While it might not be explicitly named, ‘change’ is often alluded to as a desirable outcome of psychotherapy. Thoughts about feeling, being and living differently are expressed and the client is invited to understand what it is that they want. The ‘wished for’ life can often feel desirable and easy to describe, yet can feel so hard to achieve. Alternatively what it is that is desired can feel difficult to define, but what is known is that carrying on as one is does not feel possible.
Change can be thought about, talked about, imagined and yet it can feel no nearer to being achievable. It can feel that one is stuck and powerless to move forward. Change can feel more impossible than possible.
Thinking about change when one feels ‘stuck’ can feel unbearable as it brings up thoughts about why change feels so difficult. Is it in some way a reflection of the self? Thinking that ‘I know what I want’, but feel unable to achieve it. Not being able to effect change could be felt as a failure and a lack of capability. Talking about it and hearing other voices can be helpful, but when these voices have an edge of ‘snap out of it’ it’s experienced as unsupportive, critical and unhelpful. This all can lead to difficult self-critical feelings and so change feels like a challenge not worth pursuing. To have and share the desire for change, yet feel reminded of ones own shortcomings.
When we consider our own capacity for change we also bring in our own sense of capability. Can one believe that it is possible to change or is the sense of being ‘stuck’ in itself now stuck? How can we challenge feeling stuck or does it become just another thing that makes us unable to think of change? The thinking can become circular.
Familiarity and change
Change is challenging because change makes us move out of what is known and understood. A situation might be far from what is desired, yet it is familiar. Such familiarity allows a degree of certainty based on knowing what to expect. The result of change is unknown, not understood and potentially so unsettling it feels like it isn’t worth engaging with.
What is achievable?
When we think of a desired outcome we have to balance this with what is achievable. If we set the bar high are we setting ourselves up to fail and falling back into the circular thinking about not being capable. Coping with setbacks and being able to acknowledge what is possible are all part of how to move beyond feeling stuck.
How we can think of change?
To reflect on change we need to be aware of how we can be stuck and how hard that is. ‘Stuck’ isn’t something that is wished for, nor is it self created. Feeling stuck is a reflection of the challenge of change. To think of change we maybe first need to think of ourselves and take a more compassionate view. Compassion in the sense that we are allowed to imagine, wish for and achieve something different.
Psychotherapy offers the opportunity to understand what it is that we might want to change. The hope is that through exploring and thinking together, we can think of change as being more possible than impossible.
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Further reading by David Work –
Thinking about origins
Football, psychotherapy and engaging with male clients