Stage 1 – How to Make an Issue Out of Something

ImageOne of the prime causes of people’s suffering is that they make something out of nothing. They take something that is just a transient thought, feeling or sensation and they turn it into a more elaborate and palpable thing. They make an issue out of it. Rather than just observing that, on the last few occasions, they had thought in a certain manner, responded with particular emotions, or felt specific sensations, they decide, instead, that they have a mental, psychological, emotional or health issue.

How do we turn something that happens more than once into an issue? Such as an unpleasant event or circumstance arises. It makes us think about some aspect of ourselves; it brings up certain emotions and we have physical sensations in our body. This response that we have to this event is something that we do, probably unconsciously, in response to the isolated event or circumstance. We could respond in a different way if we make a conscious effort, but we don’t even know why we are experiencing the response we have. When a similar event or circumstance comes up a few more times and we notice the same unpleasant internal response, we create our personal story about it. Or better yet, we ask someone else to tell us their story about it.

We could have simply noticed that we have been repeatedly responding to this matter in the same particular way. We could have consciously observed ourselves in the next similar circumstance so we could create a different outcome. But instead, we make an issue or problem out of it. To us it becomes a tangible or an undeniable fact and because of it, we are no longer responsible for our thoughts, actions or feelings. Our reaction to the situation or circumstance becomes something solid. It is now a thing that we have that we need to treat, address or get rid of. The issue replaces the actual experience of the situation. And therefore we suffer.

There are three P’s to creating an issue out of something. In order to make our story into an issue, we must make it Personal, Pervasive and Permanent. These three adjectives turn our concept of what happened in response to the situation or circumstance into something solid. It becomes (or has become) something we can analyse, read about, get treatment for, seek advice for or discuss with people. All these things take our responsibility away from the way we respond to the situation or circumstance.

To make something personal, we take ownership of it. It becomes OUR problem. It has meaning about who we are and it begins to define us. We now believe that the particular thought, emotion or sensation is a flaw that we have—that we have a condition that prevents us from responding in any other way.

We make the response pervasive. It happens ALL the time, no matter what we try or do. It is constantly occurring and always there. No aspect of our life is unaffected by it. It’s everywhere.

Finally, we make it permanent. It’s never going to go away unless we get it treated, do something to get rid of it or pray for a remission. We are this way and we can’t expect any better.

These three P’s allow us to make an issue out of something. They let us get wrapped up in our own unique story about an event or circumstance, rather than be open to the actual experience of it. If we would only just fully be present to the experience as it happens, we could take responsibility for how we respond to the event or circumstance. But when we make an issue of it, it is no longer in our control.

What issues may you have created that allow you to evade responsibility for your response to a particular situation or circumstance?

Using the Stage 1 SRI exercise we start to reconnect to the parts of our body we have alienated or disconnected from. Using touch, breath, movement and energy in positions 1, 2 and 3 we learn that it can be safe to experience our body again. This brings a sense of peace and joy in acknowledgement and acceptance of our disconnection.

Stage 1 – I don’t want to go there

stage 1 no1Let’s face it. We all have feelings we’d rather not have. There are situations that bring up emotions that we simply cannot or won’t handle, so we just don’t go there. Rather than feel the feeling and get it over with, we change the subject, distract ourselves, walk away or completely shut the situation down. However, what are we so afraid of?

In the end, we all have the same basic fears. We are scared of being an insignificant nobody and terrified of being unlovable. It does not matter who we are, how much we have, the size of our accomplishments or the power we wield. If we have an ego—and we all do—some part of our “self” has these universal fears.

We develop these fears growing up as young children as we learn how life works. We learn the rules. There are things we can and cannot do. When we follow the rules, Mum, Dad, and whoever has an influence in our upbringing, are happy. When we don’t, there are consequences. As small children, all we want is love; therefore, learning about these consequences is traumatic. It only takes a trauma or two to convince us that this world is not a safe and love filled place. Thus begins the cultural shaping.

We learn what it means to be a good person in our family and our society. Yet this is often different from who we are, so we must begin to conform. We are taught how to get love, what it means to be good, acceptable ways of being and what the allowable feelings and emotions are. We also learn what is not okay. Little boys cannot be this way, have these feelings or do that. Little girls should never be seen doing this, saying that or feeling this way. Everyone learns particular things based on their upbringing and cultural background.

Our cultural training teaches us how to be lovable and how to be “a somebody”. It becomes natural for us to want to protect these things within ourselves. When feelings or desires that do not follow the cultural rules surface within us, we become afraid of the consequences. In order to stay loved and be somebody, we must turn these unacceptable feelings off. We eradicate any trace of them from our body and mind.

We suppress, repress and disconnect. We shut down anything and everything that brings us close to the feeling. Whether we are conscious of it or not, how we do this happens at the physical, emotional and mental levels.

In our bodies we tense our muscles to limit the movement that brings on the emotion. The typical energy flow of the emotion is blocked and breath is diverted from any place in our body that allows the feeling of the emotion. This stops the feeling, hides it from the mind and removes it from our awareness.

In our minds, we shift our focus to distract ourselves from the unwanted feeling. We may use physical diversions like pain or sickness, emotional substitutions like anger, sadness or euphoria, or mental constructions and rationalizations to obstruct the underlying, unacceptable feeling. In this way, we never allow ourselves to truly experience the unwanted feeling or emotion brought up by a situation or circumstance. Instead, we experience our concept of it.

This concept – whether it is that the situation or circumstance causes us physical pain, makes us stressed out, emotionally paralyzed, sad or angry, or is rationalized into some other story – keeps us from truly having the real and raw experience. Our unwillingness to “go there” makes us vigilant and on constant alert to any situation or circumstance that might bring up the feeling. This fear can make us feel helpless and hopeless.

A friend once told me “when I was a young child, my Dad once told me, “A coward dies a thousand times, a brave man only once.” Whenever I say, “I don’t want to go there”, I suffer a thousand deaths instead of braving an unwanted feeling that may last only a few minutes.” Many of us have similar patterns repeating in our bodies.