Circular Issues

Do you ever find that you’re circling back to the same core issue(s) time and again, even though on the surface, they seem different and even unrelated? How the hell did I wind up back here again?, you wonder.

Sometimes we have an idea of what’s needed or even know the solution to a particular issue, but because we don’t like what that solution looks like and represents in terms of the decision or the actions we’ll have to undertake, we decide to do something else, likely whatever creates the least discomfort or certainly a lot less than what the alternative involves.

We’ll make these tweaks and they may provide some temporary relief but then soon enough, we’re complaining about that same person’s inconsiderateness or we’ve substituted one worry or even drama for a fresh worry or drama, as if we feel most at ease when we’re wondering what we’ve done wrong ‘now’.

One friend, after telling me about how nothing is ever good enough for her mother, the boss who doesn’t praise her enough, her boyfriend’s ex who is “amazing” (she looked her up on Facebook) and a threat, the very quiet coworker that keeps to himself and yet she’s taking it personally, the frenemy who is behaving badly and the worry list goes on, asked if I could spot the problem:

There’s a theme. Several different situations over a period of time with people who are unconnected. No, it’s not that she’s not “good enough” or that these are all her fault – the theme is that she thinks that there’s something wrong with her and sees her worth at the centre of other people’s behaviour and ends up people-pleasing to compensate and validate. It doesn’t mean that some of these issues aren’t issues but they would be less of an issue or certainly an issue put into perspective, if she wasn’t riding what little self-esteem she has like Zorro and struggling with a long, drawn-out Worry and Imagination hangover.

When we keep talking about the same issue as if it’s fresh when it’s not; when we have the same thought and action responses to certain feelings, or we feel a certain way in response to something that occurs and then slip into the habits of thinking and behaviour that we put off working on or assigned a different ‘solution’ to, it means that we’re circling back to the same issue(s) and that ultimately, we have a circular issue – all roads lead back to the issue we need to face or the work that we need to do. We’re masking, not fixing, something that happened to me when I took steroids for my immune system disease that they said they didn’t know why it happened and that there was no cure. It suppressed my immune system, gave me a host of other problems, and within a few weeks of coming off them, the original symptoms came back even more aggressively. Doh!

Circular issues always occur when we act unconsciously, when we tend to see external solutions as the fix for internal issues, and also when we make an incorrect diagnosis of an issue and/or keep prescribing unhealthy fixes. They happen because we don’t trust ourselves to judge the situation or to listen and look inwards and then act.

When we default to inaccurate diagnoses and solutions, it’s the whole using the same map and route that keeps leading you to the wrong place but still expecting to turn up elsewhere. Or maybe it’s that last time you took a train, the time before that you took a bus, and this time you took a plane, but you were still headed for the same painful destination.

When we’re in these situations, we might describe these events as if they’re entirely unrelated to unhealthy habits of thinking and behaviour that were present before the situation presented itself. We act as if we have no ‘data’ in our database that could help us to problem solve, gain perspective, and respond in a different way to the last time.

Of course the particulars of a situation are unique, but we have had past experiences where we’ve, for instance, felt under threat when it wasn’t a threat, forecast doom and gloom that far outpaced the reality, had to make a decision and many more plus, we may even have experience of doing the same thing that the other person has and are in a position to empathise.

By acting as if nothing we’re going through has any relevance to our typical responses or that we have no prior experience to contribute, we’re acting unconsciously while overloading our resources. We’re almost expecting us to learn and assimilate each situation anew without referencing our self-knowledge, which of course is fine if you have the luxury of living to be several hundred years old but not so helpful when we have a life to live. To make matters worse, it’s not as if we find new ways – we apply our typical habits of thinking and behaviour, albeit with tweaks here and there.

The vital clue to whether we’re circling back to the same issues, is the way in which we respond.

These issues depend on each other, so if we won’t address a core issue, such as a poor sense of self and not wanting to treat us with the very basics of care, trust, and respect, other issues will stem from this, hence the circular issue. By continuing to dodge the work and to look outside of ourselves for fulfilment of our self-esteem, the same set of beliefs governing the core issue weave their way through the fabric of the other issues.

What this means though, is that when we start adapting habits, the other habits that depend on these start to collapse.

This was one of my early lessons in learning to like and love me. In having to set boundaries both with me and others and also having to practice habits of self-care, I realised that it was a waste to start taking care of my health if I was only going to feed my mind with crap or do something toxic. Feeling bad started to be an early warning signal to step up and/or step out.

While some of us on the planet like to operate their lives as if they can press the reset button each day, in reality, everything we’ve been thinking, saying and doing has a connection, and of course, if we’re repeating unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaviour, there’s a cumulative effect. Granted we can get away with this stuff for a little or even a long while, but the pain of these habits starts to make itself known. It might start out feeling like a minor irritation that can be clouded out by the high of what we’re being and doing, but gradually, it will make itself painfully known.

One of the key lessons I’ve had to learn, particularly with family, is to ask myself: If I can’t change the situation, the person’s feelings, behaviour or personality, what can I change? As it will take more time to Jedi mind trick than it will to learn healthy boundaries etc, plus I have no interest in trying to influence and control people’s behaviour whether it’s by pleasing or by force, the answer is my response.

It turns out that the answer isn’t to find ways to fit in and acclimatise to unpalatable behaviour, but to ensure that if and when stuff bothers you, it bothers you for the right reasons, not because you’re going, “Hmmm, my father let me down again and he’s same old, same old. Here we go again, I’m worthless and good for nothing.”

This is also a good time to ask you, What am I not accepting here? What am I refusing to see? You may be stuck on feeling entitled to something that hasn’t come to pass. Don’t spend your life circling back because you’re being the bailiff trying to collect a debt.

It’s the emancipation of you because until you put those boundaries there, especially in your mind, you will keep circling back to issues that result from making other people’s behaviour about you and basically merging you into others.

The other key thing to remember is that certain feelings, thoughts, and situations are going to recur from time to time and each time, you have a fresh opportunity to choose to respond differently and this gradually changes the nature of issues that you’re dealing with.

Your thoughts?

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