In detail

Problems, a matter of attitude

Problems, a matter of attitude

Let him who has no problems raise his hand.

If you are the lucky one, please contact me by sharing your secret formula. We can reach an agreement to patent it and I promise you, in a few hours, we will be billionaires.

Far from satire, do yourself the favor of not falling into the trap of believing the one who says he has no problems. We all have problems. They are part of life like water and like sun. They exist in all shapes, sizes and colors ... More or less small, more or less solvable, more or less easy ... but after all, nobody gets rid of them.


  • 1 The problems
  • 2 Troubleshooting phases
  • 3 Orientation or attitude towards the problem
  • 4 Patricia, my example
  • 5 Reflection


We suspend an exam, we get fired from work, someone from our family gets sick, we lose the plane, our boiler is broken, the bed frame tables are broken, the elevator does not work when we arrive loaded with bags from the supermarket ... We could fill in pages and pages and we would never end.

Besides, the freaks seem to agree to visit us when we are not going through a good time. Yes, it is at this moment when we experience the feeling that everything is dyed dark gray by pulling black. That moment in which any adversity becomes a world. It is at this point that we become authentic experts bitter us the existence.

We fall into continuous comparisons that we always lose out and, suddenly, we are flooded with an amalgam of negative emotions. We may come to believe that the lives of others are idyllic and that ours is plagued with setbacks and hardships. We attribute to the neighbor a status of happiness that does not fit reality. And if for a moment we manage to forget this, social networks are already there to remind us of our bitter routine.

While the rest has a “molona” and “requeteguay” existence, we live in a kind of constant victimization. I recognize that first, this strategy can be rewarding for the attention and love you receive from your environment, but in the long run it becomes extremely dangerous.

That typical expression of "it seems that everything comes to me at once" or "I do not lift my head" brings us closer to this state of malaise.

It is through the complain How do we reach the zenith of suffering and of the paralysis. Is the catastrophization which allows us to batter in the mud of our worries and we also tend to erect guilty of our ruins. The suffering and the one who pity us only moves us away from the solutions.

Is any of this familiar?

Well, let's stop at an aspect that I consider key to breaking this toxic circuit. Much of this mental entanglement responds to a bad orientation towards everything that seems to be a problem. Einstein already said that "The formulation of a problem is more important than its solution." I'm not so bold as to defy the words of genius, but I believe that we have a lot to lose if, before formulating the problem, we turn badly towards it.

Troubleshooting phases

PTo better understand the global context in which we move, I will briefly cite the components and phases proposed by D'Zurilla & Goldfried (1971), authors who develop the most recognized model in this therapeutic field. They propose two components, the first is the orientation or attitude towards the problem and is reduced to a purely motivational or attitudinal process and the second are the basic problem-solving skills, already more active, which concentrates, the concrete problem-solving skills itself.

  • Phase 1. Definition and formulation of the problem.
  • Phase 2. Generation of solution alternatives.
  • Phase 3. Decision making.
  • Phase 4. Implementation of the solution and verification.

Orientation or attitude towards the problem

Orientation or attitude towards the problem refers to our general style of response to life's problems or the way we see and assess a particular problem. This level includes our beliefs, expectations, valuations, attributions, emotional responses ... that directly influence and condition our own ability to face them.

If we fail at this first point; we will have difficulties in recognizing problems, we will see problems where there are none, we will assess them as threats, we will get frustrated when we meet them, we will do attributions inadequate about them, we will distrust our own ability to solve them, we will be pessimistic about the possible results, we will not devote enough time and effort ...

 Below we will briefly expose the five main ingredients for optimal problem orientation:

  • Perception of the problem. It involves recognizing and labeling problems when they occur, although this is not always easy. We tend, naturally, to overlook, minimize or even deny problems. Thus we reduce the threat and anxiety, but at the cost of continuing to suffer the negative consequences of not resolving them.
  • Attribution of the problem. It refers to who or what we attribute the causes of our problems. In an attribution maladaptive, people blame themselves for their problems and think there is something wrong with them; They look like dumb, stupid or incompetent. This leads us to a feeling of discomfort that keeps us from trying to solve it. In an attribution functional, the person attributes to the environment the cause of the problems along with transient personal factors and not to stable personal defects. This attribution enables the correction of the problem and personal growth itself.
  • Problem assessment. We can value a problem as a threat, which facilitates anxiety and avoidance responses; or as a challenge or opportunity to learn something new, change for the better or feel better about yourself. In this sense, failure is not seen as a catastrophe, but as a didactic experience.
  • Personal control. It depends on: a) the probability that we perceive a problem as solvable and controllable, and b) the probability that we believe we are capable of solving a problem with our own efforts. Our self-efficacy expectation acquires great relevance here; since the more one believes that problems have a solution and in their ability to deal with them, the greater the likelihood of solving them effectively and effectively.
  • Commitment of time and effort. Its two components are: a) the probability that we accurately estimate the time and effort it will take to solve a problem, and b) the probability that we are willing to devote the time and effort necessary to solve the problem. The lower these probabilities, the more avoidant and less efficient will be their coping.

Patricia, my example

At this point, I affectionately remember Patricia (fictitious name), a patient I had some time ago and at that time was overcoming colon cancer. During the first encounters he kept repeating to me the "millions of problems" that tormented his life. He complained about cancer, the side effects of chemo, the lameness that he dragged since childhood, his fatigue, the price of rents, health personnel, pajamas, the unpunctuality of ambulances, the tasteless food of hospital, the temperature of the room, that he was not able to tune antenna 3, the few visits he received and that when he received them they always appeared in the worst moments, that the day was cloudy, rainy, sunny ...

For my part, I appreciated the great effort I was making in continually repeating all his problems, because I consider that it should not be easy to complain 16 hours a day. I remember congratulating him on his titanic effort and he looked at me somewhat bewildered. I think that at that moment she realized that "the crux of her question" was to invest all that energy in something more productive for her.

Did Patricia have reason to complain? Some will think so, I think trying to find the answer to that question is losing the game before playing it. The surprise is that it was Patricia herself who ended up saying no, that she had no reason. She "turned the tortilla around". That day he found the key to his constant concern. He said something like: "Jose, in the end everything is a matter of focus, I think so far my compass was broken." That was precisely what we had worked on, but he had come to that conclusion in his own words. Without realizing it I was talking about the Orientation or attitude towards the problem.

Patricia had a lifetime with those awkward visitors in her head. She turned them around and made them big, much more since she had been diagnosed with cancer, logically. But he fixed his compass and changed his approach, not without effort and without doubts. I remember that in the first moments he cursed himself for the time he had lost trapped in that spiral, but he soon realized that this new strategy did not serve him either.

Thanks to this learning and especially to that change in attitude, thousands of their problems vanished.

The last thing I knew about Patricia was that she bought a scooter to visit her sister and her nephews, so instead of waiting for her visits, it was she who took the initiative. I also know that he signed up for swimming, that he always wants to wear very short hair and that he beat cancer.


It is impossible not to have problems. We have to be aware that there is no invisibility cloak before them. They all visit us continuously, every day and at all hours, but It depends a lot on how we turn to them to overcome them.

We fall into the trap of thinking that we have more than the rest, that life is unfair to us, that everything would be easier without them ... We wear out with these circular thoughts that lead us to a state of rumination and inactivity, and with this we attract a hodgepodge of negative emotions that only reinforce our misery.

We talk and talk about our problems, we give them a thousand and one laps giving them a gigantic power. Stop to think that If you fall into the networks of a problem, the solution you are giving is the problem itself.

Therefore, when Patricia fixed her compass, she realized that "The more we think of a problem, the less we think about its solution."