What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

Problems. We talk about how severe they are, how terrifying, how overpowering the despair and then we write hundreds of thousands of self-help books on how to fix things but we never really talk about the link between fixing your problems and actually understanding them. Here are just three things that I think may help with that process.

What to do when you don't know what to do.

The first step is to stop. Stop panicking. Stop thinking. Stop worrying. Stop ignoring the problem. Just stop for a moment. Many people will give you something about meditation or stepping out of yourself or whatever, and that is all fine and good, but really all you need to do is to write your problem down. Now when I say write the problem down I don't mean write a dissertation on yourself or how everything in your life lead up to this, no, it should be reduced to as simple a message as possible, for instance:

"I am unhappy with my life because I do not have the career I want, I am unhappy with the friends I have and I do not feel I am skilled enough at guitar."

This is effective. It doesn't matter why you're not skilled at guitar, or whether your friend Brad totally pissed you off last weekend, or whether you chose the career you don't want that you thought you wanted. All that matters is the here and now, the truth of your life, and if you could stop and take that with you you would be so much better off.

The second step is to listen. If you read your sentence aloud something may click, something may at least react which gives rise to your ability to do something, to act wisely and with tact and effectiveness, because often people aren't listening to themselves. I can tell who is and isn't relatively quickly particularly by how they describe their problems; if they cannot condense their problems they aren't listening to themselves because they can't hear the confusion that they are causing not only to others but to themselves. I am not saying that things aren't complex, many times they are multi-faceted, but with the example above let's take the unhappiness with friends and show both a listening and deaf example in my opinion:

Listening: "I am unhappy with my friends. I am unhappy with them because they no longer share my morals, my attitude towards life, and disregard my philosophy and make me feel bad for standing up for what I believe in."

Deaf: "I an unhappy with my friends because last weekend Bill told Jeremy that we would hang out but then Bill didn't show because he wanted to get wasted with Alex and Jeremy got mad at me because Bill didn't show even though I explained what happened. After Alex and I got into it Jeremy texted me some rude nonsense about how he was going to bang some chick and Bill drunk dialed me at 3am and told me about his loneliness again even though I had an exam the next day. Not to mention that Jeremy keeps making fun of my faith and then there's Kyle who just outright things I'm stupid for not getting a degree in STEM and doesn't support my choice to take on nursing at all saying it's a "girls profession"! I can't stand it!"

The difference isn't in the message, they both contain the same things, but it is the delivery. The latter is hard to read, hard to really grasp which person is doing what and almost impossible to put a rank of importance on the matters at hand. If this person's religion mattered a lot to them Kyle's "cursory mention" might through not only whomever is told but also the self off on how much it really matters to them. Bridging the gap between action and identification almost always involves some form of listening and sadly in my opinion a lot of people are always looking to find that magic solution when really the solution is as simple as just taking the time to hear your problems.

There's nothing wrong with therapy and I highly encourage it but at some point you have to understand that you are also your own therapist. You are the best person qualified for your treatment in most cases barring mental illnesses that cause delusions, hallucinations, or other rather extreme neurological sequences. I am not saying "You are the only one who can cure you!" but I am saying "You must participate in your treatment. You cannot hand it off." Your mental health is like your physical health; no matter who tells you to work out and no matter how much you know you need to if you don't do it then you'll get nowhere. Listening to yourself is workout of the mind. It strengthens you a lot and empowers you to do more in life.

The third and final piece I'd suggest is surrendering. Surrender to yourself. Sometimes our conscious mind gets in the way of our ability to manage things. Some call this "overthinking" for instance. There are times when it isn't complex and there is no reason for you to despair and you know the answer but you fight the answer, you second guess, you don't surrender and then you try to take charge of something you need not manhandle.

The step of surrender isn't one of defeat, the opposite, it is victory; when you can identify a problem that goes above and beyond what you can handle accurately, know how to phrase it so you can acquire help in an efficient manner, and actually know what you need you are far better off when seeking help. People who don't surrender to themselves typically wind up with false beliefs of how well they know themselves, but in my experience and the experiences of others and entire self-help genres, the people who know themselves very well practice this almost all the time.

This is the hardest step. This is by far the hardest thing a person has to do particularly because it is incredibly difficult to make that decision to not make a decision consciously. To not worry. To take your own answer at face value and run with it. A core example is perhaps a question on a test; we have all had that question on the test that we knew the answer to backwards and forwards and we were experts on it to the point where we did not need to think about it but we were afraid of this reality, this absolute state of subconscious knowledge, so what did we do? We thought about it. And what did we get? The wrong answer. The wrong conclusion. We knew the answer but we chose to deny that answer because it was too quick, too easy and the notion of just "knowing" is something that is heavily discouraged meanwhile the notion of "deep thought" is overwhelmingly pushed.

In the example it is clear and easy to relate to but mix in emotions and intense desires and it muddles itself very quickly. The same people who "know themselves" when their mind is clear wind up completely torn apart the moment they face these storms and most of life is these storms. Knowing when and how to weather a storm often requires knowing when and how to let yourself drift at sea; despite being taught that force of thought and will are the answer many times it really isn't.

Here's a picture of a puppy since I know you won't read this and don't care:


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