Change vs. the Process of Change

Change…I hear so many different views about change.  “I hate change” or “I want to change” or “I try to change but it never feels right” are just a few.  What is it about change that gets so many different response?  What if people aren’t talking about the same things?

There is a difference between “change” and the “process of change”.  Change is that wonderful state of where we are trying to get to.  It is the new place with the new behaviors that we know is an improvement over the way we used to be.  Why wouldn’t we want that?

What I think most people are responding to is the process of change.  Contrary to that wonderful new place called change, the process of change can be a messy, scary place that often feels worse than the place we started from.  Understanding this can be the difference between successfully changing and just trying to change.

How many times have you heard someone say that they tried to change but it must not have been the right change because it didn’t feel very good? For some reason, we don’t expect change to be uncomfortable.

In reality we tend to be creatures of habit.  What feels “right” is what we are used to.  The process of change asks us to disrupt that.  Things no longer feel “normal” or “natural”.  In addition, we are often required to learn new skills or ways of doing things.  That learning process can be very uncomfortable.

It is interesting that when we learn some skills we understand that it takes time and that we will not be very good at it in the beginning.  When we learn a new language we have limited ability and make many mistakes.  When we try a new sport or physical activity it takes time for the movements to become natural and not simply be mechanical.

Why do we often fail to have the same expectations when learning new interpersonal skills or behaviors?  Learning how to express emotions or change thought patterns or interact with others in different ways is a new skill.  New behaviors are no different than new physical skills.  When we are learning them they are often awkward and unnatural.  We often are clumsy when we first attempt them.

Because of that, the process of change often feels “wrong”.  Because we don’t recognize the need to get used to change, we often leap to the conclusion that it must be the “wrong change”.  This ugly, messy, awkward way of doing things in a new way often deters us from completing the process.  And then we decide that we “don’t like change”.

Then next time you envision making a change in your life, recognize that “change” is different from the “process of change”.  To actually change you need to go through the often messy, awkward process of change where things may feel worse than where you started.  But keep in mind that the process phase of change is not where you plan to end up.  Embrace the process and keep your eye on the prize – a new and better way of doing or being.

About awentherapy

I am Jay Blevins, LMFT ( I am a licensed systems therapist with a private practice in Madison, WI. While I work with individuals and partners around a wide variety of issues, my primary focus in on alternative relationship structures, alternative sex and sexuality, and power dynamics. I am a contributor to various relationship and sexuality blogs and publications and have been a frequent presenter at alternative lifestyle events and psychotherapy conferences.
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