Problems do affect people. And it’s common sight how people convince themselves that their self-identities are bound up with their problems.
I’m reminded of Connie. He is like a lot of people who express the nature of their selves in terms of externals. He is fast losing his health and engaged in varied addictions, such as drugs, gambling, alcohol, and nicotine.
In our sessions together, he kept describing himself, “I’m useless. I’m an addict. I’m depressed and hopeless.” Rather than seeing his addictions as separate from his person, he embraces them as his globalized identity (“I am my addictions!”).
Interestingly, Connie has good things in his life that he is unable to see. His degree in a top university. His computer programming skills. A mother who cares and is supportive of him. A young, innocent daughter who looks up to him.
The person is not the problem. Rather the problem is the problem.
In the case of Connie, the way to healing his damaged self and life is to regard his addictions as an “entity” in itself apart from him. Instead of saying “I am,” he says “I have.” He has addictions, with which he has a relationship that has taken over his life.
That’s the problem, not him.
When Connie gets that, he can begin to work through his addictions more accurately. The problem invaded his person, which can now be reserved or protected or retrieved from the problem of addictions.
If this sounds too fanciful for you, you may try such a conversation your self. Think of some problem you have. Think of it not as an identity characteristic but as an entity outside of your self.
Discover then the fact that you are not your problem, but that you have a relationship with it!
And within that relationship to the problem, you have responsibilities and possibilities for your life that the problem has not removed. The problem has only succeeded in obscuring those possibilities and oppressing the potentialities of your self.
Remember again, your problem is “not-me.” Your problem is the problem!