Is change a reality, a mystery or just a downright pain?
Change is a complex and multidimensional mystery and I find myself chatting to colleagues about why some people change and some do not. Whilst we have made some headway in the area of change research, as a therapist, it continues to interest me when someone shifts significantly in order to improve their lives, whilst others hold to a position, even when knowing this position may cause grief, negative outcomes or more of the same.
I am not just talking about huge life changing items here. I am talking about adaptive change that assists a person to improve a situation that is causing them discord or unhappiness. As people stream through our offices, being cared for our diligent and highly skilled staff, it seems that some people want something different to happen, something to change, an improvement – without any discomfort to themselves.. As therapists we are facilitators to people’s journeys and it seems perfectly understandable that an alternative position causes our clients to sit up and re-think. This re-think or challenge usually causes some kind of discomfort (negative or positive). In fact some of our strongest emotional responses, even those that are annoying and upsetting, can act as the initial stimulus to confront the things we are most avoiding. Because change can cause discomfort and discomfort appears to be a necessary part of a new set of parameters being set. Change is not a passive process. In fact, we must intentionally, authentically choose an alternative pathway if we are going to change or do something different. Alternative to the one that has been getting us what we have already had! Habits are challenging ( not impossible) to change. Much of what we do is a habit. Habits are behaviours. If the behaviours are not getting you what you want – then change is required… If you deny change or are sceptical or fearful about meeting with this possibility, then you may well stay where you are. This is not a flaw in a person or the therapeutic process. It simply means the commitment to change is not there. One could argue the pain does not outweigh the gain. Despite me and my colleagues talented interpretations, our incisive comments and insights, our well-timed interventions, our favored theoretical models, our positive relationships with clients, we actually need reciprocal commitments from people wanting change. Plenty of research indicates that change takes place in daily life, when something strikes you that something is not working. Does therapy always assist a person to make change – not always….. but something said – a new perspective – and suddenly things click – but first you must be open to the possibilities.