The process of change

The process of change fascinates me. A big part of my job as a therapist, after all, is to help people to change and grow. What I am most obsessed with these days, as regular readers of my blog know, is the idea that change is an inside-out process. The environment in which we live can be so overwhelming that it is easy to forget this. We end up scurrying here and there in reaction to different demands that intention and self-determination get sacrificed.

Change from the inside-out

If it can happen from the outside-in, why not from the inside-out? An example of this kind of change from the outside-in would be the placebo effect. If you’re participating in a study and given a sugar pill, but you aren’t aware that it is a sugar pill, and you experience the same physiological benefits as others taking a real pill, your mind-body is changing chemically due to beliefs based on an external stimulus.

Change from the inside-out is the same thing except, instead of the stimulus being external, i.e. a sugar pill, it is coming from within you, i.e. an intention.

It’s not just about thinking something different without believing it, because the mind would know it is not real and categorize it as such.

Turning the tables on our minds

We know our minds can play tricks on us, but what if we could turn the tables and take control? Isn’t it still the mind playing tricks on the mind? Sure, in a way it is and in a way it isn’t. It’s the driver versus the passenger. Both are in the car, but they play very different roles.

When we react automatically to external stimuli without any sense of agency or awareness, we are passengers. The more aware we are, the more choices we give ourselves. Awareness is the key to getting behind the wheel and staying there.

The moral of this story is simple. Pay attention. Try to come off autopilot and pay attention to why you are doing what you are doing at any given moment. Stay present to what you are experiencing and observe with the interest and curiosity of a little child. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.

I’ll leave you with a quote one of my patients mentioned in our session a few days ago from a Fresh Air interview with comedian Pete Holmes, creator of the HBO show Crashing:

Remaining aware is crucial in the process of change

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David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old toy poodle.

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