I have a brother-in-law who is an extremely sincere unpaid lay minister for his church. His responsibility as head of his congregation covers the spiritual and physical well-being of about 450 people. Even with more than a dozen volunteer assistants in various roles, this task occupies him from 6 AM to 4 PM every Sunday, half the day on many a Saturday, and two or three solid evenings during the week. It's like being CEO of a small corporation. This is in addition to his actual full-time career and raising a large, extremely active family. How the hell does he do it all?
I don't think I could. I mean, aside from the whole religion thing, I don't think I could be bothered to spend that much time and energy at it. He can do it because he's interested in people. He's compassionate and cares about their problems.
I care about people too, sort of. That is, when I'm not consumed by my own little projects. I try to help people when I am able and if I happen to have a solution to their problems. But that's the thing: I don't really care all that much about most people's problems, because a problem that has already been solved once is no longer at all an interesting problem to me.
Whatever problem you have, it is almost certain that another person in a worse situation than you with fewer resources, less support, poorer health, more kids, fewer limbs and greater disadvantages has already had your problem. And they have either solved it, or come to realize that it was never really a problem to begin with.
Your problem has already been faced, many times over by many people. So why are you still wasting your time with that problem? Here's why.
People love their problems. Their problems gives them a sense of identity, a feeling of significance and a sense of community with those havers and lovers of similar problems. People love getting together to compare, magnify and complain about their problems. The bigger, more complicated and intractable the problem, the more significant and attached to that problem community ("problemmunity") they feel. If you love your problem, you will NEVER be rid of it. It will always be a focus of your life and creative energies.
People who love their problems will always defend them. If you offer them a solution, they will counter with all sorts of reasons why the solution will not work. They will come up with many detailed and closely reasoned arguments for why their problem is quite impossible to solve. A great deal of imaginative effort goes into making their problem as air-tight as can be.
People who identify themselves through their problem feel angry when anyone shows the slightest doubt about or disrespect for their problem. Many of them are probably angry at me right now just for writing this. If you are feeling angry now, then you are probably problem-identified too.
People with chronic problems often don't realize that they love their problems. But their responses always give it away. Do you justify your problem by taking any opportunity to explain why it is someone else's fault? Why it is impossible to solve? Or how the bad ol' government, church, school, parents, ex, neighbors, kids, cops, drugs, booze, food, genes, germs, leprechauns, corporations, aliens, lasers, immigrants or cats did this to you? Then you love your problem. I know, because I used to do it, too. (It was my ex, who I once suspected of being an alien leprechaun cat sent by the government to drug me. With lasers.)
All human behavior is in response to need. If any of your behavior, voluntary or otherwise, planned or not, conscious or unconscious, prolongs or intensifies the problem you have, or at least does not actively implement the well-known, proven solution to that wholly unoriginal problem you have, then you are doing it because of something your unconscious mind thinks it needs:
Sympathy. Significance. Community. Identity. Validation. Punishment. Familiarity. Excitement. Security.
You unconsciously love any problem that gives you these things, and you will never get rid of it in spite of your loud protests and bellowing indignation at my words.
"You are wrong! I don't want my problem at all! But there's nothing I can do about it."
Aha! You are justifying and defending your problem again. Will you please say that again, except for the last bit?
" . . . I don't want my problem anymore?"
Good. Thank you. Now, if you please, . . . Prove it.
Prove it by first understanding that there are no problems, only opportunities. What opportunity does this so-called "problem" give to you? What opening is it creating for new things to enter your life? How might it allow you to grow, expand, increase, and learn? How is it eventually going to make you a better, more resilient person, more enlightened, joyful, fulfilled and happier? Oh, yes it will! If you only stop coddling and nurturing the problem long enough to put it down, see its true nature and get on top of it.
The fear of change alone keeps many people clinging to their "problems." Don't let such a filthy lie as that keep you weighed down. Anyway, only your old problem-loving brain stuff is afraid, not you.
Now adjust your conscious and unconscious beliefs about your identity as distinct from your current situation. Do this in any of the many well-known ways: prayer, meditation, hypnosis, affirmations, brain plasticity, visualizations, NLP, cognitive behavioral therapy, and so on. This will begin to alter your behavior. That behavior will implement those well-known solutions to the so-called "problem." Most people already know what to do; they just don't act because they're too busy defending their problems and remaining dependent on them.
As your mind wakes up out of that problem-centered trance you will begin to doubt the doctrine that other people or things are to blame for your "problem" and start to believe less in their power to create or control your identity. You may need to forgive certain people who have hurt you, or whom you have hurt. You may even need to forgive yourself. As you do, you will discover that you have more and more power to design and control your own life.
You will begin to accept the current situation as just that - a situation, nothing more. It is no longer an identity or a problem. You will begin to accept each new situation as it emerges out of your new behavior. Fast or slow makes no difference, because they are all just situations, never problems. Time is also not a problem.
Finally, look back at that horrible old "problem." It's the one that caused so much pain and suffering and pushed you right to the brink until you were ready to try anything - ANYTHING - no matter how bizarre it sounded or how indignantly your brain stuff reacted at first. Realize now that the "problem" was actually the greatest blessing of your life because of the place to which it has brought you now: the end of all problems.
The people who don't do this and who decide to keep their problems have simply not had enough pain and suffering yet. When they have finally had enough, then you can show them what to do (but you can't do it for them). Until then, all anyone else can do for them is to help them continue to have the stupid problem.
Some people think I must be devoid of all compassion to say that Problems are Stupid. Problems are not required for true selfless compassion to exist. When you no longer have problems, you will still have situations. They will often be fewer in number, however. It is nice to have compassionate friends who know how to help you with various situations without turning them into problems or without being motivated by selfish feelings like guilt, obligation or fear. Helping your friends out of an occasional uncomfortable situation is also a fulfilling thing to do, when you can do so without drama, attachment, suffering, or problems.
I suppose that is how my super-awesome brother-in-law is able to cope with the problems of 450 other people who depend on him. Though he might not use quite these words, he probably knows that problems are indeed stupid and is able to treat them as nothing more than situations at worst, great blessings and opportunities at best.