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why change?

Posted Mar 05 2011 9:52pm

What would make us change? Why would we do it, especially if changing requires work, and if it's not easy? 

And, as PTC asked, why bother to change if things are working?

Why bother? 

We humans tend to change because we're motivated to change. We don't change for any other reason. There are a couple main things that motivate us, namely that we want something we can get only if we change, or there is the potential that we'll lose something if we don't change.

I spoke with a woman a few months ago who absolutely did not want to give up drinking alcohol. She honestly believed drinking worked fine for her, and that it caused her no problems. But she even more absolutely didn't want to lose her husband, and he was going to leave the marriage unless she sought treatment for her relationship with alcohol. She was motivated enough by the potential loss of her relationship that she entered inpatient treatment. While in treatment she realized she did have a serious addiction, and it was at that point that she became even more motivated to recover- now she had two motivations: not losing her marriage, and developing a life for herself free of an addiction to alcohol. Pretty strong motivation. Was it easy? No. Was she scared? Yes. Did she know for sure how it would all turn out? No. Was it worth it to try? Absolutely.

I know someone who's a high level swimmer- lives and breathes for the sport. He was hospitalized for anorexia and couldn't swim for months. His motivation for arriving at and maintaing a reasonably healthy weight? He wanted to be able to swim. Does that mean he's comfortable having to maintain his weight higher than he'd really like to? No. Somedays NOT AT ALL. But, he wants to swim.

And I know someone who had binged and purged for several years. She had worn down her teeth, she had chest pain and an abnormal EKG, and she had ulcerated part of her GI tract. Her motivation for entering treatment? She was very, very afraid that if she continued to purge she would die. She definitely didn't want to die. Did she really want to give up purging? No. Did she really want to face all that anxiety and fear about what would happen if she tried to not purge? No. Not by a long shot. But, she didn't want to die.

Choosing to change can be very difficult. And, (Kym :) it can involve a great deal of ambivalence. Sometimes we have to make the best choice we can, even if we don't know for sure how it's going to turn out. And sometimes we have to choose against what's comfortable, because we believe doing so is truly in our best interest. And sometimes we have to let others help us choose (or at least provide us with information and feedback regarding the situation) if our perspective is, for whatever reason, not clear enough to see the whole picture. And sometimes we have to trust that people who care about us actually do know what they're talking about and that we need to listen to them.

And, sometimes we have to just try. Just try out a change, and see what happens. And I don't mean try it out for, like, 2 seconds... I mean, really try it out. You know, because sometimes we don't know exactly what will happen if we change. So, we get to experiment. And it's in experimenting that we find out what's in the unknown. Like: "OMG, eating a Wheat Thin will kill you!" Well, if you change- by trying one Wheat Thin, you'll find out that a Wheat Thin is not poisonous. It's just a Wheat Thin."

And it's crucial to remember that we don't make one big decision to change! We usually change by bits and pieces, over time. So, even if you try out one Wheat Thin, it doesn't obligate you to eat another one. Ever. The hope, though, is that after the uneventful (and non-lethal) experience with the one Wheat Thin, you realize that one more also won't kill you... and then, that, hey, what do you know... Wheat Thins can be included on the "safe food" list... 

And that's how change happens- moment by moment, bit by bit... just showing up, and keeping going, and not giving up


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