Problems vs Symptoms

3 Feb


Okay, not really.  But, this idea is powerful.  Maybe because it’s not one of mine.  (Thanks T!)

So, I was struggling with my work a bit, mainly the fact that I cannot save / cure a whole coterie of girls in recovery from eating disorders (I know! I know…), and this idea was presented to me: 

Try to differentiate between what troubles are really just symptoms, results, or an expression of a root problem and what troubles are the problem itself. It is pointless to band-aid manage symptoms (albeit sometimes necessary); the real work and progress is made when we address the problem.

(The work I was struggling with was my dinner group.  Chock-full of symptoms on display.)

Simply put, image you have a rash.  You can continually treat the superficial rash with creams, getting some relief (and losing money).  Until, you figure out what allergen is causing the rash though, you have created a symptom loop.


Now, if you also address the why of the rash then you have the hope of stopping the cycle.  Problem solved.

Except the whys are usually naughty little minxes.  So, instead, we go deep into the symptom – band-aid loop.

And, then wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.

Symptom management does not mean that the problem is solved.

This life stuff is hard 😦

From Pema Chodron:  When I was about six years old I received the essential bodhichitta teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun.  I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved, and mad, kicking anything I could find.  Laughing, she said to me, “Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.”

Right there, I received this pith instruction:  we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us.  We always have this choice.


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