Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Maladaptive Problem Solving

This is my new favorite word phrase.  Ever since I heard it the other day as Dr. Rochelle Caplan talked about Conversion Disorder on the video, I loved it!  Maladaptive problem solving says it all, in my view.

What do I mean by maladaptive problem solving?  It is when you try to deal with life's experiences, stressors and problems in ways that really are not helpful.  Maybe they are a band-aid on a gushing wound or a quick fix to suppress something unpleasant, but they really don't solve the issue.

Let's bring this down into more plain terms so that you can follow along with me better.  I don't want this to just be a complicated concept that is stated.  I really want to help you understand.  I will use an example from my past that is simplistic, but hopefully illustrates my point.

When things got too tough for me in life as a kid and they often did, I would get where I could not feel a thing.  I would shut down and numb myself out.  Now, no one could most likely tell that I did this.  I could in no way show anything that bothered me or that I was angry with my father.  If I did show any emotion, I either got labeled as a crybaby or I would get the crap beat out of me which could include getting hit with whatever was close by or being kicked like there was no tomorrow.

Sometimes I could not escape these things, but I would go outside or into the basement and I would look for something like a stick, rock, tool or anything hard.  I would start hitting myself over and over until it hurt so bad that I could begin feeling something.  It was my way of dealing with the shutdown and the anger and sadness and all the other negative emotions that came up in me.

You see, the best thing I could have done most likely was kick the living daylights out of my father (or older brother).  Unfortunately I was too small for that.  I could have told someone that I trusted, but I didn't trust anyone and we knew that if we dared say a word, it could cost us our life or the life of our pets.  There was no way out.  There was no solution.

So I learned to adapt in a unhealthy way to the experiences that I was going through.  While I was going through them, they seemed normal because it was all that I knew.  I didn't know I was problem solving in a maladaptive manner.  I would have had no clue then and it would take me many years of my life to figure that out.

This is one example and I know there are many more.  Unfortunately, I'm not the only one that does this.  I think it is all too common, especially in kids and then it is carried on into adults.  If you do this enough, there is a good chance you will learn first hand what Conversion Disorder is all about.

When we have overwhelming experiences and emotions that we have to suppress, they need to go somewhere.  Our brain rewires itself to try and make sense of it but our body also absorbs these things to the point where they are not readily seen.  We continue to accumulate layer upon layer on these things until they are so hidden from plain site, that our life resembles one that is not our own.

Maladaptive problem solving is a quick fix that gets you nowhere.  Its like being thirsty and drinking poison just because it is the only thing available.  It is taking all the negative emotions we are accumulating and turning them into physical symptoms.

Humans are good at maladaptive problem solving.  We do it all the time and are not even consciously aware we are doing it.  It is often how we survive in life, but the trick to doing things healthy is by becoming aware we are doing it and then learning different skills then what we currently employ.

Don't become in the shape that I was where I almost lost all resemblance of my life through the Conversion Disorder.  Learn healthy coping skills and how to stay connected within your body, not disconnected like so many of us do.  It isn't easy to change this once you have learned this unhealthy behavior, but it is possible to chart a new course.  I'm living proof of that!

Blog Post And Images (c) 2016 by Don Shetterly
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