Nip it in the Bud

“Hello, Fire Department, what’s the problem?” “My house is on fire.” “How long ago did the fire start?” “About 3 days ago.”

“Hey doc, how’s it going?” “Fine, and you?” “I’ve got a little pain in my arm.” “What happened?” “Well, I was painting and I fell and I came down on my arm. The bone snapped and this big chunk popped through my skin and it’s been sticking out ever since.” “When did you do this?” “Oh, I don’t know, last week sometime.”

“This is Dr. Archer, can I help you?” “My daughter won’t go to school.” “What’s going on?” “Well, I try to get her up in the morning and she refuses. She won’t get up and she stays home all day.” “How long has this been going on?” “About two months.”

Of course, the first two examples sound ridiculous, but you might be surprised how many times I get calls just like the last one. Why does it take so long for people to recognize psychological problems? Psychological problems start out small and slowly build to the point at which they become intolerable whereas the other types of emergencies tend to begin very quickly and move swiftly to an intolerable level. What then, should we do? Run to a psychologist the first time our child fakes a stomachache to get out of a spelling test? Drag our daughter to a therapist when she begins wearing low riders and belly shirts? Force our husband into marital therapy when he comes home late one night without calling? Well, of course, that’s ridiculous, too. You don’t need a psychologist to help you with every little thing. However, many people know exactly when their problem began and flat-out refused to believe what their own mind was telling them. That is, she knew that her boyfriend had a tendency towards violence when she was dating him and yet, she chose to marry him anyhow. Dad saw that his boy stole little things around the house and just blew it off, thinking, “Boys will be boys.” She found credit card receipts for things she never saw, she saw money missing from the checking account, and she got a second notice on the electric bill he said he paid and yet she still chose to believe it was probably a computer error somewhere. That’s right, the main reason that psychological problems escalate slowly and surely to crisis levels is that we consciously choose to ignore problems when they first begin. We believe that if we ignore a problem, it will go away. Wrong. Any problem that is ignored, generally just continues to get worse and worse and worse until it is a huge mess. So, don’t ignore the small problems. Deal with them quickly and reasonably and you may not ever need to see a psychologist. Or, just go ahead and ignore them, I can use the business.

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