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What’s your ‘real’ issue?

It’s very easy to assume that the circumstance or problem I’m viewing today is the ‘real’ issue. I don’t know about you though, but I’ve noticed over time that similar issues keep cropping up in relationships, career or work, family, friendships or even in health, wealth and happiness.

One day it dawned on me that the problem I thought I had, the one that was flavour of the month right now, was similar to things I’d experienced previously and I realised that there was something more fundamental going on.

And at the point of recognition that there was more to my life than meets the eye my life started to change. Not always positively (or so it would seem at the time), but always towards growing more, understanding myself more and seeing how I fit into the bigger picture that is the world I live in. Life, it seems, has it’s own way of forcing us to face up to the real, underlying issues, by presenting us with superficial problems; but this perfect process only works if we are willing to recognise what’s going on.

How we think plays a huge part in our experience of the world, and mostly my thinking was ‘off’. I was caught up the belief that things, events and circumstances were conspiring against me to keep me from realising my potential or my dreams. What I’ve learned in the intervening years is that those things, events and circumstances provided the biggest lessons and opportunities – but I was only able to see that from a distance beyond what was happening. I now know not to take those thoughts that come into my head too seriously, sure they make sure I don’t step off the kerb into the path of an oncoming bus, they also keep me aware of what’s happening around me so that I can get out of the way if I need to, and they keep me alert to things I need to pay attention, such as my client work.

But the ones I can let go of are the worry thoughts; the thoughts that tell me such and such a thing is doing this ‘too’ me. I now understand that I’m the person having the thought that says ‘they did that deliberately’. I also understand that this probably not true, and anyway even if it were I can choose how to respond to the incident.

I’ve become more accepting of those events and problems that in the past might have caused internal chaos simply because I know I’m the one generating the chaos!

Dealing with thought

There is a simple three step process to recognising whether what’s going on is the ‘real’ problem or something generated by thought:

  1. Stop. Stop what you’re doing and simply ‘be’ in the moment. Observe what’s happening around you. Is it something that frightens you, angers you or uplifts you? When you can name the emotion you’re feeling you’re part way.
  2. Watch. Watch how the emotion seeps away as soon as you name it. By saying ‘I’m angry’ or ‘I’m frightened’, you remove the power being generated by the emotion and this means you can now ..
  3. Take Action. Without the cloudy effects of emotion, you can now take whatever action you need to. It might be removing yourself from the situation, hugging the person who’s just told you they love you, or calling a friend. Whatever you choose to do is likely to be the right thing to do, because you’re no longer being driven by the emotions you’re feeling.

And once you’ve dealt with the thought, then you can start to see what the ‘real’ problem might be. Typically, we find ourselves having similar experiences because we have developed a habit around them. The habit might be physical or emotional, but it’s still a habit. It might be falling for the same type of person, eating the wrong foods, buying things you can’t afford or don’t need, keeping up with the neighbours.

Half the battle is recognising the thoughts, that allows you to recognise the habit, and once you’d spotted it you can then do something about it … if you want to.

(Image by Peter H from Pixabay)


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  1. Brilliant article Linda! It absolutely resonated with me and is so apt for my life right now. I’m at a crossroads and trying to leave behind old habits of thinking and toxic situations in order to move my life into a new and more progressive chapter. Thank you for the advice. Dee Taylor x