Resisting to Change (Part 4 of 4)
Greetings and welcome to my post. The purpose of this post is to engage in conversation about how all of us do relationships. I believe that we are created for relationships and what brings the most meaning for our lives is the significant relationships we have with people. When we have positive, growing, and happy relationships, then our lives become more meaningful. But the opposite can also happen when we have conflict, hate, and hurt in our most important relationships. Then life can become very stressful and depressing.
When you seek counseling, you began the process of change. But inwardly there is a resistance to change. We want to change and get out of just doing the conforming patterns that are familiar. But, inside we resist this change, and we allow all sorts of issues to prevent us to change. Consider the following example. Every day after work, a very depressed young man name Sam sits in the dark in his living room hour after hour, doing nothing, his mind blank. By his side are his stereo and a magnificent collection of his favorite rock and pop music. The flick of a switch and he would feel better. Yet day after day and night after night, overwhelmed by his depression and despair with life, he just sits, never once touching that switch. He could feel better by saying yes to the switch; yet, he says no and does nothing and remains stuck.
When we think about change and overcoming our illusions that serve to keep us stuck and resistant, I want to focus on four areas we all need to consider when it comes to changing. In my last post, I talked about Bonding and Boundaries and in this post, I will talk about Acceptance and Authority. In my discussion of these subjects, I will talk about Sam and his difficulties to change.
In addition to the importance of bonding and boundaries for our lives, this next theme acceptance is also very important. When we think of helping Sam overcome his depression, one of the key challenges is to help him realize this world is not perfect. If Sam tries to build a life that is all good and perfect, he will constantly run into trouble. Sam will resist changing if he expects others around him to be all good or ideal according to his wishes, and he will continue to be depressed if he expects himself to be all good or perfect.
For example, maybe Sam needed his father to be perfect and be the father he wished for. But his father could not live up to this standard. So now Sam is depressed and he expects others should be perfect and not let him down like his father did. If he demands or requires perfection from himself or others, and people let him down, he will then devalue, sabotage, ridicule, or punish others who fail to live up to his ideal expectation. Sam will withdraw from others, stay in isolation, form a negative resentful attitude, and conclude that people cannot be trusted.
So how is Sam going to accept life as it comes versus his tendency to demand perfection of himself and others? In other words, to overcome his depression, how is he going to move from a demanding and judging attitude to an acceptance and forgiving attitude? The first thing he is going to have to do is realize that love and grace is the solution and resolution to all problems regarding the demand for perfection. He needs to pursue love and acceptance as I talked about in my previous post about the importance of bonding. When he feels this love and acceptance from others, then he can start the process of learning how to become transparent and vulnerable with others. He then can receive the forgiveness from others and for himself. This means that Sam is going to have to work through his hurt and pain from his father by learning how to forgive him.
Therefore, he is going to have to challenge some of his false thinking and beliefs when it comes to this theme of acceptance in how he views others or himself. He is going to have to change some of these statements that keep him stuck in depression: ‘I am really not worth loving’ ‘I should be better than I am’ ‘I should be ideal or perfect by now’ ‘I am unforgivable’ ‘I can’t stand an imperfect world’ ‘Others will dislike me for my badness’ ‘Others will attack me for my weakness’ ‘Others will leave me or reject me if they find out my weakness’ ‘They will not like me if I am not perfect’ ‘They will only like me if I am perfect.’ By working through these false statement and beliefs, Sam will learn to overcome his resistance to change, by not blaming and demanding life should be different, but instead learn how to accept life as it comes and becoming a forgiving person.
The last area for Sam to learn how to overcome his resistance is to start taking charge of his life. Taking charge and control over his life means to work through his stance that he is one-down in all of his important relationships. To learn to have authority over his life is to find his power and competency to take charge of his life. This means Sam needs to come out from under the one down relationships in his life and start to assume a role and an attitude in which he feels equal with other adults.
Growing up in his family, his father made him feel like he was a little boy who could not do anything right. He probably felt that he could not take charge or have authority over his life. Therefore he felt intimated and fearful when he got around his dad. But now Sam is an adult and he does not have to walk in fear or feel intimated by other adults. Sam is not a little boy now but sometimes he acts like a little boy and remains stuck in his depression due to feeling that others are going to be critical of him or try to control him. To take authority over his life means to not walk in fear but walk in courage and confidence.
What are some of the aspects or ingredients of taking authority over our lives? People who take authority are people who have power, expertise, influence, confidence, assertiveness, and the ability to disagree. Sam can take charge over his life and choose now for his life how he can become a person who is an expert and has confidence in what he does in his career and his life.
So what are some of the skills and attitude that Sam is going to need to take authority over his life? Sam is going to have to practice disagreeing with authority figures. He is going to have to make his own decisions over what he wants and likes. He is going to have to give himself permission to be equal with adults and come out of feeling one down all the time. He is going to have to recognize and take charge of his talents, gifts and competencies and not minimizing them concluding he can’t have them. He is going to have to start practicing and keep on practicing until he becomes skilled and confident in himself that he can do something and feel good about doing it.
Therefore, Sam is going to have to challenge some of his false thinking and beliefs when it comes to this theme of authority in how he views others or himself. He is going to have to change some of these statements that keep him stuck in depression: ‘I need others to like me and approve of me’ ‘I must please others to be liked’ ‘My opinions are not as good as others’ ‘I must get permission from others to do something’ ‘My plans will never succeed and I will not be successive’ ‘If I differ from someone else, they will not like me’ ‘Others are smarter or better than me’ ‘Others will not like me if I disagree with them’ ‘Others know everything’ ‘Their opinions and ideas are always right’ ‘They are always right and I am wrong.’ When Sam is able to work through some of these beliefs and start to take control over his life, then he will feel that he has authority and start to feel equal with others.
So what is true for Sam is true to for all of us. We can change. We don’t have to allow our resistance to rule our life due to our false belief that others have to change first or our distortion that we have to have it all together before we can change. Like Sam, we all can stop our depression, flip on the switch next to our favorite stereo, listen to our favorite music, and start to feel better. Feeling better is not based upon what others are going to do. Feeling better means to take care responsibility for our lives and start the process now of finding people to bond with; learning how to be separate from others by setting boundaries; sort out good and bad in life by learning how to find acceptance and practice forgiveness; and finally take charge over our lives by learning how to become an adult who has authority and confidence. We don’t have to wait, we don’t have to be fearful, and we can change. Don’t give up and start the process now.
Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.