As stated previously, I am reposting the blog posts from 2006 onward. It will not necessarily be in order. If there is a topic you’d like reposted sooner rather than later, please let me know. There are many new readers and many readers who did not read all the blogs when they were here. If I post a blog in response to a request and it doesn’t really address what you need, let me know!
In her seminal work, Our Inner Conflicts, Karen Horney said that behind the fear of change is often the fear of changing for the worst or the fear of being unable to change at all. What if I try to change and no one likes the new me? What if I try to change and find that I can’t?
Often the fear of “what I’m going to change into” and the unknown “new me” is more frightening than staying in the comfort and misery of what is known. Another fear is that change is not possible. What if I try to change the people I pick or the things I do and I find I just can’t?
Change is always possible no matter who you are or where you come from. Don’t worry that you can’t change. The biggest issue for people is that change doesn’t seem to come fast enough. Like a good and healthy diet where you lose 1-2 lbs per week and keep it off, it’s often harder and less striking than if you crash diet and lose 20 lbs in 14 days. However, change that happens little by slow is LASTING, just like weight loss is.
In GPYP we advocate changing a bit at a time or expanding our “comfort zones” by degrees. This is the method Lou Tice, founder of Investment in Excellence, used in his unparalleled motivational program that set the stage for many that came later on. Lou used cognitive/behavioral therapy techniques first to motivate the football players he coached and later to launch his superb “life coaching” program in the corporate world before “life coaching” became a household word.
In his book “Stage II Recovery” Earnie Larsen uses the same “thermostat” analogy to explain how to change habits. Earnie’s books are geared toward recovering alcoholics, addicts and their mates or adult children of alcoholics. Yet, he understood comfort systems the same way a sports/corporate person did. Both Lou Tice and Earnie Larsen understood that in order for change to be permanent, you had to expand (slowly) your comfort zone or the place you feel comfortable.
Comfort does not mean warm and cozy but rather familiar. And the word familiar comes from family. So if your family was abusive and crazy, your comfort zone is around abusive and crazy people. If you were the person in your family who filled the role of attention seeker because you felt invisible, you will seek the company of others who make you feel invisible and you will spend that relationship trying to gain their attention, time and love.
Often someone will say to me, “Why am I only excited by this type or that type?” Usually because that type represents a challenge you want to face and conquer. If you’ve been attracted to the emotionally unavailable it is because you are still trying to “win” over your early caretakers who gave you little or no mind. If you get Frosty to change his or her ways and fall madly in love or STAY madly in love (many times we stay in relationships long after the bloom is off the rose because we want to get the person BACK that we had in the beginning and cannot accept they are gone for good.) So from the time they disappear emotionally until the time we decide to leave, we live in the misery that is created when we play the game that we are willing to play as we hope to get it all back. We cannot accept this person is not who we thought they were or that it’s never coming back.
If I look at my earliest relationships they consisted of abandonment, abuse, not belonging, emotional unavailability, sometimes physical unavailability, and the inability to trust that what I was seeing was real or true (my foster family won awards for being such a great foster family and they were a bunch of alcoholic, abusive crazy people who put on a great show for the world). So I gravitated to people who filled all that and more. Then I went into therapy and got rid of the physical and verbal abusers, then I had to work on the rest… It was a long haul. But the work to expand my comfort zones so that I would only accept healthy people into my life. Eventually I healed and that happened.
It CAN and WILL happen for you through journaling, affirmations, building your own life and creating mantras that are yours and yours alone. Use the book and the many exercises in the workbook to develop what is right for YOU to expand your comfort zones.
To use the Tice/Larsen analog to a thermostat, we must change in degrees is important but it does not have to be so SLOW you doubt you’re changing at all….it can be done in different areas and in a positive way so that change is ever lasting.
Whenever you start a journey of change, you will encounter fear of change, even if the change is positive, it can be scary because it’s new. Many people refuse to understand why others stay in bad relationships (some that are downright abusive). They are judged as weak or incompetent or stupid. Many times it’s about fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not knowing what will happen if they change. Staying in a bad situation is often easier to deal with than to move into the scary unknown. Sometimes you have to start the changes while IN a relationship.
Many a client will come to me and say, “I want to work with you but I’m still in this sick relationship, but I want to get out.” If you truly want OUT and are willing to do the work with me, I will absolutely take you on as a client. If you do the work, there will come a day when you realize you can’t stay with this person any longer. So, yes, I do take clients who are still in their relationships but who realize it’s unhealthy and want out. I had a client who was going 2 steps forward and 1 step back for almost a year before one day he called me and said, “I just left.” It was a shock to me and somewhat to him. His comfort zones didn’t really change overnight, but to him (and for a moment to me), it seemed they had.
All the work we had done for a year kicked in fully when his girlfriend came home and started screaming at him for no reason (a regular occurrence that we had worked on). In the beginning, he thought that she was right…he should have had dinner ready or the place picked up or whatever…as he got home an hour before her. The harangue was a nightly occurrence and it wasn’t about dinner or the place being picked up. It was about control and belittling and power. Once he “got” that it was a put-down mechanism that he knew only too well from his never-satisfied-father and that people like this are impossible to please because their agenda is not to be pleased but to put others down (so they will find something wrong no matter what), he saw the situation with new eyes and eventually walked out during one of the nightly tirades.
