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People seek my advice when they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going. It may be one small but annoying issue or it may affect their entire life. Perhaps they are unhappy in their personal relationships, stuck in their careers, dissatisfied with the way they handle problems or stress. Too often, they put the "blame" on the situation outside themselves. (e.i. "My job and family life are so stressful!" "I always meet the worst men!")
In reality, the root of all these issues is the way they think about these things. Why do two people have completely different reactions to the same situation? Why do siblings, who grow up in the same home and experience the same environment, have completely different "takes" on the world? Why do you sometimes react completely differently to the same stimuli? (One day, you are a raving maniac while driving; another day you are the picture of calm.)
In life, perspective is everything. Some people always seem happy, no matter how little they have, while others are always angry, bitter, dissatisfied, depressed, etc. regardless of the "richness" in their life.
We cannot control the rest of the world, We only have power over ourselves. I believe we need to bring this attitude to every aspect of our lives. We need to recognize, at the deepest level, that when we confront our problems, what really needs to change is US.
So, if changing ourselves is the solution to all our problems, why doesn't everyone just become different and make their problems go away?
Ahhhh! THAT, my friend is the million dollar queston!
The reality is, change is easy once you've figured out what needs changing and have made the commitment to change. It's getting to this point which is difficult, and for some, impossible.
We didn't become the people we are overnight -- with all our fears, neuroses, prejudices, hot buttons, etc. Many of these things are "hard-wired" into our brains in childhood. We often hold on to our old "bad" ways, even when they make us unhappy. Then, we beat ourselves up over this inability to do the "right" thing. (Please note, I'm not making a judgment here about what is "right" or "wrong" -- I use these terms merely as shorthand for "wanted behavior" vs. "unwanted behavior.")
Who has never felt, at one time or another, that cartoon devil on one shoulder, making us do things we don't want to do, battling the angel on the other shoulder, urging us to do the "right thing"? Sometimes, that conflict is small and momentary ("Should I have that second helping of chocolate cake?") and sometimes this conflict rules every moment of our lives.
Why can't we just flick that devil away and just listen to the angel? That would be that!
There are many reasons why it's so hard to change. For example:
There is some underlying and perhaps unseen benefit to this "bad" behavior.
Our "bad behavior," even when it causes no end of grief in our lives, is comfortably familiar.
After years of experience, we know we can cope with the results this behavior produces.
The very things we don't like about ourselves have come to define us. Changing them means redefining ourselves, and that can be scary.
The unknown, for many people, can be scary.
We're too lazy to learn new ways.
We feel unworthy and undeserving of happiness.
Thus, the primary issue is not changing the thing(s) we want to change but identifying and changing the things that prevent us from changing.
Remember, it is usually not the "bad behavior" that's causing unhappiness and grief. It is the internal conflict we have about it. For example, if you are perfectly content to eat whatever you want and weigh 1000 lbs. and if you don't care about your health, then over-eating isn't a problem for you. Others may see it as "bad behavior" but who cares? As long as you are content with your life and your choice, that's all that matters.
BUT...most people don't want to risk their health and be hugely fat. Even so, they might not be able to control their over-eating. This leads to issues of self-esteem, because they are both unhappy about their appearance AND their inability to control their own behavior. Thus, the internal conflict, not the eating itself, is the real problem. There are only two possble resolutions:
Either, a) accept this behavior as an unchangeable part of yourself, understanding that this is how it's going to be forever, and learn to live with it. Or, b) commit to the change. If you can do neither of these, you will always have the conflict.
What I offer is support for either choice. I can help you get to the root of the issue, using various methods, help you resolve these conflicts. I can teach you creative ways to "trick yourself " into doing the things you wish you could; and new ways to think about all those things you are so "sure of." It is my talent, to be able to look at people and understand the conflict which drives their lives.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--
and you are the easiest person to fool.
- Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics.
For advice columns, please visit my other site, Date To Win