All Of Our Made-Up Problems


Recently, my husband and I are talking about how in his golf league one Tuesday, he noticed fear around making a certain shot. We went on to talk about how bizarre it is that we make things like a golf game a matter of life and death just by the thoughts we create.

Obviously, a bad shot is not dangerous to one’s survival or well-being, but how often do we behave as if it is? How often do we use our mind and all of the thinking we do, to generate a real experience in the body of threat, when no real threat exists?

For starters, your body does not know the difference between real and imagined thoughts. We’ve all had the experience of whipping ourselves up by thoughts of worry and anticipation; enough to create an experience of unease in the body. And even illness. We can keep ourselves from sleeping with our made-up thoughts. Thought patterns can impact our mood, how we eat and how we relate.

As they say, “Perception is everything.” Interestingly enough, we can perceive what is real and true. Or we can perceive made-up stuff.

That’s why I spend so much time being mindful of what I am thinking. I have seen the direct link between my thoughts, my health and how it feels to be alive. Which is why, after the conversation with my husband, I started to watch my own mind even closer; paying attention to where I was creating self-generated fears. All of the ways, on a daily basis, that I make something feel life-threatening just by thought alone.

It can be so small and so mundane, so familiar and so conditioned, that we don’t even notice ourselves doing it. Like fretting about things we cannot control. Like what the weather is going to do when we have plans to be outside. Like imagining worse case scenarios in a difficult conversation. Like wanting something to go a certain way so badly that we feel as though if it doesn’t, something really bad is going to happen.

The day after my husband and I had this conversation, I found myself in one of those loops. Creating fears over whether something went this way or not. In the midst of the fear barrage, I heard:

“Stop making things a problem, that are not a problem.”

There are so many reasons why we make up problems. It gives us a rush to fix them. It’s how we were raised. It’s how we have consciously or unconsciously convinced ourselves that we will be safe. It’s part of living in a culture that pathologizes everything. We are marketed to in this way to get us to buy someone else’s solution. On and on it goes.

But maybe we don’t always need to know the origins of our problem-making tendencies. That alone is never the fix anyway. Maybe we just need to train ourselves to be present enough to notice when we are making something up and then to ask ourselves, “Am I pretending this is a problem when there is not even a problem here?” And then see where that takes us.