He didn’t know it was coming. I didn’t know it was coming. But there it was: recovery kicked in and he walked out. Slowly over the year he had been changing and expanding his comfort zones and didn’t really feel it or know it until he was packing his bags and getting the hell out of Dodge. Then he felt guilty about leaving so we worked on that so he didn’t go back and then I pushed him to CELEBRATE his decision and his new found recovery. Once he did that, uncomfortable as THAT was (celebrate leaving someone?), he felt so much better. Though it took months before he could give himself the credit he deserved for leaving and then for celebrating the leaving and ignoring all his ex’s texts and phone calls and emails, he did it. It felt awkward and “weird” at first, but then he settled into this strange new world called “I deserve to be happy dammit.”
Many people tell me they don’t know how to change because they are so used to doing things a certain way, even if that certain way has gottn them nowhere (or nothing but heartache).
Journaling about the fear of the “you” you will turn into or the fear of being unable to change helps move you toward the new you. That might seem slowly but it’s important to put out there what your greatest fear is if you change. So many of my clients will say, “I don’t fear anything! I WANT to change! I can’t go on like this!” But when we scratch the surface, we find that there are fears about changing…fears they didn’t know they had until we dug a bit deeper. If you’re not working with a therapist, journal about this. Ask yourself, “What could be holding me back from change? Is it fear? If so, of what?” The answer might not come immediately but it will come if you keep asking the question…and once you know the answer you can work on that. Don’t worry about whether it makes sense or not. Self-judgment (oh, I shouldn’t let that bother me!) will be a HUGE obstacle to changing into a healthy and happy person.
Visualizing a you that is slightly more healthy than the you of today helps…leaping to the you that is completely healthy might be too scary and keep you paralyzed…so just think about the benefits just down the road…not what you will be in five years.
Instead of imagining yourself happy and healthy with Mr. or Ms. Dream Lover and 2.5 wonderful children, imagine that you smile when you walk into a room of people you don’t know (if doing that is not what you normally do) or setting a boundary with a family member (“I told my brother Joe that it is not okay for him to keep borrowing money as he never pays it back.”) or some other scene that has caused you much angst (My ex texts me and I can’t help but text back! Now imagine the text coming across and instead of answering you leave the phone where it is and go for a walk or get in your car and drive to the mall and go shopping for a while…imagine yourself going – without the phone so you leave the temptation at home – somewhere for a few hours and affirming yourself the whole time “I am healthy and strong. I can withstand the urge to text my ex back.” “I am strong and can ignore the ex.” “There is no value in texting my ex back therefore I will go shopping (or golfing or visiting with friends etc) instead.” “My phone causes a distraction from my healthy behavior, therefore I leave it at home to get a few hours of “me” time into my day.”
If you PREPARE yourself for this…having the escape route planned, having the affirmations in place, having alternatives “just in case.” I had “visit with friends” on my list once and then came the day everyone was busy so I had to switch for “going for a 2 hour bike ride” as one of my “imagination” scenarios.
First you prepare for it, then you imagine it – visualize it. Visualize you leaving your phone at home so you are not tempted to return the call. Then PRACTICE that! Before the text EVER comes in, spend some days leaving your phone at home and enjoying peace of mind that being without it brings (especially if you are phone addicted…start out by going for 15 minute walks without the phone and working up from there).
So you SLOWLY expand those comfort zones. And when the day comes that you do get the text or the call, you are strong enough and have had enough rehearsal that you can withstand it. Then when the danger of the “urge to text back” has passed and you triumphed, celebrate that! Give yourself credit for it and do something nice for yourself. Even that might take getting used to so start out doing small things for you and then slowly make it bigger with each triumph you experience.
That is how real change happens, small steps done slowly and methodically. It truly works if you put the time and effort into it and work on it by thinking about it, preparing for it, visualizing it, and then practicing it. As it says in the book and workbook, practice your “I” statements and practice setting boundaries or standing up for yourself. It can happen and WILL happen if you put he changes into place a bit at a time but CONSISTENTLY work at it every single day.
Then one day, like my client described above, you will find yourself leaving Crazyville and driving into Healthytown. You might not know exactly how to act or be the moment you arrive, but you will know you belong there because there is no going back to Crazyville. You like Healthytown and want to live like your neighbors who are healthy and happy, calm and serene.
Many less people live in Healthytown than in Crazyville but they are people you can trust, count on and enjoy without drama, games or nonsense. Start packing today with a plan to move out of Crazyville…you will be glad you did.
Are you afraid of change? What scares you the most? What is holding you back? What is the biggest obstacle in your way?
Change IS scary but the benefits are incredible.
Dare to change.
Today. You can do this!!!
Dare to change.
Today. You can do this!!!.
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