The Problem Solving Problems
My piano teacher used to tell me a very corny joke. It was about a man who used to hit himself on the head with a hammer. When asked why, he said, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
I have to admit there’s something about this joke that hits a little too close to home. I have a habit of creating problems for myself. Part of the reason: solving them feels so good.
Yes, you got that right. I create problems I didn’t actually have before. Then I solve them.
In some cases, this is a very good thing. It’s what compels me to write books and music. I get myself into a songwriting mess, or a jam in a novel, or whatever, and then I have to get myself out again.
It’s kept me learning orchestration, jazz, anything that takes years to master. I see these things as problems that I have to solve. I take pleasure the closer I come to a solution.
What’s the downside?
I have sometimes engaged in behaviors that ultimately make me unhappy. I know that when I start to suffer from them, I’ll have to counteract them by taking care of myself. I’ll enjoy that part.
I may work myself up over nothing, get myself so stressed out that I’m physically sick. That’s good for me because I’ll have to rest or recover. I’ll enjoy that part.
I may eat too much or overdo the sweets. Then I’ll feel sick and I’ll have to lie down. Get the picture?
Over time I’ve come to spot this strange tendency I have for creating problems because I love solving them. I see it as a perverted self-care. It’s also a way to feel like I have control in times when I don’t…I control the problem, I control the solution.
The problem with these problems I create is that they often have little or nothing to do with the bigger issues I’m facing. If I’m stressed out about money, rather than spend my time and energy coming up with a way to address it, I’ll create an unrelated problem to distract myself. I’ll be involved in that little tornado for a while and won’t think about the thing that I’m running from.
Even my “good” tendencies, the creative acts, the songs, the novels, can be used in the same sort of unhelpful way. I can get myself worked up over the plot of a novel in progress when I really should be thinking about how to sell the five I’ve written. It’s hard not to keep the baby and the bathwater.
At nearly fifty I am onto myself. I do know what I’m doing now, even though I can’t always stop. It’s a step in the right direction.
Have you ever done this? I’d love to hear about it. Do you think about it in the same way I do?
News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
I had an interesting contribution to an article about what to do when you get fired! See my "Press" page. Lots of good stuff coming down the pike that I can't wait to share with you.
Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Author, educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net