Is Change Possible?
- Garden will teach you an easy and effective system of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” —Jim Rohn
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.” —Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
IS THERE CHANGE OR ONLY SWITCHING?
The idea of self-change, while central to counseling theories, is really a nutty idea that is in need of examination. While people can and do change their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, attitudes, habits, mannerisms, tastes, fashions, and even their names–there is no evidence of anyone ever changing themselves.
To prove the idea of self-change, it would first be necessary to see and measure the self that is supposedly going to be changed. Then it would be necessary to see the imagined changed self and to compare that with the original or baseline self.
However, no one is able to show either their original self or their changed self. Instead, people only describe changes in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Yet, since people are definitely not their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they all change and people persist and exist before and after their changing behaviors–it is really not their self that they are changing at all, but, rather, a set of behaviors or habits.
This point is important not just philosophically, but pragmatically as well. If we set up clients to change themselves, we give them an unmanageable and unmeasurable task. However, if we focus and refocus our clients on only changing their habits, then we have provided our clients with achievable and realistic goals.
One positive step that can be taken is to begin to clean up our clinical language by limiting our use of the word “being.” Instead of saying the client is “being” anxious or is “being” selfish, it would be more instructive if we would say the client is “acting” anxious or is “behaving” selfish.
Here is a list of alternatives to using the word “being” when describing humans: acting, having, lacking, physically being, being physically, habitually, having a habit of, behaving, doing, feeling, find it. Though related, this is not as great a task as using e-prime (see General Semantics Semantics and Words) and does not damage the sound, rhythm, or cadence of the language.
One of the benefits of this switch in terminology is that when you see you are only acting a certain way, for instance, anxious, then you have the implied choice to shift from it to something else. However, if you are being anxious then you might reason–then do I really have a choice?–can I really change me and still be me?–if I am not being that then will I be being (exist) at all?
The implication in “being” for clients is no choice, no chance of change, whereas the implication in “acting” for clients is free choice. Often what passes for resistance is only a client’s reluctance to abandon a false identification for fear of abandoning themselves. An identification that we should not be reinforcing but should be eliminating.
Clients have a correct sense that they cannot change themselves. Hence, clients often resist switching habits for fear of losing themselves, falling apart, going to pieces, not knowing who they are, because it doesn’t feel right, because it won’t feel right, because they won’t recognize themselves, because it’s not the real them, because they don’t want to feel like a phony.
What is at stake for the client is a loss of self through a loss of identity. Unfortunately, we support and reinforce this nonsense as a profession by pounding on clients to “change” themselves instead of just changing (actually switching) their behaviors (thoughts, feelings, actions, habits, etc.). Clients are sometimes smarter than their therapists.
Pursuing the idea of change further, it is easy to see that not only do people never change themselves, people never even change their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Change is being used here with the meaning of converting or transforming. What people can do is to switch or to shift from one thought, feeling, or behavior to another.
Attempts to change thoughts are futile. Any thought you have once thought will always be available to you. What you can do is to train yourself to switch and to stay with another thought or set of thoughts–not to change the thought through some magical process.
So switch your thinking from change to shifting and switching and thereby reduce client resistance and increase client improvement.
QUOTATIONS VARIOUS SOURCES
“A fool is only a fool because he won’t see he is a fool.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”–James Joyce
“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”–Hebrews 12:8
“By honestly acknowledging your past errors, but never damning yourself for them, you can learn to use your past for your own future benefit.”–Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 194
“Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.”–Proverbs 15:5
“Failure doesn’t have anything to do with your intrinsic value as a person.”–Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 206
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”–Hebrews 12:6
“If we eliminated all errors, we would also eliminate much discovery, art, insight, learning, and creativity that results from facing errors.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”–Hebrews 12:7
“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:”–Proverbs 3:11
“The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.”–Julien Green
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”–Norman Vincent Peale
“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.”–Jim Rohn
“When receiving correction, the wise seeks to learn and the fool seeks to justify with excuses.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:”–Proverbs 1:5
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”–Proverbs 11:14
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”–Proverbs 12:15
“Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace is joy.”–Proverbs 12:20
“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.”–Proverbs 15:22
“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”–Proverbs 19:20
“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.”–Proverbs 20:18
“Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.”–Isaiah 16:3
“Extol not thyself in the counsel of thine own heart; that thy soul be not torn in pieces as a bull [straying alone.]”–Ecclesiasticus 6:2
“As timber girt and bound together in a building cannot be loosed with shaking: so the heart that is stablished by advised counsel shall fear at no time.”–Ecclesiasticus 22:16
“Give not over thy mind to heaviness, and afflict not thyself in thine own counsel.”–Ecclesiasticus 30:21
“A man of counsel will be considerate; but a strange and proud man is not daunted with fear, even when of himself he hath done without counsel.”–Ecclesiasticus 32:18
“And let the counsel of thine own heart stand: for there is no man more faithful unto thee than it.”–Ecclesiasticus 37:13
“Let reason go before every enterprize, and counsel before every action.”–Ecclesiasticus 38:33
“Gold and silver make the foot stand sure: but counsel is esteemed above them both.”–Ecclesiasticus 40:25