Do you know the difference between a problem and a difficulty?
Sometimes, we see problems where there are difficulties and others, we want to believe that our big problems are just small difficulties.
The truth is that the difference isn’t always so easy to see. With this post, I want to shed a bit more light on the matter.
What’s the difference between a problem and difficulty?
Difficulty can be defined as the obstacles that have to be overcome to achieve a specific objective.
This means you’ll need to make an extra effort to achieve what you want, you’ll have to learn to deal with what is happening to you. You can’t just ask and get, you’ll have to give something in return. Maybe your effort, your creativity, your struggle, your strategy. Basically, it’ll cost a bit more than it would if you didn’t have difficulty.
A problem has a broader definition, but for what concerns us, we could say that it’s that which causes us physical, mental or emotional discomfort, and which requires a solution. It’s something that invalidates your life or part of it, to such an extent that you can’t overcome the situation by yourself, either because you don’t know how to, or because you’re emotionally blocked.
But here’s the hard part:
What could be a problem for one person, can be a difficulty for another, and vice versa.
So, when faced with habitual everyday situations, if you wonder whether what’s happening to you is a problem or a difficulty, you can ask yourself:
To what extent is what’s happening to you something you can accept and manage, or is it limiting your life or making you feel bad?
A person needs to go to the toilet, but since they aren’t at home, they have to go to a public bathroom. There’s someone in the neighbouring stall, so they have to wait until the person leaves to relieve themselves. Usually, this is a 1 to 2-minute wait.
What would you say this is? A problem or difficulty?
Well, it depends.
We’d need to investigate if the person can accept the “difficulty of using a public bathroom” as something that is “happening to them” but which doesn’t limit their lives at all.
In that case, it’d be a difficulty.
But, if the person really has a bad time every time they use a public bathroom, get anxious, can’t do anything, and spend several hours without being able to go to the bathroom, then, this will complicate their lives.
In that case, it’d be a problem.
But it has to be the person who evaluates all those things.
To what extent does what happen to you, overwhelms you, limits you, makes you anxious, makes you feel bad…?
When you confuse difficulty with a problem
Imagine you have a difficulty and you see it as a problem. You seek professional help and start investigating the difficulty.
Two things may happen here:
- You may notice that it really isn’t a problem. You stop your therapy and are done with it.
- You turn the difficulty into a real problem.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend any time investigating why you have that difficulty. You may discover some limiting beliefs, or may discover an obsession or fixation.
But, do you really need to look for a “why” in everything?
If you’d been able to accept your difficulty as something “natural”, for example, “you have difficulties going to a public bathroom when there are people”.
Yes, you have difficulties, so?
Should you never have any difficulties?
Sometimes, some things are difficult for us.
And it’s ok.
You don’t need to spend 5 years in therapy to solve a difficulty.
Do you know what I mean?
We’re all a bit neurotic. In fact, Guillermo Borja, in his book La locura, lo cura stated it as:
“If in a neurotic society such as ours, someone not neuroticized was born, we’d need to neuroticize them so they could adapt and live in this society”.
Well, that’s what I’m talking about.
We all have difficulties and a certain degree of difficulty can even be positive. Because, based on the difficulty, we use our resources and abilities to overcome them and learn along the way.
When you confuse a problem with a difficulty
This is more dangerous, because by not seeing the problem or not considering it as such, you need, and you’ll remain in that bad situation.
This case includes all kinds of denial. Having a hard time, but self-deceiving yourself with the typical:
- I’m fine
- I can solve this when I want
- It’s not that bad
- I don’t have any problems
Do any of these sound familiar?
I’m not going to talk about problems like alcoholism , anorexia, etc. which are diseases that the patient usually denies. I’m talking about those not-so-small things that make you suffer, and which by not giving them the importance they deserve, make you remain in an uncomfortable situation for a long time.
- You feel dissatisfied in your relationship but can’t make any decisions.
- You feel paralyzed and the only thing you do is argue and suffer.
- You no longer remember how long you’ve been feeling sad without knowing very well why. You just follow a routine, don’t dream about anything and just let life go by.
- You have a relationship problem with someone (your boss, your friend, someone in your family) and every time you have to see them you get anxious and don’t know how to deal with the situation.
Do you really have to go through it alone? Couldn’t a bit of help come in handy?
If we start from the basis that you deserve to be ok, and have some difficulties, of course, but without any great suffering.
Could it be easier to see the difference between a problem and difficulty?
I guess the moral would be don’t make a mountain of a grain of sand, but if the grain of sand gets in your eye, seek help immediately.
And if you can’t see the difference by yourself, you know I’m here for whatever you may need. Contact me and I’ll help make things clear.