Concerning the Construction of Human Problems

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: Some philosophers say that problems only exist because we regard something as a problem. They argue that if we accept the condition or issue, it no longer constitutes a problem. What is your take on this?

A: There needs to be some objective criteria to decide whether something is a problem that must be addressed, or whether it is simply something we are inflating far beyond its true significance through worry. Here are some criteria that can be applied in your assessment of whether it genuinely is a problem:

  1. It is an event or condition that creates a stasis, where you cannot make progress, or it actually changes things for the worse.
  2. It is necessary for you to use your problem solving skills to understand the nature of the problem and to attempt to resolve it.
  3. It is an event or condition that evokes emotional distress of anxiety that motivates you to attempt to lower your distress or anxiety. It is not contingent upon what you worry might happen in your most catastrophic scenarios, but is something that needs to be addressed as a realistic concern.
  4. It is an event or condition for which you do not have the coping skills or resources to immediately resolve it, so this may require you to learn new things or reach out to others to assist you to resolve it.
  5. The event or condition is not merely a result of your perception or mindset, but it is objectively and consensually recognized as a problem.
  6. The event or condition, if you experience it is severe enough and you cannot find assistance from other people, may lead you to invoke Divine assistance through prayer and affirmation.
  7. The event or condition turns on an ongoing process to resolve the issues. This process engages your attention, stimulates your concern, and challenges your intelligence to work on the problem until you solve it.

The issue should rank highly on a scale of problem severity from zero to ten—seven or greater—where it is clearly absorbs your concentration and problem solving efforts until you find a way to cope with it, and continue to work on it until you have resolved it.

Your philosopher’s objections appear to arise from the observation that certain so-called problems exist only in the mind, as erroneous perceptions, entrenched unexamined mindsets, or as the fearful figments of worry. We suggest that not all problems are subsumed under these parameters, but there are some genuine problems that do require human effort and ingenuity to resolve.