is not how well, say, my e-mail inbox is sorted, but the nature of my relationship with myself in that moment.
How refreshing, thank you! I think as long as we follow our heart everything eventually works out- where we get into trouble is when we try to do things that are not authentic to us- try to follow the ‘rules’ that someone else has set out for us. Nice post!
Hmm….you shared very interesting points about how Carl Jung has been helping his patients. Your post has sparked off some deeper thoughts. What I am getting from your post for myself is that I should learn to trust the process. There is nothing to fix but so long as I tune in, I will continue to shift in alignment.
Hi there. A big thanks from me to all of you: DJ, M, G, Suzen, Julie, Mark, Sara, Peggy, Joy, Chris, Angie, Evelyn. I very much appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post, since it’s a topic that’s near and dear to me. I can just hear the collective relief of all of us when we consider that our problems are normal and we don’t need to fix ourselves. And Angie, welcome to my blog and thanks for tweeting this. Oh one more thing – Although I’m super busy right now and unable to reply to each comment, please know that I’ve read each and every one of them.
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Patty, I LOVE this post! I know i sound like a broken record when i’m here but your insights are always so good to hear.
I’ve had it with blogs or any kind of propaganda geared to make me feel like they have a solution to my problem (and what qualifies as a problem anyway?). It’s manipulative, opportunistic (because often they’re trying to sell something) and very often not applicable.
The reality is we are complex beings that come with a vast set of organic and evolving parts that don’t fit into any simplified problem/solution mold. And if we like ourselves the way we are, who says we need fixing? I’ve known since i was little that i’m different (and aren’t we all in our own way?) and have grown to like it. So, no, i’m not loking for a fix for a problem i don’t have.
This post definitely rings true for me. I work in self-help publishing and I try to make the books I edit reflect the idea that change is about becoming more of the person we really ARE rather than fixing flaws in ourselves so we can meet an ideal. It’s funny how hard this is for some to grasp. I’ve actually had people use my honesty and openness about my struggles with low mood and sadness against me! It’s as if being truly honest about yourself when your self isn’t always happy and joyful is something bad. I still struggle between believing that I’m a perfect being who is on a path to becoming more of my true self, and these messages from other people that I’m messed up and flawed and need to be someone else in order to be lovable. Even though it’s a relief to not feel like e have to “fix” ourselves, it’s also hard – at least for me – to rest in that because we get so many messages that we aren’t OK. But my gut knows that it’s true that there’s nothing wrong with me, AND I can always learn to live in a more balanced way. But that doesn’t mean I have to be fixed, only that I’m on a journey!
Thanks so much for this post.
I LOVE this post because it’s something that I live a variation of. Many years ago I realized that I didn’t need to FIX me or try to always “make better”, “enlighten more”, and “get it perfect”, etc. I could simply let go, trust life, follow my heart, face (embrace) my fear, not judge myself, forgive myself, trust my spontaneity, listen to my intuition, act upon that which moved me with love, inspiration, compassion, and joy, and know that I was already whole.
We are often taught that we are NOT whole, we are already born in “sin” (lol) and need “frixing”. But I have learned that is not true. I have learned that it is simply a matter of remembering what I ALREADY am.
There is SO much I could say here, but would write a whole page. You have inspired me greatly here today. I am hugging you for that. I think I might turn my response and the rest of my thoughts into a post sometime, and link back here to your post.
Sending you much love and I wish you a really wonderful holiday season.
Thank you, dear Patty.
Hi Belinda, Melissa, & Robin – I love your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your wise women wonderfulness.
I have read this post several times before commenting. Wow. You did so well capturing a large idea in a short article.
We are enough. But are not told that much. If we think it; then clearly we don’t understand the problems. The whole world if focused on what is wrong with everything and everyone. It leads to so much despair.
For a long time I felt as though I would draw fix it people to me and I want to stop doing that. Now I think it is a obsession of society to focus on what is wrong and to complain and if you tell everyone how to fix themselves and their lives then you have done a good thing.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful philosophy.
I am so grateful for your wise words, Patty, as always. And with this post you’ve hit upon a tendency that I have: always looking to fix those parts of myself that are “broken.”
I’m not a huge fan of self-help books, but I’m a big sucker for articles and blog posts that offer a ready-made, super-speedy solution to a host of problems (even problems I don’t feel like I have). I think there is something comforting of the idea of quick fixes, however illusive, especially on days when life feels out of control.
Lately, though, I’ve been trying to focus more on going with the flow, and embracing my quirks as those things that make me most me. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic.
I love your story about Jung. Thanks for sharing.
Today, I started a Facebook post with this: “Sometimes being conscious means sitting with complex emotions and not running to “fix” them.”
Guess that kinda means that we think alike sometimes. ;~)
When we become the love we are all else will fall away. I like Susan want to live my life not fix it. Nothing’s broken, kid!
Hi Erin, Kristen, Paul, and Tess: Hmmm, so much wisdom in your comments. Let’s see: “We are enough” and “Embracing our quirks” and “Sitting with emotions” and “Becoming the love we are.” You know what? You guys are brilliant. And Paul, as a first-timer, welcome to my blog. I appreciate the visit and comments all of you made. Thank you!
I completely agree!
The eternal fixing-yourself-game is nothing more than another way to procrastinate one’s happiness in the now. I wish more people knew that it’s possible to be happy and still have problems at the same time.
We are already OK, no matter what. 🙂