Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Challenge of Change

by Deb Torell, M.A., LPC, LMFT

Change:  To make different in some particular; to make a shift from one to another, transformation.

In counseling school, we learned that most people do not willingly make a shift, a change, or a transition unless the place where they are feels more painful than the pain of the anticipated change.

Resistance to change is quite common, even when someone hates the place that they are in.  Most people would prefer that the situation change, or another person change, rather than consider that they themselves could change.  The ego self, at a deep level, is quite unsure of the benefits of change.

But the journey of personal growth and maturity, by its very nature, requires that each of us change.  The change is not to be an outward one, that is, just a change in our behavior.  The change actually requires inward transformation.  Change from the inside out is true change.  This type of change takes time.  I love what Geneen Roth, in her book Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, says about change:

   “Change generally happens the way a plant grows slowly, without
force, and with the essential nutrients of love and patience, and a
willingness to remain constant through periods of stasis.”

Psychologists have come up with various models of how change occurs.  The model that seems to be most simple (and the one I like the best) starts out with a person not even considering trying to achieve change, or the ”pre-contemplation” stage. 

Next, often because something or someone is urging them, the person begins to “contemplate” making a change, believing that change may be possible. But they may not be quite sure.  This is often the place where people get stuck.  But hopefully, at some point, the person gets beyond ambivalence, and decides to try to achieve change. 

The third stage in the process of change happens when the person begins to “prepare” for the change.  This is when the person gets the information needed to make a shift, learning the best way to go about making change.

The fourth stage is the “action” phase.  The person begins to implement their plan and over time, achieves change!

Finally, the person works to “maintain” the achieved changes.  There may be some lapse or relapse here, but the determined person is on his or her way to a new way of being in the area of change. 

Joyce Rupp, in her book, Open the Door: The Journey to the True Self, shares poem written by a twelve year old girl on the night before she was struck and killed by an automobile.  Her poem contains wisdom for the journey of change.  I share her poem with you here:

            Look at me-----

            I’m walking through a door

            My life is changing and it’s just perfect now

            No more doors for me

            They’re too hard to get through

            I’m staying here where it’s safe-----

            No, child,

            Those doors are a part of you

            You can’t ignore them

            ‘Cause they’re there

            You’ve got to go through them

            Who knows what you’ll find

            You’ve got to meet their trial

            If you don’t, you won’t be what you should become

            There are always gonna be doors and you

            Can’t stop ‘em from comin’

            You’ve got to go through them to grow

            It’s called change

            Look at the wildflower; it changes all the time

            Always blossoming or closing up, sprouting or withering

            You’re scared to go through those doors

            Into the unknowing, “into change”

            You don’t know what’s going to happen

            You don’t know what change is going to bring

            Listen to me

            Go through those doors with hope

            Go through those doors knowing change is the future and you’re a part of


             You don’t know what change is, that’s why you’re scared

            Change is the sun booming over the horizon

            Scattering rays of hope to a new day

            Change is a baby lamb meeting the world for the first time

            Change is growing from a young child to a young woman

            Change is beautiful; you will learn to love it.

                                                -----Mary Katherine Lidle (1982)

Mary Katherine, even in her short life, captured the truth about change:  we must give ourselves to it.  We ought not to fear it, but embrace it, welcome it. 

Counseling is about change, a shift in one’s way of being…transformation really.  If we let it, it will stretch us, cause us to search more deeply, and hopefully become a little freer, both emotionally and mentally.  May we all be challenged to “go through those doors with hope”, accepting and adapting to the possibility of true transformation, trusting that the growth and maturity it brings will benefit not only each of us as individuals, but those we love as well.

Roth, Geneen, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, Penguin Books, Ltd., (London:

            2004), p.139.

Rupp, Joyce, Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self, Sorin Books, (Notre

             Dome, In.: 2008), pp 34-35.