The Joy of Personal Stagnation

James Swingle



You know what I'm really bad at?  Working to resolve an outstanding issue only as long as there is something productive to be done, and then, when there is nothing I can do at that moment, letting go of it.  It doesn't matter that I can't do anything about the problem until the next day, or until people are back in the office on Monday, or some other future situation—I will sit there and churn away: “This is going to end up costing $300, “They caused the problem, and now they're not taking responsibility, “I'd like to go down to their office with a baseball bat.


Now, once the problem is over, even if I didn't get the result I wanted, I'm actually pretty good at getting over it, at not carrying it around with me.  I lost $300 on the deal.  Yeah, sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.  I should have kept a better paper trail.  Fair enough, something to remember for next time.  Once I get closure, whether it's the desired result or not, I can move on.  But until I get closure, it's an ongoing simmer at best, and sometimes it boils over all together.


Of course, that's the exact kind of thing all these techniques we learn in NLP, all those beliefs we adopt about personal growth and working on ourselves—that's the exact kind of thing all that stuff is made for.  “What would happen if you did let go?  “What's the positive intention behind holding onto the problem?  “What resources would you need to let go?


And I have worked on it.  I've found resources, talked to parts, found other ways to achieve the positive intention behind the behavior, gone into hypnotic states.  I must have done at least a dozen processes on this particular issue in the various workshops I've taken over the years. 


But, it never actually gets any better.  If someone screws me over on a Friday, and I know I can't deal with it until Monday, I spend all weekend brooding.  If I'm getting the run-around from a corporate bureaucracy,  it colors my day long after I've hung up the phone with them.


Now, the NLP approach to that is:  It's only feedback.  I've tried various things and they haven't helped, so that just means I have to explore new ways, new approaches, new processes.


But you know what?  I'm starting to suspect that sometimes working on a problem is more frustration than the problem itself.  Sure, I'll spend the odd day or evening or weekend in a churn over some outstanding problem I can't resolve until later.  But when I do resolve it, it's over.  If I define the fact I didn't handle it well as “something to work on, then it never ends.  Even when I'm feeling good, I still have “work on letting go of problems on my To-Do List.


So I've decided life's too short to be always working on myself.  Sometimes there's great freedom in saying:  You know, I'm really bad at that.  And that's good enough. 


James Swingle (Noneuclidean Cafe's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief) offers business training and consulting.  You can find out more at  His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Aoife's Kiss, Black Ink Horror, Susurrus, Byzarium and other publications.  Mr. Swingle's short story “Fortune Cookie“ was just made into a short film, directed by Mike Allore.  You can find out more about Mr. Swingle's writing at


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Article Copyright © 2007 James Swingle. All rights reserved.