Why we avoid our problems

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Nobody likes problems; in fact, we always want to eliminate our problems. And paradoxically, we tend to avoid dealing with our problems, instead of focusing on eliminating them. The reason is simple: We all want to live easier lives. 

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes avoid reading those seemingly complex mathematical text books, washing (with hands) those duvets and blankets, completing those school assignments, and attending those gym classes? If you only understand why we avoid these important activities, it will be easier to solve many of your problems. 

The existence of man and his surpassing abilities would seem a mystery, but just as mysterious is why the human mind works the way it does. The natural brain chemistry of human beings is one that drives humanity towards comfort, and keeps her away from dealing with discomfort. By nature, we desire comfort and pleasure, and are averse to pain and displeasure. As a result, we drift away from discomfort and pain. Some level of discomfort may be endured only if it promises a desirable reward in the future; only if we are sure it leads to greater comfort in a later time. 

We all want to live easier lives; we are more likely to attempt the easy tasks than deal with the seemingly more difficult ones. Anything that brings about stress and discomfort is naturally abhorred by the human mind. Since the build-up of stress can result in depression, exhaustion, and some physical illnesses, we often prefer to stay away from activities that can lead to them. And because we understand that these activities are indeed very important, we put them off to a later time, believing we will attend to them at what we assume to be the ‘right time’. 

Putting off activities to a later time in order to attend to less important activities or to immerse ourselves in enjoyable activities is known as procrastination. The reason for such avoidance is to protect oneself from experiencing stress and distress; stress and distress lower the quality of one’s life. Our lives are easier and more enjoyable when we avoid discomfort and stress, but these rewards are only just momentary; we risk paying dearly for our indolence in the future. The mind, therefore, may have a natural proclivity to drive us towards instantly gratifying activities, regardless of what problems they may lead too. Such effects can be observed with gossiping, social-networking, alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography addiction, and so on. 

Since a particular activity can make you feel like you are having a terrible day, you may find yourself avoiding that activity. And the more you avoid that activity, the more inconvenient your work is bound to be; for example, having a piled up work to do. And each time you think about how much work you have to do, such thought can in itself be a source of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. The built-up stress from thinking about that activity may increase your level of discomfort and make you feel sick. To be relieved of this discomfort, you look for ways to take your mind off the distress. And to release stress, you have to engage in an activity that is exciting, pleasant, or comfortable. To put it another way, you have to engage in an activity that distracts you from your distress, while at the same time choosing to believe that ‘all is well’. 

You are probably familiar with the statement ‘All is well’, which is used by many people to dispel anxiety and fear, when things don’t seem to go well for them. That short statement is a strategic way of alleviating despair and encouraging positive thinking. And while it sounds very healthy, it is also a misguided strategy in dealing with one’s problem. It can lead to putting off dealing with overwhelming problems, which ought to be dealt with at this very moment. Most times, when people say ‘all is well’, they are usually unable to sufficiently prove the veracity of this statement. ‘All is well’ can sometimes serve as an effective reliever of distress, but making it a habit can lead to procrastinations and serious problems in one’s life. 

Many of us are in the habit of using such statements as ‘When we get to the bridge, we’ll cross it’, ‘I am confident I will get round to it before time runs out’, ‘everything will fall into place’, ‘God will take control’, etc. These are some of the statements we make to dispel or minimize our worries, without necessarily solving our problems. If made a habit, we may end up putting off our problems to a later time, and therefore risk experiencing a not-so-desirable future. The human mind tends to avoid anything that causes distress, at all cost. And when distress is felt in the moment, we find ourselves looking for ways to cast away distress. While some of us do this through late night drinking, there are those who do so through gambling. Others may do so via seeing movies, gossiping, bullying, pornographic views, masturbating, and so on. Procrastination doesn’t lead to preventing a fire outbreak- it ends up turning us into firefighters. 

How can we, then, deal with our problems effectively? This can seem a difficult question to answer, since taking on an activity that brings about stress and pain can lead to depression, exhaustion, and physical maladies. Yet, when the pros and cons are taken into consideration, it would seem a lot wiser to ‘avoid a fire outbreak’. The best way to deal with your problem is to accept that this very moment in time is the best time to approach, solve, and eliminate the problem. You are bound to find the process very uncomfortable, but you know it is crucial you pass through it regardless, solely because of its future rewards. Procrastination doesn’t help because it only puts off the problem until there’s a fire outbreak; if you know what I mean. 

Learn to see the bright side of taking responsibility at the moment. Show fortitude and endurance as you make an effort to solve your problems at the moment. Remember that uncomfortable activities will be easier to bear by promising yourself that there’s a later time for a much greater and more fulfilling satisfaction to be experienced. In the face of the discomfort you’re going through, you know that there’s a comfortable place and time. You can also deposit this attitude into the lives of your children. For example, make your children believe that they are going to play a lot of video games and are going to visit wonderful places for their holidays, provided they get exceptional grades at the end of the term. The only way your mind can be able to endure discomfort in the present is if it is able to envision a ‘great’ comfort in the future, which it strongly anticipates.