My dictionary defines a problem as an unwelcome or harmful matter needing to be dealt with and overcome. I think that’s a pretty good definition because it is the unwelcomeness of a situation that makes it a problem. Something is not a problem in itself, it is when we add our judgement to it that it becomes a problem. So if my blind falls off the wall when I try to open it I can either have a problem or I can simply have a blind that is on the floor and needs to be put back on the wall.
The bit about a problem being something that needs to be overcome is also telling. If we look on a situation as something that needs to be overcome then we will indeed have a problem until such time as we have overcome it. This approach does not leave much room for acceptance of the situation and working with it rather than trying to fight it. By working with it, I mean an open attitude of doing what seems to be called for whilst remaining sensitive to the situation as it unfolds. Overcoming a situation has a more closed-off feeling to it, we have decided what needs to happen and there is little or no room for a different outcome.
I come from a background in mathematics so I tend to think of a problem as something that needs to be solved. I need to find the right answer, I have to know how to solve the problem and it can be suffering for me when I don’t know what to do. Two things help. One is to remember that life, unlike maths, isn’t a problem to be solved and most of the time there isn’t one right answer anyway. The other is to acknowledge my discomfort with not knowing. Turning my attention within, to the discomfort within myself, brings me back to the present moment and out of the what-if mind that is projecting future disaster.
Often that change of focus is all that is needed to snap me out of being one who has a problem to being one who has something that needs attending to. Big difference.