Understand the past, embrace the present, enjoy the future

BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Nothing changes if nothing changes – but this year can be different!

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Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

So just what is this phrase about?  I have been holding the slogan aloft for so long that my arms ache!!  But the words are fundamental to so much of the counselling work that takes place in the consulting room.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. It is an encouragement to accept that if you want change – and most people do come into my therapy room wanting something to change -  then it really is up to you to go for that change; especially now in January and at the start of the New Year.

Change is not easy to achieve and it is almost certainly not comfortable. We are creatures of habit and personal routines or patterns can be incredibly resistant to change.  There will always be good reasons to prevaricate and hold back from doing things in a different way.

One good reason given for delay is that before doing anything one needs to first understand. I can accept that. It is a sensible comment to make.  Rather than just race away introducing a myriad of ad hoc changes to our lives, surely some initial analysis, interpretation or review would be useful.

And what focus should this analysis have??  From an existential who am I,through to what is okay in my life and what is not.  Who I am with? Or perhaps more appropriately who am I not with!  Why did it happen, why did I do it and who was I back then. 

And now…...? Just where am I now….and where am I going??

There is much to consider with enough potential analysis to last a lifetime and that can be a challenge. Paralysis by analysis can be an effectively subtle way of blocking any change.  

So how do we break those cycles that we wish to change but in a meaningful and considered way?  Perhaps by starting with that analysis but with a positive acceptance that this process of review is an important catalyst. Analysis should be seen as a precursor to change rather than forming a barricade or obstacle.

So go for this cerebral stuff.  Work away at it.  Do the analysis. Dive deep into the pool of introspective consideration and do it properly. Take as long as it needs but no longer.

A first step is to try to talk things out with that rather puzzled looking person who you see each day in your mirror.   You could also try a friend or a relative but they may just tell you want they think you want to hear.  Alternatively visit a therapist or a counsellor. And talk as loudly or as quietly as you want.  Rant or reason, shout or whisper. Sit still or pace around. Contemplate or agitate.  It is your space. You have paid for it. Emotionally, intellectually, financially you are incurring a cost. So cover what you want to cover even if you do not know what that is.

And when the talking stops?  That can be when the fun starts.

Having worked out those ideas around who, what and why, start to play with the ‘what’s next’.  Where do you go from here?  Where does your improved understanding of yourself take you. How do you want to be?  And where? Or with whom?  And for how long? 

If you can start to see the road you wish to walk down then it is time to begin the journey.

Change is challenging. Breaking long established habits is not easy. Particularly if this involves other people who you care about.  But remember some of those clichés.  To make an omelette, eggs need to be broken.  Carefully and with sensitivity but if the egg stays in the shell you stay unfulfilled.

Change usually involves risk.  If you can work on your personal understanding (therapists talk of becoming ‘self aware’) this can help you realise where your emotional scars came from. If you can recognise the cognitive and emotional pattern of being which has caused those bruises, then you will be better placed to deal with what lies ahead.

Complete that discussion with yourself, or a friend, partner or therapist. Then decide what is to change and when – and go for it.

Self care is crucial for that early time in change work so make sure you have support in place. Support can be friends or other people. It can be a place of refuge which is a tangible physical safe location such as the therapy room or it can be a virtual place you can take your thoughts and emotions to. Just make sure the support is there and prepared.

And then? You may find that you can put up with whatever happens.  You will cope. And if there are a few more bruises to come, well this time those marks will fade a little more quickly. 

Find a way to enjoy the process – and embrace the outcome whatever that is. And if you are not sure what that future will look like then perhaps do not be too surprised with what you find

It is not unusual to find that something changes when something changes!!

And have a good New Year!!

Geoff Boutle

added on 1st January 2015

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