Most people tell themselves (or they are told), that they need to change, somehow control their behaviour, to just get a hold of themselves and simply stop being something (angry, jealous, anxious, depressed etc…). But the simple truth is we cannot successfully “force” our self into changing. That is simply misguided thinking and it will only lead, at best, to frustration and disappointment.
It is amazing how many people are trying to become better, and are only making matters worse. Perhaps 95% of the people I see in individual and couples therapy are suffering from this difficulty one way or another.
We have to want to change. Of that there is no doubt. But it is not enough to want to change. If we don’t understand what works and what doesn’t we may be spending an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources trying to do things that either take us nowhere, or only make things worse.
It is a powerful and compelling notion that if only I look at my life differently, if only I change how I think about myself and others, then perhaps I can be happy. But it is no simple task to truly alter one’s ways of thinking, feeling and acting. There are so many impediments to change, so many sources of confusion and illusion.
If we do decide to change, where do we start? What is really going to make a difference, and exactly what kind of difference will it make? What does it even mean to be a better person?
It is my contention that our common ways of understanding how to change ourselves, what we are trying to change into, and why we are even trying to do this, are misguided.
Most people who feel unhappy with some aspect of their self would like to believe that there is some short and easy way to change themselves if only they knew the secret. Primarily, the form this takes goes something like this – “If I just think long enough and hard enough about what I am doing wrong, I can find a solution and then act on it”. It is not surprising people think like this. We are fed this illusion in many ways.
Watch some of the popular “getting help” shows or read most mainstream advice columns and that is how it is presented. All you need to do is listen to what someone tells you is wrong with you, how to fix it, and there you go.
Thus it is that most people I see in my practice think, or hope, that if they come to see me for a short chat they will learn this secret and then poof, they will be able to apply it and the transformation will be complete. Believe it or not, this simply does not and cannot work. In the article entitled “Mindfulness – Freedom From the Known,” I will try to explain why.