On Change and Acceptance
People come to my office often feeling fed up, sad or frustrated with their lives. They often say, ‘I want to change, or I want him/her or a situation to change or press the reset button and start over’. I am not a fairy and I do not have a magic wand. I am a therapist.
Very often when I hear these words various questions pop into my head.
What do they really mean by change, what are they trying to say and what do they really want to change? What people forget is the investment that has been made on the story or on the role that they are playing in it eg. victim, rescuer or a simple observer etc. Can they afford leaving behind all the things that keeps them in the past? Leave behind all their baggage which they often hold so dearly and tightly to their chest? Can they also learn from the past, but then let it go? Can they entertain their minds with a different perspective or meaning on things? Are they ready to make a new start? These are questions, often challenging, that I pose to myself and my clients.
Change is a process, is not easy nor linear, it takes time and a lot of effort to establish a new pattern of behaviour and give a new meaning or find a new purpose in life.
I will borrow a quote from Carl Rogers, an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach, who said that ‘The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change’. Being a therapist means is that I can help people learn to change, but first they need to learn to accept themselves just as they are and then, only then, they can start to change. People do not come to therapy to change their past, but their future. Therefore, in therapy, I offer them an experience, a corrective experience, where they feel safe, respected, understood, and accepted. This sets the foundations of a secure base, and then change can starts to happen. What we learn in therapy is that we cannot change anything unless we accept it first.
Very often, people focus on what they do not like or on the misfortunes of life and chose to be oblivious of the power that they hold, the power to control their present and shape their future. As Socrates said, ‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new’. Change happens when you allow yourself to look at yourself and life in a new way. What I need to stress at this point is that once people find meaning in what they are going through, then it is no longer suffering or a problem.
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on a discovery journey of creating yourself endlessly. As Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology said, ‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes’. You cannot change your history, you cannot change what happened to you, but what you can do is to change the way you relate to it, the way you give meaning to it.
Psychotherapy is a vehicle to achieve change. Let’s start this journey of self-discovery and change together.