There are a lot of different ways to look at therapy and the process of change. And there are just as many, if not more, therapeutic approaches. But one of the simplest is this. If you aren’t happy with your situation, try doing something differently. If what you thought you should do didn’t get the results you wanted, maybe it is time to rethink your approach.
That seems pretty simple. In one sense it is. But like many things in life, it is often a lot easier to say than it is to do. We all have certain ways of thinking, certain perspectives, that have been with us much of our lives. Breaking free from those can be a challenge. Often we aren’t even really aware of some of most ingrained assumptions, beliefs and perspectives.
We start learning them as children. This isn’t about blaming our parents. It is about the fact that as children we learn the most from our parents or those that raised us. They are who we saw the most. They are who we trusted. For much of our childhood they are who our world revolved around. So we watched and we learned.
Our parents did the same thing. And their parents before them. It is a very efficient system. Yet there are limitations. Our parents, in fact anyone’s parents, only know so many ways of doing things. So our basic understanding of the world and how to interact with it is limited by their limitations. Even if we learn about new ways and gain new perspectives as we grow older, we still can only have so many. And we use that limited set of approaches and perspectives to choose how to act.
That often works well for us. But sometimes it doesn’t. We may use an approach that has been successful in the past but in this new situation we aren’t getting the results we want. We may not understand why we aren’t getting the outcome for which we are looking. From our perspective it may seem like we should be accomplishing exactly what we want to accomplish. Often we even try doing more of the same, thinking if we just work harder we’ll finally get there.
What can sometimes be difficult is to take a step back and think maybe our thinking is wrong. Maybe I can’t see the issue from my perspective. Or maybe I’m not using the correct approach. I may be using the best one I know, by maybe there is a different approach that I don’t know.
That is often the core of doing therapy. It is opening up to the idea that there may be a perspective that we don’t have. Or, there may be other ways of doing things that we were never taught. Some people come into therapy ready to hear those new ideas. Other people need to fight a bit…convinced their way is right even thought it isn’t working. But when they finally open up to new ideas they make the same shifts, learn the new skills that allow them to accomplish their goals.
The good news is that we can create this kind of change in ourselves even without therapy. What it takes is the willingness to say, my way isn’t working. How can I look at it differently? What are other things I could do instead. And the great thing is, the more you do this, the easier it gets. It can even become a regular part of your approach to life. Instead of “I know just what to do” your thinking becomes “what are the ways I can think about this?”
Make that shift and you’ll find yourself feeling less “stuck.” You’ll find that you spend less energy on fruitless efforts and have less frustration. Instead you’ll adapt more quickly and be more successful at achieving your goals.