Facing, solving problems can minimize stress

For all of the wonderful, happy and fulfilling experiences that life can offer, all human beings inevitably also face a wide variety of problems. Some problems can confound and frustrate even the most patient individuals. The worst problems, like serious illness in oneself, or illness in, or death of, a loved one, create agony for all.

Life presents a continuous series of problems. The problems that people face at the age of 18 are often vastly different than the problems that they face at the ages of 28 and 38, and certainly, at the ages of 58 and 68.

While problems often cause a certain amount of distress, successfully coping with problems provides continuous opportunities for personal growth and development.

In his best-selling book, “The Road Less Traveled,” (Copyright 1978, Simon & Schuster, Inc.), the noted psychiatrist M. Scott Peck examines the importance of dealing with problems.

“Problems do not go away,” Peck wrote. “They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”

Facing problems squarely and in a forthright manner is a process that invariably involves a considerable degree of personal discomfort.

“Confronting problems is painful,” Peck wrote. “To willingly confront a problem early, before we are forced to confront it by circumstances, means to put aside something pleasant or less painful for something more painful. It is choosing to suffer now in the hope of future gratification, rather than choosing to continue present gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary.”

Examples of facing problems squarely and in a timely manner are endless, and can include, but are not limited, to:

n A person admitting and acknowledging that his or her use of alcohol or other substances is excessive and destructive, and undergoing treatment before things spiral out of control.

n A person who leaves a well-paying but unfulfilling job for a job that pays less but is more fulfilling.

n Another person who leaves a stifling, loveless marriage of convenience to face an unknown, uncertain future.

As important as problem-solving is, it is also often human nature to deny the existence of a problem rather than to suffer the pain of confronting it. In the realm of mental health, problem-solving can often be one of the most important factors in achieving a level of optimal wellness.

“(With) some problems, the longer that you ignore them, the worse that they get,” said Dr. Joseph Antonowicz, medical director at the UPMC Altoona Behavioral Health Services Department. “In the world of addiction, (denial) is a pretty common problem. The elephant in the living room is ignored until it is quite large and then the problem has to be dealt with.

“It would be easier if it had been dealt with when it was problem-drinking rather than a full-blown addiction,” Antonowicz said.

The same can be said of many other types of problems.

“Identifying the problem, defining a solution, and (taking) incremental (steps toward the solution),” is how Antonowicz described the process of successful problem-solving.

Next: Forgiveness and mental health.

John Hartsock can be reached at jhartsock@altoona mirror.com.