Want to make a change?
ON THE COUCH with Sarah Bergman
HAVE you ever thought 'I would like to change that about myself' or 'I wish I could say what I think', or even harsher thoughts like, 'I hate how I do that'?
Feeling stuck in a way of being that no longer serves you is a difficult and painful place to be, a place you want to change. Fortunately a man by the name of Arnold Beisser came up with a theory of change called The Paradoxical Theory of Change.
The Paradoxical Theory of Change is, as it suggests, paradoxical, in that it is when we give up the struggle for change and instead accept fully what is, as it is, that change naturally occurs. This is no easy task as Arnold Beisser would know, having contracted polio and becoming a quadriplegic in his early 20s, just a month before the vaccine was made available. From his experience, Beisser realised it wasn't until he fully embraced himself as he is, rather than trying to be something he is not, that change came about.
There are three essential elements to this change theory that are required to ensure change. They are firstly to develop awareness around what you do and how you do it. That is, to really get to know who you are, how you feel, what you think, how you act in certain situations, etc. In essence, spend some time genuinely getting to know yourself as you are, not how you wish to be.
Secondly, accept what you find without judgment and with kindness. This can be easier said than done. Often we are our harshest critiques so learning to lean into support from others that you trust is paramount. Allow them to reflect back what they see in you. Breathe it in even if you do not yet believe it. Change will not occur without support from the environment and the development of your own self support.
Thirdly, when you embody a heightened understanding of who you are, choice becomes an option. For example, I know I don't speak up for fear of being rejected. So I keep my feelings to myself and later I regret that I did not say what I needed to say and feel diminished (developing awareness). I now realise that it is I who rejects myself, for the fear of rejection from others (self acceptance, this is what I do). Rather than do this to myself, I choose to take a risk, step into the unfamiliar and choose to speak up (choice).
This will not be easy and you will feel a strong wish to return to what you always do, which is painful and yet reassuringly familiar. With practice, your way of being slowly evolves into change.
- Sarah Bergman is a columnist with the Tweed Daily News and provides counselling through the practice of Gestalt Psychotherapy for individuals, families and couples. Sarah is an accredited member of (PACFA) and her private practice is situated in Tweed Heads. Visit www.counsellingonthecoast.com.au