sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

what’s it really about?

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2009 at 6:30 am

Human brains like compartments. They like categories. They like patterns. They like tidy little boxes. They like them a lot. That drives us to stereotyping, prejudice, racism, and ruts. It also gives us math and computers and good habits. But that drive toward categories also means that we like to know What The Problem Is.

In families, sometimes it’s not What but Who. The Problem is identified as Great Aunt Sally or the cat who always pees on the rug. When you find yourself saying, “If ONLY Mabel would quit smoking, she and Jonathan would have a perfect marriage,” you know you have a presenting issue (The What) or identified patient (The Who) at hand.

We do it to ourselves as well. And if the presenting issue is, say, smoking, it might not hurt to deal with it. But if you know it’s a presenting issue, then you also know what your payoff is for hanging onto it. So let’s pretend that your presenting issue is an obsession with tea. You love tea. Tea is everywhere. It spills out of your cabinets and piles up in your dining room and has filled your closets. Your friends have suggested that you could stop buying tea and never run out. You realize that you could never drink all the tea in your house, even if you had tea parties for 100 every day for ten years.

You know you have a problem. You’ve tried obsessing over it, ignoring it, going to tea-lovers-anonymous groups. You’ve tried drinking the stuff, and you don’t even like it, but you keep buying it. Collecting it. You’ve seen therapists and hypnotherapists. You’ve tried everything.

And every time you try, you find a way around your efforts. Just one more box, or one special bag, just a little, just something.

So what is it about tea?

Odds are, it’s what isn’t tea. If you fixed the tea problem, you’d have to deal with….what?

That’s your payoff. That’s why you stay stuck. There’s something more important that you can’t stand to look at–something way worse than tea.

Knowledge is power: now you have a choice. You can ferret the thing out that’s buried under your boxes of tea, or you can wait and watch and wonder and just notice when the tea thing disappears, if it ever does. What changed right before that? What shifted that made the tea not so important? And then you’ll know what was wrong.

What’s under your tea?

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