So you’ve known for a while that something isn’t right? Maybe a destabilising anxiety is affecting your daily life or a dark mood is getting harder to shake off? Maybe arguments in your closest relationship keep cycling around an endless loop? Still, you’ve pressed on with the hope that this is just one of the downs in the many ups and downs of life. But now, as you read this article, it seems clearer to you than ever before: something needs to change.
Why would we avoid change?
There are many reasons that can prevent us dealing with life’s problems, even when we’re having a really hard time. Perhaps the biggest reason is the fear of admitting we have a problem. This might sound contradictory, but the unconscious reasoning here might be: if I admit that I have this problem, it will feel a lot more real and a lot more scary. So I deny its existence and convince my mind that it doesn’t need dealing with, though this won’t make the problem go away.
The fear of the unknown is another reason which can powerfully play on our human imaginations: you might think, for example, though your current situation is getting you down, maybe it’s not as bad as the situation you don’t yet know. Ironically, this often has the adverse effect of making your fear of the problem increase is size and the problem itself seem worse.
How do we make change happen?
Therapy on the other hand is about turning toward the problem that stands in your way, and, by confronting it, giving yourself more influence over the choices before you and the direction your life might take. You also prove to yourself through this process that you are able to deal with the difficulties that come your way and learn more about your inner workings, both of which will help you in the future issues you encounter.
Therapy is a process which facilitates change. A therapist will work with you in a confidential space where you feel comfortable and able to talk about the issues you’ve struggled with.
Together, you discuss these difficulties and come to understand them more deeply, including, for example, how they affect you, what your worries and concerns are, the impact on your relationships, the underlying issues and unconscious patterns that keep repeating themselves. It is through this process that you also explore possible ways of thinking differently about how you might move forwards – how you and the situation might change.
But what change do you need?
Therapy is of course more than finding solutions to problems. The understanding of what’s been going on for you and the way ahead is to a significant degree answered by you understanding yourself more deeply and more meaningfully. ‘The Paradoxical Theory of Change’ (Arnold Biesser, 1970) says that only when we are able to accept ourselves for who we are, are we then able to change. This can be understood as us needing to understand ourselves first, and by doing so, are we then able to understand what we need to make ourselves happier.
It is often the case that we have lost a deeper and more honest connection with ourselves through the course of our lives, perhaps in an effort to please others such as parents, partners, bosses or who we think we should try to be. This can leave us adrift from knowing what we really feel, think or need to be happy. At the heart of psychotherapy is the aim for us to understand ourselves in a more connected and authentic way, which enables us to know what we need to change to feel more ourselves and more fulfilled.
When is the right time to change?
Maybe you’re at a crossroads in your life? Maybe your job doesn’t excite you like it used to? Maybe you’re struggling with waking up every morning to a low mood or feelings of dread about the day ahead? But in your heart of hearts, you know you need to do something about this. Only you can of course know when the timing is right: it’s an individual choice.
But you’ve read this article to the end, so I’m wondering: when is the right time for you?
Thad is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor and a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). He works long-term with individuals in our Brighton and Hove and Lewes practices.
Further reading by Thad Hickman –