Investing in Being Human - Dr. Colin Archer
You’re Not the Problem, I Am
By Dr. Colin Archer
Jul 11, 2013 - 2:42:39 PM

Working on the assumption that the problem is me, not you, can literally save your life – mentally, emotionally, physically even spiritually. I know this to be true, because it has given me the most effective way to live my own life - on a practical level - the past thirty and more years.
If we don’t have a tried and tested formula by which to live our lives on a day to day basis, we’ll probably not make it; or, at best, we’ll get thrown way off track. So I offer here a workable ‘to make it’ plan, for living.

The verifiable common sense ideas to be shared are, in the first instance, as old as the sacred scriptures. The problem [any problem we face] is me, in what I do; it’s not in you. Deep, honest confession is still good for body, mind and soul. The central focus ought to be on me and my actions – thinking, feeling, behavior - not the other person and their actions. Jesus, the human life of God, the greatest teacher ever, once put it this way: Do not judge others or you too will be judged… Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in the other person’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye [Matthew 7:3-5].
Notice the inference Jesus makes. He implies that the problems we’re dealing with are probably a lot more significant, more manageable than the other person’s, so don’t spend your time analyzing theirs. Take care of your own faults, shortcomings and business first, and let the other person take care of their own. Don’t spend your time getting the other guy sorted out (you can’t anyway) and thereby ignore your own more immediate, solvable issues. This is one of the first principles of the problem is me concept, which is: I am my own best friend or my own worst enemy – not the other person. Nobody can be kinder or more loving to me than me and nobody can be more cruel or inconsiderate to me than me. What ultimately happens or does not happen to me is largely up to me and not another person or event.

I first read about this systematic formulation – the problem is me, not you – from rational emotive therapy (RET) set forth around the mid-1950s by Dr. Albert Ellis. Years later, in the 1980s, Bahamian clinical psychologist, Dr. Timothy McCartney and I, met psychiatrist Dr. Maxie Maltsby, who advanced his rational behavior therapy (RBT), which we enthusiastically and effectively adopted and employed in our work the years following, as psychotherapists in private practice and at a psychiatric institutional level. When it comes right down to it, Max Maltsby said, each of us causes or manufacturers his or her own emotional feelings, not someone else. Here is another RET/RBT principle: People are disturbed not by things or people but by the views they take of them. Or again, to rephrase Shakespeare in Hamlet: There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

This rigorous self-responsibility modality of looking at ones challenges and problems, compliments the enlightened insight of the distinguished international scholar and social ethicist, Reinhold Niebuhr. It had been my good fortune to obtain in 1976, postgraduate degree accreditation at Niebuhr’s, now my alma mater, Eden Theological Seminary, St Louis, Missouri. The first lines of Niebuhr’s much loved serenity prayer, reads: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Let’s be out and about today, as FHBs, fallible human beings, complaining not, explaining not, blaming others not for our failures, foibles and shortcomings, but taking life squarely on our mental and emotional chins. Let us acknowledge that the fault’s most likely in ourselves, not in ours or another’s stars.
By and large, you’re not the problem, I am. What a truly great life this would be if each of us believed and practiced that consistently, faithfully, each and every day of our lives.

About the author:  Dr Colin Archer is an ordained Christian Minister and Psycho-theologian, who at an early age he realized a keen sensitivity for the poor, homeless and dispossessed in relation to church and society. He served as Psychotherapist at a psychiatric hospital in Nassau, Bahamas for many years. He is the founding president of The Bahamas Council on Alcoholism, later establishing a half-way house for recovering victims of alcohol abuse and a home for battered women through Methodist Community & Church Ministries. He is currently the Author of five (5) books, due to launch his sixth book, Foundation 7 Formation, due to be released in Spring of 2013.

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