03 Sep Changes Challenge
Change is a constant theme present in all I do. As a psychotherapist, my clients yearn for it. As a counselling educator, my students learn how to best support their future clients to achieve it. As an author, I explore how communication best promotes it. And yet change so often proves itself to be inconveniently illusive.
Immunity to Change is the title of a book written by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. That title so powerfully expresses the frustration so many people experience in their quest for change.
In Immunity to Change, the authors discuss the paradox of how even the most willing people are often not able to truly change. They refer to a medical study where cardiac doctors tell their seriously at-risk patients that they will die if they don’t make changes to their personal lives. These changes involved habits around diet, exercise and/or smoking. The doctors warned their patients that it truly was a choice of change or die. In this study, only one in seven of the patients was actually able to make the changes.
This study reveals that even when there is a matter of life or death, the ability to change remains a significant challenge for most people. According to Kegan and Lahey, the problem is not due to the lack of will. Rather, it is the inability to close the gap between what people genuinely and even passionately want and what they are actually able to do.
I often see this paradox. It is that gap between what people want and what people do. I suspect we have all seen this paradox in ourselves and in others: people who want to stop smoking and yet continue to smoke; people who want to live healthier lives and yet continue to eat foods they know are unhealthy; people wanting calm in their lives yet continue to engage with conflict and anxiety.
As a psychotherapist one of my intentions is to assist people in bridging the gap and there are many ways of achieving this.
Understanding the nervous system
People often create quite harsh narratives about why they fail to achieve what they want to achieve. These stories typically implicate personal lacks, for instance, of control, will power, strength, intelligence or motivation.
People benefit from having opportunities to develop alternative and more realistic and gentle narratives and understandings of themselves. One way I do this is by sharing discoveries from neuroscience about our nervous system. Often an awareness of how the different parts of the brain interact and how they can at times lose connection enhances this new understanding. This loss of connection can contribute to the experiences of self-sabotage that clients so often report. The topic of neuroscience is huge and one I will revisit many times in my future blog posts.
Hypnosis is a modality that can greatly enhance the possibilities for change by closing that gap. In the ‘trance state’ opportunities can be explored for congruency between what a person wants to experience in life and actual life experiences. The trance state allows the unconscious mind to become engaged permitting the exploration of new possibilities to unlock the resources within a person and achieve the desired change
Emile Couė, an early contributor to the practice of hypnotherapy, made the observation that when the imagination and will power are in conflict, it is always the imagination that wins.
Hypnosis is such a powerful method which enables the imagination to achieve desired changes.
Change should not be viewed as unreachable, instead change should be viewed as the challenge to unlock your fullest potential and desires.
Some useful links you might like:
Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock potential in yourself and your organization. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.