There is no problem here

 

How a simple statement can help to calm down the mind (and nervous system) in surprising ways.

 

I’m a fixer. There you have it. All these years of “letting things be as they are”, all these years of training and I’m still a fixer. Are you, too?

I was trained as a physician (classic fixer profession) and of course I was a fixer way before the possibility of medical school ever crossed my mind. Isn’t this one way how we choose our profession? We get more training in something we were inclined to to start with?

Maybe you don’t even know why being a fixer could be seen as a problem – or something that needs confessing. Isn’t that a good thing? Didn’t that get us somewhere in life? Yes, it did. But like with many patterns they often also have their shadow sides if unchecked.

In mindfulness or vipassana (Insight Meditation) fixing has a pretty bad rep (which of course is especially true for a mindfulness teacher ;)). Because we actually believe that nobody needs fixing! We believe that everybody is already whole and complete – and just needs to remember that.

The “mantra”

Last summer I had a practice check-in with one of my teacher-mentors. I don’t even remember what I shared with him but he must have picked up on a vibe that made him say: “Christiane, I would suggest you start working with a mantra.” Sure, I was all ears and probably expected some pithy line from the Buddhist scriptures. Maybe something from the Majjima Nikaya? Got it!

But instead he said “Here is the mantra: There is no problem here.”

Uh – what?

He smiled kindly and said: “Give it a try.”

And so I did.

  • Low on milk in the fridge and no time to get a new carton before breakfast for our three kids? Check.
  • Those three kids making me want to scream and throw something in their direction because they won’t neither clear the table nor change into their PJs in a remotely timely manner? Check.
  • A work thing still being in disarray after many failed attempts? Check.
  • A dear friend going through a horrible break-up which breaks my heart for her and her children and makes me feel so helpless? Check.
  • The strong sense that I can’t ever get through my to-do list? Check, check and check.

The body on problem mode

I was blown away how much of my time – most of it? – I spend in some form of fixing or problem tackling mode. Endless! And usually several problems are vying to be solved at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that tackling problems is a problem in itself – I actually take pleasure in my ability to do so – BUT.

no prob picBut I noticed that it does do a number on my nervous system. It makes my shoulders tight, my jaw set, my forehead frowned. I’m pretty sure it also elevates my blood pressure and heart rate and pumps a steady dose of adrenaline and cortisol through my blood stream. I know: all signs of a stress reaction.

Remembering the mantra and repeatedly stating it in a friendly manner reminds me that – in most cases – right in that moment there really isn’t a problem, or at least not one that would justify jeopardizing my health by overdosing on stress hormones.

The effect

Listening to that mantra lets something in me relax. It lets me see more clearly. I feel more spacious instead of tight and tense. And interestingly enough that in turn often enables me to discern if there is some action I need to take right now or if something needs to be done later – or maybe none at all.

I have more ease around my family and work and also to willing to show up for the bigger picture problems around us. Interestingly, the more calm my system is the more I am willing to roll up my sleeves.

And here is another note-worthy insight that came out of the “there is no problem here”-practice: I have become more aware of how much I identify with the fixer.  A substantial part of my identity seems to be tied up in being a fixer, a problem solver. I’m in charge, I can handle this, I make the day. I do get quite an ego-boost out of being a fixer! Now that is something else to practice with. Because: Who am I if I’m not a fixer?

If this topic rings a bell for you, and I suspect it does if you have read this far, I invite you to give the mantra “there is no problem here” a try, too. In a moment of tension or stress, repeat it softly to yourself several times. And you might want to –for this moment- “pretend” that there truly isn’t something that needs fixing right in this instant. What happens?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Love, Christiane

 

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35 Responses to “There is no problem here”

  1. Apprentice Jesus February 27, 2016 at 12:43 am #

    Thank you,very freeing.

    • Christiane Wolf February 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

      Isn’t it??

    • Renee February 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

      I am a fixer too! I can’t help myself. I will to the mantra,. My husband always makes me laugh when I am trying to ‘fix’ a situation with the simple line “Did they ask you for your help?’ Thank you for this Christine, xRenée

      • Christiane Wolf February 28, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

        That is a great question to ask, too :)! Thanks, Renee.

  2. Carol moss February 27, 2016 at 12:49 am #

    I love this blog and will do the mantra. It is incredibly helpful!

  3. Tracy Tynan February 27, 2016 at 2:53 am #

    I may have to have this tattooed on me!

