I don’t know who said it.
I don’t know what big problem he/she meant.
I can think of some candidates, though:
~ We’re burdened by oversized, hyperactive brains that never shut down or shut up. They punish us for the past, scare us with the future, make it impossible to relax and be here now. It’s a problem.
~ We’re largely unconscious, meaning we don’t know why we do what we do. Or even that we’re doing it. That makes it hard to stop doing stuff that’s bad for us or others. It’s a problem.
~ We need to be ourselves. We need to be accepted by our tribe. Often we can’t get both needs met at the same time. So we end up feeling needy in one way or the other. It’s a problem.
~ Unlike other animals, we know we’ll die someday. Despite all efforts to forget it, this knowing plays throughout our lives like background music. Some psychologists say it’s the root cause of all anxiety. I don’t go that far. But it’s a problem.
Then there’s the biggest problem of all.
I’m reminded of it during a session with a young woman who’s beating herself up over some sin she committed (or thinks she did) a decade ago.
She’s crying about it. I hand her a tissue.
“Know what your biggest problem is?” I ask.
She blows her nose, shakes her head.
“It’s my biggest problem too. And everyone else’s,” I say. “The main thing wrong with us is we think there’s something wrong with us.”
She looks at me.
“We think we’re guilty or unhappy or struggling because we’ve somehow screwed up. That we’re doing Life wrong. We forget that everyone we know is guilty or unhappy or struggling too.”
She sniffles, listening.
“See, most of what we call unhappiness is just the human condition. Just the cost of being alive and doing business. And if I could give you a magic pill which would convince you of this — that your problems aren’t your fault, and that you’re okay just as you are — it would change everything.
“You wouldn’t need therapy or medication. You’d leave here feeling fifty pounds lighter. You’d walk down the street with a spring in your step, and you’d be kinder to the people you meet.”
“You don’t have any pills like that?” she asks.
“I wish,” I say. “Think what I could charge for them.”
* * *
“Self-acceptance doesn’t work for me,” said Mary, sounding weary. “I just can’t do it.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because,” she said, pointing at herself, “I don’t know who this ‘self’ is that I’m meant to be accepting.”
The journey of self-acceptance starts when you acknowledge that you don’t seem to know much about yourself. Your personality, or ego, finds it difficult to answer questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I want?” Being asked to describe yourself at a job interview or for a dating agency profile, for instance, can feel excruciating and practically impossible because you haven’t really been paying attention.
~ From How self-acceptance can crack open your life: A radical 10-day plan to accept who you really are, by Robert Holden.