Vanishing Act: How Changing Your Thinking Makes Problems DisappearNothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

Pema Chodron

This quote got me to thinking about a challenging situation in my own life which has been going on much too long….almost a decade….conflict with my ex-husband. I will more than readily admit that for most of that time, I contributed to this pattern unconsciously with gusto.

Over the past couple of years, I have grown tremendously emotionally and spiritually. I read and try put to practice in my own life the teachings and philosophies of everything from Buddhism to the latest brain science. It’s a learning process, but I do pretty well these days. “Why does this #@%# situation still persist?” I wonder with frustrated exasperation and sometimes mindful curiosity.

In my counseling session, I asked about this quote. The therapist’s answer was an aha moment for me. I was interpreting the quote to mean that when you have learned the lesson – graduated with the diploma in hand, as I thought I had – that the challenge would literally cease to exist in your life. 

She showed me a different perspective.

When You Change Your Way of Thinking, You Change Your Life

She suggested that when you have learned the wisdom a situation has to teach you, it may still be present in your life, but it is no longer challenging or troublesome. Whatever “it” is doesn’t hook you or get an emotional reaction anymore. It’s just there. Part of the background of your life. Ho-hum. No big deal.

The circumstances can still be present, but, the problem goes away — vanishes because it no longer causes distressing thoughts or emotions for you. You don’t see it as a problem anymore. The only thing that’s changed is your way of thinking about it.

I thought “Of course! Why didn’t I see this before?”  because I knew the same principle to be true in other cases. As happens often in situations in which we’re emotionally entangled, I wasn’t objectively applying my wisdom here.  I guess my relations with the ex will probably always be emotionally charged situations, but I have come a long way towards diffusing them.  It’s business, as usual, these days, pretty much no matter what arises there.

Hardly anything ever even gets a reaction from me anymore. When something does manage to hook me, it’s usually very fleeting, and I look closely at the issue to see what it has to teach me instead of flipping out and taking a ride on the emotional roller coaster. Feels good to get off of it.

Here are two perfect examples of how simply reframing something in my mind and how changing my thoughts about something can literally alter my reality. The first example is shifting my perspective of the actual quote, and the second is changing my thinking about the situation with the ex-husband.

I’m sure I’ll get hooked and hijacked on some level again in the future.  I have no doubt about that.  However, now that I’m aware of this mental health tool — almost a magic trick, I can move even further towards having “the problem” vanish from my life.

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  1. Ande Waggener Reply

    This is great insight, Debbie! And it’s so true–in fact, it’s how the universe works. First, the “problem” becomes a non-issue, even though it’s still ongoing in our physical world, and eventually, because of our changed reaction, or rather, non-reaction to it, it vibrates right out of our experience.

    Congrats on your perception shift!!! 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Ande, I like the “it vibrates right out of our experience” part! It is so nice not to be swayed by this situation or really have it impact my life in a big way these days. I am much more focused on other things which make positive movement in my life. Feels good. Isn’t that the whole point? 🙂

  2. Jeremy Kirk Reply

    I agree that our perspective is very important. Nice article, and the quote is a good example.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Jeremy, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Glad you found it useful.

  3. I’m a rather slow learner, so none of my deeper problems have been solved rapidly enough to seem like they had vanished. However, I’m also persistent and tenacious, so I do get where I need to go eventually, and learn what I need to solve problems. It just takes the time it takes.

    I have a lot of sympathy for some of your emotional and psychological challenges, Debbie. I’m grateful you are willing to share them, and I applaud you for continuing to work on them. I wouldn’t like to think my scars are unique. I have had similar losses to deal with, though they did not have the same causes as yours. I wasn’t able to raise my only child. I had to achieve a functional truce with my ex-wife. I had to move on from a bad relationship I was addicted to, and seek supportive, healthy relationships. I had to learn to forgive myself and others who had done wrong to me through intentional actions, and through ignorant actions.

    But these things came and went decades ago, and I’ve changed and grown a lot. To imagine back then what I would become now would have been as difficult as explaining nirvana to a direct marketer.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Mikey, like you, I am a slow learner. It has only taken me a decade to learn that I even had the power to make such things not an important part of my existence. But, also like you, I am tenacious and persistent. Damn determined. I had a practitioner who read the EEG results of my brain about a year after my injury tell me that the only reason I was functioning so well was because of sheer determination.

      I too have learned to have compassion for myself. It also helps tremendously that I stopped expecting life to be like the majority of society says it should…or did…like I was unconsciously force fed growing up…the white picket fence, the marriage, the 2.5 kids, etc. When I quit stressing about how life “should” be and looked at how it really was and at all the blessings therein, it looked pretty good.

      Blessings to you!

  4. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    Watching you has been like watching a beautful flower go from bud to bloom. Hurray for you and your not so “newly found” by now perspective. It is good to see you have the wonderful life you deserve for the beautiful person you are spiritually. Lots of Love, Mom

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      So many thank you’s for the kind words, Mom. I feel like a flower which has finally opened. Bout time, huh? Better late than never. I am reminded of a quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Exactly. Thank you so much for support and patience and willingness to change our relationship as I changed along the way.

  5. Wow Debbie I am proud of you. I too have let things go, the Ex-husband has no power over me. I felt very free once I forgave him and myself for the mistakes that have been made over the years. Hooray for you and your new found freedom. Sending Balance and Harmony your way. Nora

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Great for you, Nora. You are a quick study! Only took me a decade! I know from my own experience that you think you are past it all, and, then, something pops up that will show you where it still needs some attention. But, the basic idea brings so much peace! Blessings to you. BTW- gonna send a personal email later.

  6. Debbie,

    Good information. And remember you have the tools to minimalize any challenging or distressful situation you experience – The Attitude Adjustment Routine. This simple sandwich of actions not only stop the thoughts they also get rid of the energy created by the distress. We need to do both. Consistently using this routine when challenging situations arise eventually cause the problem to vanish.


    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Tony, thanks for the reminder. Good point that there is also energy that the body generates to accompany the thoughts. I had forgotten that. My bag of tricks/tools is getting plentiful and powerful!

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