How to change

After hearing the stories of hundreds of clients, I have observed some common ‘truths’ that get overlooked or forgotten when trying to make positive changes…

Knowing and believing are two entirely different things.   This is the crux of much of the work in most coaching or psychotherapy.  Unless there is an organic source (meaning a physical condition such as schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders), people generally have full knowledge of what they “should” do or not do.  People with addiction don’t lose their awareness of this knowledge.  Yet they act against it again and again. Why? Because knowing is not the same thing as believing. Knowing something means it is part of the most evolved and conscious part of our mind.  But believing something involves feeling. And the core of feelings/emotion are part of the “lizard” or less evolved part of our brain.  Evolution necessitates that this  ‘feeling brain’ has the power to trump our rational mind. So we can know something to be true, but not quite believe it.  Our emotional “truth” can easily be outside our conscious awareness.  These covert beliefs can be heavily defended with rationale of seemingly sound logic.  So if you find yourself explaining (or defending) a rationale with a tight chest, red face or other physical sign of strong feeling …That’s a good signal that knowledge may be in conflict with beliefs. 

If you’re not feeling pain, then you’re missing out on joy.  Clients’ disbelief of this fact is the most prevalent delusion I’ve  encountered.  Life, both esoteric and biological, very often has a certain symmetry to it… Time and again I have observed that if someone is not feeling the full range of their emotional pain (from mild annoyance or stress in a moment, to full-blown grief or rage from the past) they are also not feeling the greatest range of joy that is possible.  You can’t have a capacity for joy but not pain. One simply doesn’t come without the other. 

How do we change? The answer is an extension of the previous point.  If you’re not feeling pain then you can tolerate almost anything.  Change happens when we experience emotion of an exceptional intensity – either negative or positive.  If you are not really ‘feeling’ the discomfort of circumstances you’d like to change, then continuing them can seem to be the most ‘comfortable’ path.  In every case I’ve seen, people find change difficult when they’ve disconnected to some degree from their emotional experience.  Drug and alcohol addiction are some of the most difficult changes to make because addictive substances  exploit the natural tendency of human nature to avoid discomfort.  From this perspective, the catch-22 of addiction actually begins to make sense. When we do make a change, it is because we reach a critical mass of discomfort or are inspired to the point of joy to do something different.

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