A quote attributed to Einstein says that we cannot resolve a problem at the same level of thinking we used when creating it. This is especially true regarding emotional problems and life situations.
Often we find ourselves within a disappointing circle of emotions and thoughts focused on trying to change external situations or other people. Even after making a rational decision, we will probably delay it or suffer inner conflict, which will likely sabotage action.
Within such inner conflicts, each of your urges, emotions and thoughts contain some truth and some healthy and justifiable desires, yet they cannot encompass wider perspectives. Before we finally resolve our limiting beliefs and emotions, each of these urges will alternately appear accurate and realistic. After we heal our limitations and, particularly important, after we integrate our lost and forgotten qualities, we can comprehend a Zen saying: the opposite of a truth is also a truth. We can look at problematic situations with deeper understanding and insight, and, more importantly, without emotional limitations. At that moment solutions can become obvious, just as when we observe people wrestling with their own problems.
For example, imagine being unsatisfied with the quality of your intimate relationship. Maybe there is an ongoing battle inside you between anger, love, defiance, fear… You might have thoughts like: ‘but he is better than many others…. better to be with him than to be alone… but I do not feel valued or recognized as much as I desire… but sometimes he is very caring… what if I wouldn’t be able to find another relationship… but still I desire much more than this relationship can give me…’
Trying to change another person or external environment, or making a rational decision, will not make sense in such a situation. Even if we succeed (usually only temporarily), the root of the problem remains unresolved, emotions remain unhealed, lost parts of us remain inaccessible, and we will quickly create, or will be attracted to similar situations or similar feelings, until we finally decide to look within and start resolving the cause of the problem.
Internal fragmentation and integration
Traumatic experiences and toxic relationships can fragment our personalities. We can replace parts of our identity with limiting beliefs, perhaps losing access to qualities such as self-esteem. We may suppress other parts that remain immature (inappropriate feelings), whilst others create compensatory masks (e.g. aggressiveness, victim playing). Sometimes even positive qualities may be used in this way, such as an overt intellectualism, sexuality or humor.
After we resolve our limiting beliefs, we can integrate, for example, lost self-esteem, optimism or joy. Only then it may become obvious, depending upon the situation, that we were, for example, reacting strongly to details that we could have resolved through honest, calm conversation. Perhaps we neglected ourselves out of fear that we did not deserve what we wanted, or that we could not find anything better. Maybe we understood it rationally a while ago, but similarly – as when one tries to guide a friend towards a rational and positive solution to their problem – the same emotions and fears would reemerge that kept us back.
Attempting to choose between the rational and emotional, between one emotion and another, can be maddening. The conflict continues until we reach a degree of integration from which we can feel and act at a new level of maturity and health. That is truly a quantum leap in consciousness.
It is easy to neglect our own contribution to the problem, to follow immature emotions, which in such moments seem very realistic, and put off their resolution “for later”. Procrastinating like that, we can spend years or decades in unnecessary frustration, instead of utilizing that time improving ourselves and creating a happy and healthy life. When I think about the improvement I achieved in the past 10 to 15 years, compared to my starting position, I am impressed – and sometimes I wonder where I would have been now if I had not spent years in procrastination and inadequate efforts.