“The best years of life are the ones where you decide your problems are your own.” — Albert Ellis

Oh yeah. I love it when the problem is mine.

Sure, it can be lots of fun to point fingers and heap blame on other people.

It’s nice to imagine that we are perfect and that the only thing standing between us and whatever it is we want are all those other annoying people. Or our parents. Or the government. Or society. Or The Man. Or whatever other scapegoat we have chosen to keep ourselves from success.

But there’s one big problem with that approach: You can’t change anyone else no matter how much you whine or rant or rage. The only thing that each of us has the power to change is ourselves.

I don’t deny that some problems may be caused or exacerbated by other people, our parents, the government, society or The Man. We all know, for example, that the way our parents parented us has a huge effect on how we function as adults, for better or worse. (A new Psych Central blog, “Attachment Matters,” is all about that very thing.)

Recognizing and understanding the effect our childhood has on our adulthood can be key to personal growth. And you might need to pass through a period of anger or mourning as you reconcile what you wish had been with what actually was.

But ultimately, if anything is to change, you gotta reach a point where no matter what the genesis of your problems, you have to acknowledge that they now belong to you.


The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.

— Sophocles

Yeah, there is that. Who wants to look our own shortcomings  in the eye? Even if our only mistake is not avoiding  unhealthy situations, we have to admit that we must get something out of putting ourselves in those unhealthy situations. And that’s kind of crappy. I don’t know if I would call it a keenest sorrow. But it can be kind of embarrassing. And then you have the work of reprogramming yourself to own your part in the deal and take action.

Because until you own your own problems, you’re stuck with them. You drag those problems around like a ball and chain, the key to which you have entrusted to someone who may or may not give it to you willingly, no matter how nicely or angrily or sadly you ask.

Owning your own problems means reaching deep into your pocket and finding that you yourself have the key after all.


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