Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek
Stress management has always rubbed me the wrong way. Not just the term, but the practices as well. As the term implies, these methods are merely coping mechanisms to control the manifestation of symptoms we experience. Let’s be honest, if we were really in control they wouldn’t be there in the first place. We typically briefly experience the discomfort then reach for our favorite numbing agent to stuff it back in so we don’t notice it anymore.

What if instead of perpetuating the cycle of misery there was a way to make it go away completely?

Is it a simple process everyone can apply?

Is it easy?
Well, that depends entirely on you. Like anything in life, you get out what you put into it. If you focus on progress-being open, understanding the heart of the matter and growing from the experience, then yes. If you ruminate, wallowing in the pain as you replay it over and over in your head, then no. I would not recommend this method for you.

It appears as though we only have two options in life:

1. Avoid dealing with problems through tools such as coping mechanisms, numbing, escapism, suppression along with the many, many creative ways we’ve invented to avoid the discomfort of truly feeling our feelings.

2. Productively working through your emotions to identify and resolve the root cause.
I’ll take the latter all day long. The stress and emotions that appear in our lives are like a big, red check engine light flashing as your car refuses to start. You may get the car to start eventually, but the problem’s going to happen again if you don’t deal with the underlying issue causing the light to flash in the first place.

We’re made the same way. The things that bother us are cries for our attention. If you look closely I bet you’ll notice reoccurring patterns in your life. Seemingly independent events
Like the guy at work that irritates the hell out of you. Is he irritating because he’s annoying or is it because the way he interacts with you makes you feel inferior, question yourself, or feel lousy about your life?

Feel the same way in other situations? School Events? Clothes shopping? Social gatherings? I suspect if you dig the underlying cause will be the same. But here’s the untold secret of actually resolving your lurking issues: when you zap one, the other annoyances caused by that problem disappear too!

You know what happens when you’re finally able to value your opinion of yourself and your life more than the judgment of others?

Sweet freedom. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from sweating the little things. Freedom to just be yourself and live life on your terms.

So how do you actually resolve problems?

Don’t think of dealing with your emotions as a transactional based arrangement where you do X so Y goes away. View it more as a mechanism for growth and transformation in your life. There are three keys to success:

1. Exploring the discomfort and digging until you can identify the root cause. Often the surface feeling is just the symptom.

2. Once you’ve identified the cause you need to understand it. What does this make you feel about yourself? Is it true or false? Is it someone else’s belief or your own also? Is the belief accurate for your life as an adult? Is there something else in your life that should take priority over this? The questions are endless. Keep digging until you feel the subject is completely understood.

3. Now time for some action. What are you going to do about it? All of our internal experiences are a choice. You have complete control and jurisdiction over the matter. Is there something you should take away so you don’t feel like this again? Need changes in your life or the way you live? Is forgiveness needed to heal yourself or anyone else involved? Will bringing someone else into this be better or worse for them? Sometimes we can only heal ourselves and need to make peace as is. Putting the matter to rest is vital at this stage. Only you can decide what it will take to come to terms, move on and carry with you the growth and wisdom of the experience.

Funny thing happens when you actually resolve problems. Not only do they not come back, but if something reminds you of it, you aren’t affected in the present as you once were. You’ll recall it clearly, but the feelings associated with it are a vicarious experience. You remember them, but it doesn’t even make you flinch in the present moment.

So, the choice is yours to make. Will you take the easy way out? Suppressing, avoiding and escaping from the problems of life continuing the cycle? Or will you make the hard choice? Love yourself enough to look in the mirror, own your mistakes, forgive, and create a life of your own?

Our scars will always be with us, they don’t have to hurt us anymore.