Managing Upset

The difference between breakdowns and problems

A problem is something wrong with the world. A problem happens to us, they land on us, and we have no choice but to complain about them and how unfair they are.

A breakdown is something we can declare. It’s something that has interrupted our commitment to something. For example I may be committed to waking up at 9am. A party might happen outside my house the night before, I wake up late and complain about this problem. Or I might notice that I had an unrealistic expectation (“nothing will get in the way of me going to bed”) and so I declare a breakdown in my commitment by acknowledging that something is occurring to me isn’t the way that it should be.

Once I declare my breakdown I can acknowledge my upset, I can record the facts about what happened, and I can get into action around my commitment.

Very often the breakthrough is on the other side of the breakdown I’m avoiding. For example I might want a breakthrough in intimacy with my partner, but I’m afraid to talk to them about it because they might get upset or defensive. This would be a breakdown. One that I’m avoiding. So I survive the problem. Once I’m willing to be with the breakdown (the difficult conversation, my partners feelings, etc) then I can get access to the breakthrough created by having a conversation around intimacy.

Breakthroughs are a creation of something beyond the context of what I currently see is possible. They are something that get created when I expand or deepen my context through declaration, commitment, being with breakdowns, and revealing blindspots.

Part of why breakthroughs follow breakdowns is because it’s in the breakdowns that our blindspots get revealed.

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