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Sunday, June 3, 2012


As therapists, we think a lot about change.  People often come to therapy looking for change of some sort.  How does change happen?  Here are some considerations about change.

The Pain of Change
"Change is painful. Few people have the courage to seek out change. Most people won’t change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change. When it comes to money, we can be like the toddler in a soiled diaper... Only when the rash comes will we cry out. I hope Sara’s story and the others in this book will make you unwilling to stay where you are. If you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results. You are where you are right now financially as a sum total of the decisions you’ve made to this point. If you like where you are, keep it up. Keep in mind, how- ever, why you are reading a book called The Total Money Makeover. Is it because deep down you have the same uneasy feeling Sara had but didn’t address until it was almost too late? Are you really looking for something more? If so, I’ve got great news...Break through the temptation to remain in the same situation, and opt for the pain of change before the pain of not changing searches you out. Don’t wait for a heart attack to show you that you are overweight. Cut the carbs, the fats, the sugars, and lace up the running shoes now".  Dave Ramsey

I was interested to find this passage in a book about money management.  In recent years, I have discovered that some people in this field include psychology as an aspect of their work or, at the very least, develop a philosophy about how to live well.  I tease my own financial adviser telling him he is my "financial therapist".  People can actualize through many endeavors, not just the therapy process; there are entire books written on that notion.  How change happens whatever the vehicle, is another topic that has occupied a few whole books.
But, in a way, change is what life is about.  Very little stays the same throughout our lives.  If we admit it, change is occurring all the time for all of us.  To be comfortable, we need to be able to adapt, to be less rigid and more fluid, to be flexible and open.  Some change is bad, some change is good; we are definitely not a bunch of statues sitting around for all eternity.  We are organisms moving through an ever-evolving environment.

Many, if not most adults, find it difficult to change.  Try, yourself, to develop a new routine or stop a bad habit if you want an example.  And so, when we talk about psychotherapy, we are looking at something that is not easy.  Interesting?  Yes.  Sometimes surprising?  Yes.  Promising?  Yes.  But, easy?  No.

It might seem comfortable to reach adulthood with a few skills, some intact relationships, some wishes for acquisitions, and success at achieving the fundamentals to live, and leave it at that.  The trouble with this, what you might call, easy way out, is that it can undermine the good life and contribute to problems.
Here's a real example:  A patient of mine graduated from high school and landed a male-dominated job that offered good pay, regular raises, and some amount of security.  He stayed there, getting married and having children along the way.  So much of his time is spent in this physically demanding, somewhat dangerous, mostly male co-workers job that this was his major developmental influence as a young adult.  Now, his wife has suddenly left, expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of their relationship.  He is panic-stricken.  Nonetheless, his way of interacting with her about this is in the style he has learned to use to deal with the guys at work.  He is being tough, making demands, drawing lines in the sand, and arguing, with the goal of being right; all of this is having the opposite effect of what he wants.  In other words, it is sending her further away when what he really wants is to reunite with her.

So, his comfortable life turns out to be too self-limiting.  He has not branched out and learned any skills other than what he needs to maintain his job, his house, and to some degree, his children.  Perhaps if he had developed some other interests where he might have met some other kinds of people in a different setting,
he may have learned some social skills other than the set he needs for the workplace.

This is a simple example.  But, you can use your own imagination to see how staying only with what is familiar and comfortable and not placing yourself in new situations and pursuing new learning can be self-defeating.

Sophists taught arête (Greek: ἀρετή, quality, excellence) as the highest value, and the determinant of one's actions in life. The Sophists taught artistic quality in oratory (motivation via speech) as a manner of demonstrating one's arête. Oratory was taught as an art form, used to please and to influence other people via excellent speech; nonetheless, the Sophists taught the pupil to seek arête in all endeavours, not solely in oratory. Socrates favoured truth as the highest value, proposing that it could be discovered through reason and logic in discussion.  Maryana Pinchuk
Sometimes, in the short term, finding the way to one's own truth  can be a bumpy road.  In the long run, however, it may lead to a life of quality, a life that is an expression of the unique you, a life that is gratifying and successful on the personal front.

"It's also a cornerstone of mental health. Authenticity is correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills. Acting in accordance with one's core self—a trait called self-determination—is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and a sense of relatedness."  Psychology Today

A short post on this topic:  Going Forward
What are your thoughts about change?  Please comment below.

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