One of the most frequently asked questions I get in therapy is “Can I change?” If I actually kept track I bet it would be the number one. It seems that many people have the idea in their head that they are not capable of change. I just don’t believe that is true.
That’s right, my answer is always yes. I believe if you are capable of asking that question, then you can change. Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. However, if the question you are really asking is “Will I change?”, that’s a different question. The answer to that question is entirely up to you.
So what prevents people from changing? It can be a lot of things. Therapists always say that people stay the way they are because in some way it works for them. They are getting some need met by staying that way. The trouble with this idea is that when I tell a client that they are likely to say, “that’s crazy. How can I be benefiting from this?”
But they are. It is just the way they are isn’t always so clear. And that is what makes it so hard for us when we can’t understand why someone won’t make a change that is so obviously beneficial for them. We just don’t see the part that is really holding them back. While there can be lots of ways that continuing the seeming less desirable behavior or pattern actually benefits the person, one of the big ones is avoiding fear.
Fear of change comes in many flavors. Some people have fear of the judgments others might make of them. Others fear that they won’t successfully change and feel like a failure. And some people fear that they are making a bad choice, that the new outcome might be worse. There can even be fear about what changing says about your past choices. If you have to change now, does that mean you failed when you made your previous choice? And there is another big fear…that making a change will make someone else unhappy.
There are lots of fears that can surround change. It can be extremely uncomfortable. So why change? Because change is opportunity. It is the chance that things can get better. If you are unhappy where you are, you already know that. And while you fear that the place you are going might be worse, there is also the chance that it could be wonderful! So, choose certain unhappiness or try reaching for happiness. They each have there discomforts…so why not choose the potential outcome you want?
I’ll leave you with this quote from author Henry Miller – The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.
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