In my opinion, therapy is a place where people can go to gain support and learn how to transform into the person they were meant to be in life. I believe that my role is to guide patients on their journeys to heal from past traumas and to fully express feelings that have had a tight grasp on them causing chaos in their lives.
I want to change, now what?
There is just one thing that everyone hates to hear that might stand in the way of creating a new, improved, happy and true self. The word you are looking for is, change. That scary, horrifying and haunting six letter word!! Scary isn’t it? Like nails on a chalkboard it sends shivers down your spine! Okay, I’m being a little over-dramatic here, but it’s all to prove a point. I’ve never met anyone who has sat in my office say to me, “Shelley, I love change! I can’t wait to get started!” It is an important part of the process that is the hardest to do. It’s one of those things that can sound easy, but it’s absolutely not, in fact it’s the biggest challenge I face when helping patients. Fixing your problems is easy, once you’ve accepted that there needs to be a change and are willing to work on making changes.
What is change like?
One of the things I tell to all of my patients, is that making changes is like asking you to let go of everything you know and feel comfortable with and try something that is the complete opposite. You are going to struggle, but in the end you will be much happier! This explanation gets a lot of blank stares. I tell my patients to imagine changing from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand. For example, I am left handed and if for some reason I was told that this was unhealthy for me and that I would eliminate my depression and anxiety by changing to my right hand, I might think this person was crazy. How could I change something that I have always believed and have always done? Being left handed is all I’ve known and I am comfortable with that. But, I would have to weigh the costs and benefits of making a change. What does not changing cost me and my happiness? How does changing benefit me and my happiness? If I decided that it was against my best interest to stay a left handed person, I would be brave enough to attempt this so called change. At first, it would be uncomfortable, scary and difficult. I would have all of my defenses up and there would be a part of me that would play the game of sabotage in order to get me to go back to my old ways. I would probably want to use my left hand, especially when I was tired, stressed or if I was depressed when thinking about all of the time I wasted by using my left hand. Eventually, with practice, encouragement and conscious effort, I would probably develop abilities to use my right hand just as good as my left hand and it would not take as much effort, if any. The key to change is that practice makes possible. I know, I know, you have always heard “Practice makes perfect.” I am here to burst your bubble on that, there is no such thing as perfect and if you try to obtain perfection, it would be a never-ending battle. Which is why I prefer to say, “Practice makes possible.” Anything is possible if you practice it.
So why change?
Once a patient can see the positives of change, they have a firm ground to stand on and know what they are working towards. I would say that 99.9% of all of my patients that have dipped their toe into the change pond have eventually jumped in completely and have absolutely turned their lives around. As a therapist, this is my greatest victory!
Here is my list of reasons why change is important:
- Change is vital for survival
- Change creates personal development
- If you keep doing the same things, the same things will keep happening
- Change can give you a second chance at life
- Change keeps life interesting
Change is happening all around us, everyday. We change plans, we change our clothes, we change our minds, the seasons change and so on and so forth. Change is inevitable, the key is how we deal with it. Can you imagine what your world would be like if there was zero change in it? Life would be miserable and boring and you would never develop or grow. But most importantly, I refer to one of my favorite sayings, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.”
Why do people resist change if it’s so important?
- Fear of the unknown
- Not seeing the need for change
- Comfort of the familiar
- Fear of negative impact on life
- Others are imposing the change
It is scary to let go of what you’ve always known and to go out into the great wide world of the unknown. This is why I use the changing from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand metaphor.
What is a good way to deal with change?
- Consider the benefits of the proposed change
- Be aware of internal reactions
- Work towards acceptance of change
- Live in the here and now
- Find a good support system
- Journal or find some way to express feelings in a healthy way
I believe that everyone can make healthy changes in their lives. Another common question I hear from patients is, “What if I change and I don’t like the change I’ve made?” The good thing about change is, if you don’t like the changes you’ve made, change them again. You are the artist to your happiness masterpiece!
I leave you with a few more of my favorite sayings about change:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
“Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.”