  4. Daryl Winn Napier February 27, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    I so relate. And then what ? The dialog changes. What a wise teacher. I will be pondering this. It feels like a healthy shift. Thank you.

    • Christiane Wolf February 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

      Yes, exactly, Daryl. And then the dialogue changes. Thanks for sharing.

  5. waggoner February 27, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    Christiane, you are amazing. I love our mindfulness classes and this mantra has helped me a lot. I can relate to the “who I am if I’m not…..” In my case it’s not a fixer. In my case, it’s “Who am I if I’m not constantly obsessing/worrying about something.” Thank You.

    • Christiane Wolf February 27, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

      Thank you, Molly! So glad it helps. And what a good insight into your “who am I” :).

  6. Jennifer Toole February 27, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

    Perfect timing! I’ve been working in this space. The path was murky. Now, something perfectly clear…simple.

    How lucky to have you in my email 🙂

  7. Carol moss February 27, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    I really needed this this morning. A desperate woman called who is on the verge of homelessness. I am trying to help her it is hard to think there is no problem but when I think of the mantra I realize I am part of the problem. Thank you so much Christiane

    • Christiane Wolf February 28, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

      The point is obviously not that we stop helping. It’s that we change the place we act from. Great example, Carol.

  8. Melody Jazeb February 28, 2016 at 12:51 am #

    I have used something similar! “am I creating a problem right now (in my mind)”. How interesting that for me a lot of times its in my head. Thanks Christiane for relating this experience :).

  9. viola February 28, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    Thank you! I will try this mantra, too! When I’m worrying about my future, thinking nobody will ever join my courses anymore I take my hand: “Maybe I would never be a MBSR-teacher, become poor, maybe lonesome – so I do the best I can: I’m loving myself. Not as a successful MBSR-teacher, but as a human with a heart.” heartful viola

    • Christiane Wolf February 28, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      Yes! It’s just about this moment and I love the phrase: “I’m doing the best I can.” spoken in a very loving way :).

  10. Denise Bardovi February 28, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

    As you know I’m in a horrible flare up w/ my health condition and how hard I can try to fix it! Trying to fix the unfixable can be stressful especially for a fixer : ) Just saying your mantra “THERE IS NO PROBLEM HERE” is helping me find some peace. Thanks for passing this teaching on….much gratitude for the simple things

    • Christiane Wolf February 29, 2016 at 6:06 am #

      May the pain pass soon. May the mantra help. xx

      • Denise Bardovi February 29, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

        Thank you for your loving kindness…….yes the mantra does help and is a way to be kind to ourselves.

  11. Angelike February 29, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Dear Christiane – I felt very lucky to have read this a few hours before our first co-taught MSC retreat today. As I felt anxiety arising at any point, I told myself, “there is no problem here.” What a blessing!
    Much love,
    Angelike

  12. Denise Bardovi February 29, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    Chapter 2 of “There is no problem here” : ) So today when I sat down to work I thought, how am I going to make it through today after the weekend I just had. As soon as I said “There’s no problem here” I came out the future of worrying about today and in to the present moment. That was so helpful because it reminded me of how many times I’ve been in a lot of pain and wonder how I’m going to make it through the day, when the truth is I always do. Thank you again…….So helpful !!

  13. Beth Quayle, LMFT Santa Monica CA February 29, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    Christiane your willingness to be honest with yourself has inspired me to open up to the same. As a therapist I can completely identify and this has prompted some timely internal reflection.

    • Christiane Wolf March 1, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

      Thank you, Beth! Yes, us therapists and healers of any shade and form :).

  14. Christie March 2, 2016 at 11:20 pm #

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to start using this mantra now, too. 😀

  15. Tony March 6, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    This resonates deeply for me. My practice has grown and then plateaued at a related ‘fixer’ question for me which is, Who am I if I am not in control?

    • Christiane Wolf March 7, 2016 at 1:16 am #

      Oh, that question :). Looks like that is one that likes to keep coming up. So good we are in this together.

      • Jennifer March 18, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

        If this dialogue on Who Am I if I’m not in Control continues, I want in!! 😉

  16. Samar August 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    I saw this only today as I was trying to get hold of myself after a difficult night a stressful day yesterday . The idea of telling myself that there is actually no problem seems to trigger a shift in perception and I was starting to ask myself what could my day be if I looked at my situation from a different angle?
    It seems to be working . Thanks for sharing this insight with us Christiane. Hope your European summer is going well.
    Samar

    • Christiane Wolf September 28, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

      Yes, it seems to be working :). So glad you found this, Samar.

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