What is the Problem?

On Wednesday afternoon, our kids’ daycare called me, informing that our younger son had a slight fever. I picked him up and took him home. On Thursday, we arranged a babysitter for him as he couldn’t go to the daycare. He’d also had a bump on his butt since 2 days which my husband thought was either a diaper rush windowslivewriterdisillusionedwiththedefinitionofecm-a045thinking32or a small pimple. On Thursday evening, he was bleeding from that bump and was in pain – he cried in discomfort while in a sitting position. We called the nurse hotline and then the pediatrician’s office. Upon speaking with a pediatrician, he recommended we go to the ER immediately based on the symptoms. My husband left home with our younger son around 9:00pm while I stayed home with our 3-year-old. We had been to the ER before – one of which times I wrote about in this post called “How to Love Being Afraid”. During the last 3 occasions, the longest wait time it took for us to be seen was about 3 hours. I realized that we had been really fortunate in terms of wait times. Because of the previous quick visits, for a second we even thought about all of us going together, thinking that we’d probably be back by 11:00pm or so. My husband called me occasionally to update me their status. The triage nurse saw them around 11:30pm and told him that it would probably be about 3 hour wait until he’d been seen by a doctor based on the current workload of the ER, the number of people on staff that evening, and how sick he was.

The treatment finally  started at 5:30am. They needed to give our son some medicine to sedate him so they could cut open the bump and drain it. Even though I finally went to sleep at midnight, I woke up at 3:00am, and I kept waking up every so often after that. I thought about my two dear boys in the ER, waiting patiently, exhausted – from what my husband told me on the phone, our son wasn’t getting much sleep there. I was thinking about the worst case scenarios, such as, maybe he needs to stay in a hospital for this? What would I do? I still had to work on Friday and Saturday. What if they catch the swine flu while waiting in the ER, a place full of sick people? I then remembered what I had just heard that evening – I listened to Pamela Dunn’s new radio show called “Journey to your Magnificence”. During her most recent show, she talked about the difference between a “pseudo” problem, and a “real” problem. A “real” problem is the one that you can take a simple action to fix it. A “pseudo” problem is not a real problem – but you create a feeling of false sense of value because you spend time pondering what to do about it, and the very act of pondering makes you think that you are actually doing something, while you really are not. I realized that by worrying about “What if” scenarios like I did at 3:00am in the morning, I was creating a “pseudo” problem because there were not any real problems at that point I could solve. I just wanted to create the feeling that I was actually doing something by thinking what to do about my “pseudo” problems, and by doing so I wanted to feel valuable.  In reality, there really wasn’t anything to be done – our son had a medical issue that needed attention, and he was getting it.

Pam went on to further explain about what motivates people to generate “pseudo” problems for themselves. Some of them include worrying, feeling of fear, beating oneself up or putting oneself down. When we focus too much on “pseudo” problems, they paralyze us and squash any creativity for solutions. Last night at 3:00am, the best course of action I could have taken, instead of worrying about something that have not happened yet, was to get some more sleep so I could function better the next day.  In fact, my husband later told me that he was glad that he went by himself with our younger son, so that our older son and I could get some decent sleep instead of waiting with them in the ER lobby. Those who are interested in learning more about this concept of “real” and “pseudo” problems can get the archive of the show here. This particular show came out at the perfect timing for me, giving me a chance to learn and reflect on a real-time life example. Next time you think you have a problem, ask yourself – is this a real problem? If so, what is a simple action you can take to fix it?

3 comments on “What is the Problem?

  1. Hi Etsuko,

    I listened to the one hour podcast you mentioned and linked to above. It’s always interesting to hear people’s approaches to how they manage their lives. What’s interesting too is how people find their own terminology to label the processes they are describing.

    Viewing things from different levels of abstraction tend to demand other sets of terminology too.
    For example (in reference to one of your previous posts), we could say that focusing on pseudo-problems could be behaving ‘below the line’, and focusing and acting on real problems could be behaving ‘above the line’.

    And like that little essay I made about a value-based approach, behaving in accordance with your values is an ‘above the line’ behavior. Also, if I believe that I should not exert my mental energy on trivials like pseudo-problems, then in order to not conflict with that belief which I value, I’ll find myself ignoring those non-productive thoughts.

    I hope your boys came away unscathed with an accurate diagnosis, and stronger beings because of the ordeal. 🙂
    BTW, I watched a TV program called “Mystery Diagnosis” for the first time this last week. I really enjoyed it because it was very educational and exercised the brain as I wondered what the medical issue ultimately was. Makes me understand the importance of making sure one gets an accurate diagnosis. I hope your son was able to get an accurate diagnosis.

    Wishing you good health to your family,


  2. Hi Etsuko

    As a divorced mother of 2 children who’s had regular visits with their father all their lives, I learned how to differentiate “pseudo” problems with real ones. It didn’t come easily, since I suffered from fear of my children not being taken care of properly by my ex-husband, due to “real” history… the children actually getting hurt under my ex-husband’s care. I learned that it takes great concentration and calming of the mind to master the anxiety deriving from “pseudo” problems.

    I wanted to thank you for this post, for I was reminded again that it takes a conscious effort to choose what to spend energy on.