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This might be tough to hear, but you have issues. It’s okay, though. We all do.

Our issues arise from our imperfect, very human, histories. Sometimes they come from singular events and traumas. Sometimes they build slowly over decades or they’re based in generational trends. They can be on the edge of our awareness or hidden in our blind spot. In any case, we carry them into every meaningful relationship in our lives.

Here are some things to roll around in your mind next time you find your issues floating to the surface:

  • Can you name them? You probably have at least a vague sense of the emotional trap doors that become activated in you on a regular basis. If you haven’t already, bring that fuzzy sense into sharper focus. Put some definition on your patterns.
  • Are they predictable? Our issues are triggered in the context of the historical events and relationships where they began. Recognizing their origins puts you in a better position to know when they’ll emerge so you can prepare for their impact. 
  • How are they impacting your family? That’s one of the hardest questions any of us face. The answer comes from allowing difficult observations to seep in. Consider how you might be making relationships harder and what you are teaching the next generation in the process.
  • How are you working on them? Chipping away at our issues is a lifelong project. Change has a way of slipping backwards. Continual progress only comes from being vulnerable, staying open-minded and moving knowledge into action – again and again. Learn, plan, execute, assess, repeat.
  • What happens when you work on your issues, but other people in your circle don’t? You can only do what you can do. Here’s the thing about families, though – the people in them tend to influence each other in powerful ways. Resolving to stay on an upward trend will create ripple effects, with you at the steady center.
  • What would it be like if they were resolved? Issues don’t form by accident – they serve functions. Letting go of them would result in the loss of the secondary gains they provide (escape, avoidance, etc.). But through making the unconscious conscious, you can turn them into strong footholds for your growth.

Our issues are what make us human. Striving toward simple understanding of them goes a long way to lessen their magnitude. At our best, our issues lend us genuine compassion and empathy for others – a sense of humble humanity that wouldn’t be possible without them.

About the Author

Kerry Galarza, MS OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and the Clinical Director at the Midwest Institute & Center for Workplace Innovation. She provides specialized assessment and intervention with children of all ages and their families. Kerry engages clients with naturally occurring, meaningful home-based methods to empower autonomy and maximize functioning.